The Risk, Disaster and Resilience (RDR) Network brings together risk researchers and experts from diverse areas to develop practical solutions.

The Network is managed by the working group:

Our people

VU Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research Partnerships and Program Leader, Mechanisms and Interventions in Health and Disease.

Professor Vasso Apostolopoulosis a world-renowned researcher recognised with over 100 awards. She was the first in the world to develop the concept of immunotherapy for cancer in the early 1990s, which today is used by hundreds of labs around the world. In response to the current global pandemic, Vasso and her team in VU's Immunology and Translational Research group are focused on responding to COVID-19, investigating and working on vaccines and drugs to treat the virus.

Expertise: immunology, vaccine and drugs development. Chronic diseases of interest include cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases (rare diseases, COVID, etc.), multiple sclerosis, drug addiction and mental health.

Key skills: program development, funding opportunities and development of key partnerships (with strategic contacts in the flood, mould and restoration industries).

RDR topics: COVID-19, immunology, viruses, floods, vaccines, drug addiction, mental health.

Deputy Head of the Psychology discipline and Co-Deputy Leader of the Clinical and Community Health and Wellbeing research program in the Institute for Health and Sport.

Associate Professor Michelle Ball is an expert in human behaviour in fire. Her past research includes investigating why some people die in accidental residential fires, while others survive. She conducted research with the former Metropolitan Fire Brigade on its Juvenile Fire setting Awareness and Intervention Program. She also leads the Microbiome and Psychobiology group.

Expertise: cognitive psychology (with a particular focus on executive functioning and assessment), the interaction between the gut microbiome and psychological symptom expression, and cognitive processing during sleep (what wakes people up).

Key skills: applied research and industry partnerships.

RDR topics: human behaviour in fire, cognitive functioning, psychological assessment, community health and wellbeing.

Principal Research Fellow, Fire Research Group in the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Dr Maurice Guerrieri is nationally recognised as the leading structural fire tester in Australia. He has conducted fire tests for all of Australia’s major tunnel infrastructures – Melbourne Metro Tunnel Project, Westgate Tunnel Project, Snowy Project 2, Inland Rail (Queensland), and Northeast Link (Victoria). In collaboration with industry partners, he expanded a large-scale modular furnace (built with an ARC LIEF grant) to conduct structurally loaded fire tests on full-scale tunnel lining segments, previously only available in Europe.

In 2019, he received a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Engagement with Industry for his work with national and international organisations such as John Holland, AECOM, Rail Infrastructure Australia (RIA), Transurban, Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB) in France, Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) and Efectis in the Netherlands.

Expertise: concrete spalling, fire resistance tests, behaviour of materials in fire, and structural fire engineering.

Key skills: industry-based researcher, business minded project manager and high-level networker, tackling critical global challenges through a multidisciplinary lens.

RDR topics: performance of structures in fire, tunnel infrastructures, planetary health.

Professorial Research Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Professor Roger Jones applies a transdisciplinary approach to understanding and managing systemic risk. Previously, he was at CSIRO for 13 years, where he pioneered methods for climate risk assessment, carrying out impact and adaptation assessments for a wide range of sectors. He has since branched out into economics, policy and decision-making, encompassing the full risk cycle. He was coordinating lead author on the chapter Foundations of Decision Making in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group II Fifth Assessment Report. He was coordinating lead and lead author on previous two reports. He is also working on climate as a complex, self-regulating system which undergoes periodic regime shifts.

Expertise: catchment and integrated urban water management, climate change risk management, climate impact assessment and adaptation, complex systems science, decision support, ecological and institutional economics, integrated modelling approaches, transdisciplinary research and urban ecology.

Key skills: wide experience across the natural sciences, an ability to interconnect systems to build interdisciplinary links. Analyses small to medium sized data sets and builds impact models. Development of simple explanations for complex phenomena, skilled scenario writer.

RDR topics: climate risk management, natural hazards, water catchments, urban water management, coastal vulnerability, liveability, wellbeing, sustainability, green infrastructure, environmental economics.

Associate Professor in Material Science at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Associate Professor Paul Joseph has an international reputation in the field of polymer science and combustion chemistry. He was lead academic supervisor for a UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project devising environmentally friendly means of removing unspent polymeric products from components of injection moulding machines. He was also a co-investigator on another large UK program that investigated the integrated safety strategies for onboard hydrogen storage systems.

