Ed is a Senior Research Data Specialist at MDAP, galaxy simulation creator, hiking enthusiast and a keen appreciator of Iron Maiden. He holds a PhD in physics, and is passionate about the real-world application of research and advocating the need for industry and academia to join together to tackle the world’s big problems.
Tell us a bit about your career trajectory so far
I graduated in astronomy at the University of Padua and did my PhD in physics (cosmology) at the University of Trieste in Italy. After a postdoc in Paris, I moved to Australia in 2011 to work as a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Physics at the University of Melbourne.
My research involved running, post-processing and analysing large-scale cosmological simulations. My goal was to study the formation and dynamic evolution of galaxies, and the interplay between galaxies and the intergalactic medium. This is the material or diffuse hot gas that permeates the space between galaxies.
At the end of my second postdoc in the School of Physics I moved to an admin position within the Academic Engagement Team in the Faculty of Science. I had the chance to learn how large and complex organisations like UoM operate.
I joined MDAP in 2019. We were still called the On Ramp team and nobody knew what that meant. We have grown a lot since then!
Tell us about an interesting project you’re working on at MDAP
I have been collaborating with academics from different faculties and domains on a range of research projects. This includes climate and biosecurity risk modelling, analysis of large metagenomic data sets, and empirical dynamic modelling of social and health science data. I feel lucky to have had the chance to tackle interesting and important problems.
The latest collaboration I worked on was with the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA). This involved estimating both the impacts that might be caused by pests or diseases arriving to and spreading in Australia, and the relative value of the various interventions that we use to manage them.
There was a sort of bizarre, dark irony in working on this relevant research while being stuck at home during multiple lockdowns caused by the arrival and spread of COVID-19!
What are some of the solvable, difficult, or wicked problems on your horizon?
MDAP was created to support researchers, help them navigate the data-intensive space and connect them with the resources available at the University. But UoM is a big place, and it is easy to get lost, especially if you’re new.
One of MDAP’s challenges is to consolidate and expand its role of ‘bridge’ between researchers and the University’s research support and infrastructure ecosystem. How do we do this while also providing tailored, domain-specific engagement to all faculties?
This is something I am passionate about. It is sometimes tricky and there is a lot to do, but I am confident MDAP can play a major role in this space.
Can you tell us about your latest adventure or next planned one outside of MDAP?
Before our daughter was born, my wife and I hiked the Overland Track in Tasmania with some friends. It was an amazing and fun experience! We have not done a serious hike since then and have been dreaming about walking the Larapinta Trail for a while. The trail starts at the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Telegraph Station and follows the West MacDonnell Ranges. We have not planned it yet, but it’s in our to-do list. We might need to train quite a bit before attempting it!
In the context of a rapidly evolving global environment and UoM’s research strategy, what would you most like to explore, challenge, or innovate in your work in the future?
I’ve always worked in academia and with academics (except for a couple of side-jobs while I was a student!), therefore I don’t really know how the industry world functions. Although things are changing, in my opinion there is still too much disconnection and diffidence between industry and academia. Personally, I’d like to explore more the application of research ideas and methods to real world problems.
It’s about time industry and academia drop the stereotypes and join forces to tackle the complex social, economic and technological problems humanity is facing.
There are multiple examples of this type of work at UoM. For example, the incredible and inspiring research conducted by the FREO2 Group at the School of Physics. They have been working to provide a continuous flow of medical grade oxygen to countries that don’t have a reliable supply of electricity, such as Uganda. Communities can then use this oxygen to treat a range of respiratory illnesses – including pneumonia, the world’s leading infectious killer.