My newest research focus is in the field of humanitarian engineering. While most of my research is at the fairly fundamental science end, humanitarian engineering presents the opportunity for much more direct impact.
You can see news updates about my work in this area here.
I am currently working with a team of anthropologists and engineers at Monash University, investigating design processes in the developing world, focusing on cold-chain maintenance. The cold-chain is the procedure by which vaccines are kept within an appropriate temperature range from the moment of production to the moment of use. In developing nations with limited electrical supply, this can be quite challenging.
In one aspect of this project, we are working with the Burnet Institute, developing renewable energy supplied medical refrigeration for the Thanlyin area. This aspect of the project involves a detailed anthropological study to determine what the specific needs of the community are, before we proceed with the engineering design component.
In another aspect, we are working with the Santana: Leublora Green School in Maubisse, Timor Leste. Here we are installing solar panels and low-power lighting in the school, attempting to help them go off-grid, in accordance with the principles of sustainability that the school imparts on the students who visit. Once we have gained some experience working within Timor Leste, we are hoping to expand this work to cold-chain related projects in rural Timor Leste.
Humanitarian engineering poses quite a different range of challenges to typical engineering research and design. Accurate determination of community needs is critically important to the success of the project; unfortunately many humanitarian engineering projects start with a solution in mind, before really identifying the problem. Only by involving the community in all stages of the project can an engineering project have any chance of success. Engineers Without Borders specializes in this kind of work, and I am starting a few projects working with the Melbourne branch of EWB to leverage their skills and experience in this area.