Expertise: organic/polymer syntheses and characterisation, combustion chemistry and toxicity, chemical modification of polymers to confer flame retardance, recycling of plastics and cellulosic materials, energy from waste, greener technologies, and bio-based fire retardants for ligno-cellulosic materials in the context of wildland fires.

Key skills: applied chemical sciences research, investigator and project leader, with an international knowledge network and instrumental in attracting major research grants.

RDR topics: fire protection and safety, water disinfection, green technologies, waste energy, domestic waste recycling.

Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities, Head of Engineering of the College of Engineering and Science, and Head of External Engagement.

Professor Akhtar Kalam has extensive experience of the electrical and renewable engineering industry across four continents. He is the Editor in Chief of the Australian Journal of Electrical and Electronics Engineering and has distinguished professorship positions at various national and international universities. He has published more than 542 publications and 26 books.

Expertise: power system analysis, communication, control, protection, renewable energy, smart grid, IEC61850 implementation and cogeneration systems.

Key skills: consultant to major electrical utilities, manufacturers and other industry bodies, guest speaker/lecturer and examiner of external theses overseas. Also provides continuing professional development (CPD) courses to practicing engineers.

RDR topics: renewable energy, power systems, smart grid, substation communication, fuel cells, cogeneration systems.

Lecturer and Course Chair of Innovation and Management in the VU Business School and researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Dr Selvi Kannan’s research focuses on how knowledge works in organisations that embrace innovation, technology and human connections. This has contributed to greater understanding of knowledge in disruptive, changing environments in Australia and overseas. Her ongoing quest is to incorporate human behaviours into intelligent devices. Selvi is a past chair and judge with the Australian Information Industry Association and a taskforce member, Future Skills and AI, for the Committee for Melbourne (preparing Victoria for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century). She is also a visiting scholar at the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Driving Farming Productivity and Disease Prevention.

Expertise: knowledge management – human and machines, innovation and entrepreneurship, change and leadership in artificial intelligence, collecting and analysing narratives, and organisational learning for tangible improvements to productivity, efficiency and wellness.

Key skills: qualitative researcher with an industry background and strong global network. Involved in strategic, functional, steering committees and regulatory work on national and international boards. Editorial member with numerous journals.

RDR topics: organisational change, digital transformation, human capital, wellness, innovation strategy, entrepreneurship, knowledge management, knowledge structures, organisational learning and unlearning, leadership, artificial intelligence (AI), farming productivity and disease prevention.

Researcher at the Institute for Health and Sport and Discipline Lead for the Electrical and Electronics Engineering group.

Associate Professor Daniel T.H. Lai leads the Smart Electronic Systems research group with a focus on developing new sensors and communication technologies for next generation human health monitoring platforms. He frequently collaborates with industry and academia to develop new technologies in areas of health, manufacturing, agriculture and defence. Daniel is VU's liaison manager to the Defence Science Institute (DSI) and a member of the Victorian Quantum Technology Network.

Expertise: human augmentation, assistive technologies and brain-computer interfaces. Electronics (analogue and digital front-end, readout circuits, amplifiers, filters), sensors (various – motion, optical, audio, cam), embedded systems (MCU to CPU) and wireless communications (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Lora, NB-IoT etc.). Software, including mathematical modelling and simulation, interface to database, cloud computing, signal processing and machine learning (ML).

Key skills: multidisciplinary collaboration developing technological solutions for disaster resilience – including wireless sensor networks for monitoring large areas, Mobile AdHoc Networks (MANET), drone/robotics technology, search and rescue wearables for personnel, and next generation medical technologies for in situ treatment and health monitoring. Conducts workshops and gives presentations on human body communications and sensors.

RDR topics: disasters, resilience, search and rescue, emergency medical treatment, health monitoring, Internet of Things (IoT).

Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering and researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Dr Wasantha Liyanage has an internationally recognised, award-winning track record in geotechnical engineering and rock mechanics research. His current focus includes modelling hydraulic fracture propagation, induced seismicity and ground deformation due to tunnelling in soft and hard rocks. His work also focuses on shear behaviour of rock joints, effect of soil reactivity on lightweight structures, and the use of artificial neural network (ANN) in geotechnical engineering.

Expertise: designing experiments and customising testing apparatus for specific research needs.

Key skills: investigating the effect of fire on soil and rock properties including post-bushfire debris flow, rockfall and landslide, or slope failure hazards (often triggered during the rainy season following a bushfire), modelling induced seismicity caused by fracking, wastewater injection, mining, etc.

