Macquarie University’s eco-experts

Three amazing Macquarie University environmental researchers are making change and driving green solutions to our energy, fuel and medical needs.

As a first-year engineering student at Sydney’s Macquarie University, you get to try different areas of engineering, and work with some of the world’s top experts in sustainability, energy and medicine as part of the uni’s flexible course options.

Bright ideas

Dr Supriya Pillai, electrical and electronics engineer

One expert, Dr Supriya Pillai, is a senior research fellow in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and she’s all about solar cells.

From her work on increasing light trapping in silicon solar cells, she is currently working on organic cells – which need to be low cost and high performance. Supriya is working on organic polymers to achieve that.

Her team is developing a diagnostic tool that examines how different combinations of polymers used in these cells respond to light.

The tool works by determining the polymers’ ability to absorb light – AKA photoconductivity.

“The photoconductivity of good solar cells improves when they’re exposed to light,” says Supriya.

“We’re artificially shining light on these solar cells to see how their conductivity changes and finding out which combinations of polymers work best.”



Which famous scientist are you?

Fatemeh Salehi fluid flow

Cleaning up combustion

Dr Fatemeh Salehi, mechanical engineer

Mechanical engineering lecturer Dr Fatemeh Salehi is out to design cleaner combustion engines.

Her expertise is in modelling turbulent flows of fluids: when fluids flow or mix unevenly. The mathematical and computational models she creates can model things like gas or diesel flowing in combustion engines, or even how medicines are absorbed by human cells.

Turbulent flows are complicated, so they can be hard and time-consuming to predict.

But Fatemeh is developing efficient software to model such flows and develop new technologies including cleaner combustion devices or even new drug delivery systems for biomedical applications.

“That’s what I like about my research,” says Fatemeh, who is working with experimental scientists in different disciplines. “It’s the same physics, but different applications.”



Discover more eco-experts like these Macquarie University environmental researchers. Check out our Profiles page.

Algae fuel (for real!)

Dr Ming Li, biomechanical engineer

Dr Ming Li is a biomechanical engineering expert. Right now, she’s putting her research skills to good use by making biofuels from microalgae.

Microalgae use photosynthesis to convert energy from sunlight into bio-products such as algal oil, which can be used as a biofuel.

Ming wants to make biofuel production cost-effective by maximising the growth rate and the amount of oil extracted from algae. These ‘super’ algae also have a variety of potential uses in sustainable energy and biological industries. Think: jet fuel, livestock feed and cosmetics.

She’s no stranger to keeping an eye on human health, either.

Ming is part of a group at the uni developing biosensors, which are ‘sensors of life’. With the help of electronics, they use either living organisms (like bacteria) or biological molecules (like enzymes) to detect certain chemicals in the human body. Ming developed biosensors that check for signs of cancer.

– Larissa Fedunik-Hofman


This article is brought to you in partnership with Macquarie University.

Dr Ming Li, biomechanical engineer

Eliza Brockwell

Author: Eliza Brockwell

Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.


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