RDR topics: disaster resilience, bushfires, tunnel fires, reactive soils, earthquakes, tremors, landslides, rockfalls.

Professor in Fire Modelling and researcher with the Fire Research Group at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Professor Khalid Moinuddin is a mechanical engineer and experimentalist, with a focus on fire science and engineering. He is also a computational fluid dynamics (CFD)-based modeller. Khalid is an editorial board member for the Fire Safety Journal (#1 building fire safety) and led a $1.55 million Bushfire and Natural Hazard CRC grant project from 2014 to 2021. In recent years, he has developed two major streams of research at VU: development and application of a three-dimensional physics-based wildfire model, and fire safety engineering in naval applications.

Expertise: wind flow modelling, fire growth and development, smoke and flame propagation, heat transfer and thermal measurement, water-based fire suppression, bushfire propagation and ember transport, materials behaviour in fire and passive fire protection, and performance-based building codes and fire risk analysis.

Key skills: computational and experimental research in areas of combustion, flame growth and propagation, turbulent fluid motion, tunnel fire and fire risk analysis, determining the effectiveness and reliability of building fire safety systems in Australian buildings, including sprinklers, smoke detectors, smoke management systems and evacuation systems.

RDR topics: bushfires, wildfires, tunnel fires, building fire safety, fire risk analysis, fire protection, fire suppression, smoke detection and management, fire evacuation systems.

Associate Professor, Environmental Engineering, and researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Dr Shobha Muthukumaran has a 9-year industry background in pollution control and a further 20 years’ experience in water and environmental engineering collaborative research projects. She has made significant contributions in solving water industry problems by developing innovative treatment solutions for water and wastewater systems.

Expertise: water and wastewater treatment, integrated urban water management, water recycling and reuse, membrane separation processes and advanced oxidation processes.

Key skills: developing advanced treatment techniques for the removal of various micropollutants and resource recovery from wastewater, investigating the advances in engineered nanomaterials for the next generation membranes for water and wastewater treatment, and exploring sustainable ways of protecting rivers and streams by managing stormwater quantity and quality using green infrastructure strategies.

RDR topics: environmental protection, pollution control, water management, river health, stormwater infrastructure, wastewater treatment, water recycling.

Leader, Water Supply, Demand and Security Research Group at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Dr Nitin Muttil leads a team of researchers applying state-of-the-art tools to solve various water-related problems caused by increasing population growth and urbanisation, overexploitation of natural resources and climate change impacts. He has developed and implemented a hydrologic model for a catchment in Singapore and machine learning (ML) models to predict coastal algal blooms in Hong Kong. He also used water-sensitive urban design (WSUD) to minimise the impacts of climate change and urbanisation in Melbourne.

Expertise: use of modelling techniques (ML and conceptual) to model stormwater and wastewater drainage systems and river systems. WSUD and green infrastructure strategies (such as rain gardens and green roofs) to counter flash floods and urban heat island effects etc. Use of techniques and tools including spatial and visual analytics and data mining to identify solutions to current problems. Strong expertise in GIS (which can be expanded into remote sensing) for monitoring and modelling various natural hazards.

Key skills: managing collaborative research projects for local councils, water utility companies and other bodies, organising international conference sessions on WSUD and climate change impact studies.

RDR topics: water resources, floods, bushfires, coastal erosion, river systems, water-sensitive urban design (WSUD), urban heat islands, urban drainage and flood control, rain gardens, green roofs, green infrastructure, hydro informatics, natural hazards, climate change impact.

Senior lecturer in Civil/Water/Environmental Engineering and Project Management in the College of Engineering & Science, and Research Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Before joining Victoria University, Dr Dimuth Navaratna worked in the water and civil engineering industries and has extensive experience in environmental engineering, construction and project management. He has contributed to over 130 local and overseas industry projects. Dimuth’s work primarily involves investigating and developing strategies for disaster resilience frameworks. This mitigates the risks of polluting ecosystems, surface waterbodies, natural creeks and rivers, and wetlands and catchments following disaster events.

Expertise: advanced water and wastewater treatment, micropollutant removal, and membrane separation technologies including membrane bioreactors and wastewater resource/energy recovery. Investigating and developing advanced treatment techniques for removal of micropollutants, nutrients and organics from waste and wastewater.

Key skills: guiding collaborative industry research and consultancy projects to develop new research concepts, findings and capabilities that improve the safety and liveability of the community.

RDR topics: natural disaster recovery, river pollution, micropollutants, water and wastewater treatment, biological wastewater treatment, nutrient removal, ecosystem risk mitigation, disaster resilience frameworks, water catchments, energy recovery from liquid and solid waste.

Professor of Mathematics and researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

In a research career spanning 35 years, Professor Vasily Novozhilov has become an internationally recognised, award-winning expert in fire safety engineering, fire modelling and fire testing. He has conducted pioneering studies in computational fluid dynamics modelling of compartment fire dynamics and suppression of large-scale fires and explosions. He is also an editorial board member of leading international journals. In 2020 he published the world’s first authoritative and comprehensive theoretical study of the combustion of solid propellants. Vasily served on Singapore Government committees for the development of performance-based fire safety regulations. He is also a research team member for the Australian Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC Core Project of ‘Fire spread prediction across fuel types’.

Expertise: mathematical methods of mechanics and chemical physics.

Key skills: theoretical, computational and experimental investigation of fires, the development and analysis of any deterministic mathematical model as required by a particular project, keynote presentations and editorials.

RDR topics: fire modelling, fire testing, fire safety engineering, fire sprinkler technology, heat transfer, combustion, thermal explosions, disaster resilience.

Professor of Mathematics and researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Dr Cagil Ozansoy teaches electrical engineering with a focus on power and energy systems. His research investigates how information exchange and communications can play a major role in shaping the electrical grid of the future – smart grids. He is also leading research and development projects in novel methods to reduce faults in electrical power networks from bushfires.

Expertise: design and development of communication-assisted power systems protection, automation and control applications.

Key skills: digital signal processing, machine learning (ML), data acquisition, wired communications, and the internet of things (IoT).

RDR topics: smart grids, electrical power network faults, bushfires, power systems protection and automation.

Associate Professor of Water Resources, and researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Associate Professor Ashok Sharma is a Fellow of the Australian Institution of Engineers and has 30 years’ experience in research, academia, consulting and construction. Before joining VU, he worked for nearly 12 years at CSIRO where he led research on decentralised systems and water-sensitive urban design. He also worked as a planning engineer at the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and at Mines Australia, and was an engineer at the State Water Corporation, Uttar Pradesh, India. He has been project lead for water utilities, industry and state agencies, and has led a decentralised systems project for Water Security Research Alliance SEQ and a water-sensitive urban design (WSUD) project for the Goyder Institute for Water Research, South Australia.

Expertise: centralised and decentralised urban and peri-urban water supply, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure systems and treatment, integrated urban water management, water-sensitive urban design, ecological footprint and water energy nexus.

Key skills: sustainability assessment, hydraulic and hydrological modelling, stormwater quality and quantity modelling, downscaling climate data, system optimisation, software development (FORTRAN 90), project management and lifecycle costing.

RDR topics: water-sensitive urban design (WSUD), wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, water treatment, urban water management, climate data, sustainable water management.

Principal Research Fellow in sociology/criminology at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Associate Professor Debra Smith’s research focuses on issues of violent political extremism, social conflict and social change. She has extensive experience working with policing, community and government stakeholders to improve knowledge of all kinds of violent extremism. She then helps translate this research into frontline practitioner tools and training. Debra was also part of the expert panel on effective case management and information-sharing barriers relevant to violent extremism, commissioned for the independent review of the Terrorism (Community Protection) Act 2003.

Expertise: terrorism and political violence, countering violent extremism, emotions and violent extremism, and the role of social media in radicalisation to violence.

Key skills: strong relationships with federal and state agencies and departments in relation to counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism, applied research design, risk assessment tool validation, qualitative research, project management, research translation, and police and security practitioner training.

RDR topics: violent extremism, counter-terrorism, political violence, social conflict, social change.

Teaching Specialist and Adjunct Fellow in Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Science.

Dr Catherine Sullivan’s specialty is fluid mechanics, with experience in smoke spread modelling in structures. She has a special interest in agriculture, bushfire prevention and preparedness, and in building rural community resilience. Catherine enjoys liaison with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to bridge the gap between academic researchers and end users.

Expertise: bushfire modelling, data collection and sustainable design.

Key skills: highly skilled at Matlab coding and data analysis.

RDR topics: bushfires, smoke spread, resilience in rural communities, agriculture.

Adjunct Associate Professor in Water Supply, Demand and Security at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Dr Atiq Tariq has 15 years’ research and consultancy experience in water supply, demand and security. His PhD from TU Delft (2011) developed a risk-based flood management approach and since then he has been involved in many industrial and commercial research and consultancy projects. He has also received best paper awards in journals and conferences.

Expertise: water resources, flood studies, remote sensing, GIS, water-sensitive urban design, hydro politics, hydro informatics, and water footprints.

Key skills: task-specific software packages and industry-standard GIS software such as ArcGIS and QGIS, extensive experience in flood modelling and forecasting platforms like Sobek/Flow2D/HEC RAS, HEC GeoRAS, HEC HMS, HEC GeoHMS and Extremes/Flood Frequency.

RDR topics: flood risk management, flood management, flood protection works, water resources, water-sensitive urban design (WSUD), urban drainage systems, hydro politics, hydro informatics, water footprints.

Associate Professor in Structural Engineering and Head of Built Environment at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Associate Professor Zora Vrcelj works collaboratively as a researcher and investigator across the built environment, engineering and construction sector to achieve impactful outcomes. Her focus is on technological developments for high-performance structures – smart buildings and civil infrastructure.

Expertise: sustainable structures and building materials, structural stability, engineering mechanics, and advanced composite structures embedded with piezoelectric sensors and actuators.

Key skills: structural engineering design and testing, and evaluation of materials used in buildings and civil infrastructure.

RDR topics: smart buildings, sustainable construction, high-performance structures, structural stability, green roof coverage, construction safety.

Discipline Leader of Technology in Engineering and Science Research at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Professor Hua Wang is a highly experienced researcher in machine learning (ML) and data analysis. He was appointed a member of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) College of Experts in 2021 and has been an ARC proposal reviewer since 2009. He is a Director on the Research Council of Oceania Cyber Security Centre (OCSC), a collaboration between eight Victorian universities and the State Government of Victoria, working with industry to advance cyber security education and research. As a chief investigator, Hua has received seven ARC grants and nine international grants.

Expertise: artificial intelligence (AI) and its application to power systems, big data analytics, access control, cyber security, data mining, deep learning and privacy preserving.

Key skills: applied researcher and investigator, editor with several major journals, and presenter at many prestigious international conferences.

RDR topics: AI for power systems, big data, cyber security.

Lecturer in Civil Engineering and researcher in Engineering and Science Research at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

A former geotechnical engineer at Coffey (Melbourne), Dr Ehsan Yaghoubi has over 10 years’ experience in teaching, research and practice in highway and geotechnical engineering. He has contributed to over 40 infrastructure projects in Australia in project management, design and supervision of geotechnical investigations. Ehsan’s research focuses on unsaturated soil mechanics, recycled and waste materials in geotechnical applications, and road pavement materials. He has published several papers in top-ranking geotechnical journals and presented at several prestigious conferences.

Expertise: reuse of waste/recycled material, geothermal pavement systems (a clean/renewable energy source) and improving the resilience of pavement systems in harsh climatic events, such as bushfires.

Key skills: has established state-of-the-art geotechnical and pavement (asphalt) testing facilities at VU to carry out cutting-edge research on transport infrastructure. Opportunities for recycled construction materials include road pavements, highway embankments, pipe beddings, trench backfill, and expansive clay subgrade improvement. Highly experienced industry collaborator and has authored more than 20 technical reports.

RDR topics: bushfire resilience, transport infrastructure, renewable energy, recycled materials in civil construction, sustainable development.

Collaborative Research Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities.

Ms Celeste Young produces high impact, transformative research in the areas of disaster, recovery and resilience by focusing on the end user. During 10 years as a transdisciplinary researcher, she has developed and led multi-party collaborative projects with industry, community and all levels of government. Celeste developed the methodology 'working from the inside out' which uses a systems approach to embedding new knowledge into pre-existing systems. Her practical, evidence-based approach has been widely adopted by practitioners, researchers and policy-makers in Australia and overseas. Co-design and linking research to ongoing training and learning in policy and practice are central to this process. Celeste has advised government on climate change communication and practice, the future workforce and she was a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II Fifth Assessment Report chapter – Foundations of Decision Making.

Expertise: climate change adaptation, resilience, natural hazard management, communication, diversity and inclusion (D&I), future workforce, transformation and risk, and community capability.

Key skills: project development, strategic planning, stakeholder and project management, auditing, quality assurance, research translation and utilisation, development of decision-making frameworks for policy and practice, systemic assessment and analysis, integration of new knowledge into decision-making, governance (organisational and institutional), risk management, communication and engagement, innovation and transformation.

RDR topics: risk management, climate change, resilience, transformation, natural hazards, decision-making, future workforce.

Contact us

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