Researcher

Associate Professor Robert Niven

My Expertise

  1. Theory and applications of probabilistic inference, including maximum entropy analysis and Bayesian inference, applied to complex systems (including fluid flow systems, dynamical systems, flow networks and fluid turbulence), and new tools of applied mathematics including transport theorems and operators.
  2. Environmental contaminants and impacts, especially per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs), and heavy metal contaminants in subsurface soils, groundwater, surface waters and the atmosphere, and environmental management and sustainability.

Keywords

Biography

Research 

  • Internationally recognised research leader in (a) theory and applications of probabilistic inference, including maximum entropy analysis and Bayesian inference; and (b) environmental contaminants, systems and impacts. This includes:
    • Maximum entropy analysis, Bayesian inference and machine learning applied to networked flow systems, including water distribution, energy distribution, transport and electricity...view more

Research 

  • Internationally recognised research leader in (a) theory and applications of probabilistic inference, including maximum entropy analysis and Bayesian inference; and (b) environmental contaminants, systems and impacts. This includes:
    • Maximum entropy analysis, Bayesian inference and machine learning applied to networked flow systems, including water distribution, energy distribution, transport and electricity distribution networks;
    • Maximum entropy analysis and Bayesian inference for the analysis of fluid flow systems, dynamical systems, dissipative systems and fluid turbulence;
    • Dimensional analysis, Lie scaling, and spatial and parametric analogues of the Reynolds transport theorem, Liouville equation, and Perron-Frobenius and Koopman operators;
    • The combinatorial basis of entropy and its applications, including to the analysis of graphs and flow networks;
    • Per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substance (PFAS) contaminants such as perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), including entrapment mechanisms and their active remediation by in situ fluidization.
    • Non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) in porous media, including surface/interfacial tension phenomena, nucleation phenomena and multiphase systems;
    • Heavy metal and inorganic contaminants in surface waters, groundwater and soil;
    • Environmental impacts, sustainability and environmental management.
  • Success in research funding, with a career total of A$3.4 million in grants and fellowships from Australian, European, French, German, Japanese, UK and U.S. sources. This includes ARC Discovery Project grants for 2010-12 and 2014-16, and an ARC SRI PFAS grant over 2019-21.
  • Success in competitive research fellowships, including Churchill (1998), Fulbright (2003), JSPS (2006), Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowship, Denmark (14 months, 2007-08), Endeavour (2010), Isaac Newton Institute (2010) and Institute PPrime CNRS / Region Poitou-Charentes, France (11 months, 2014-15, and 4 months 2018).

Teaching 

  • Course coordinator and lecturer for undergraduate courses in fluid mechanics, hydraulic engineering, environmental engineering, geology, soil mechanics, hydrology and contaminant hydrogeology, across BE Aeronautical, Civil and Mechanical programs and BTech degrees in Aeronautics and Aviation.
  • Implementation of flipped mode teaching in environmental engineering, since 2015. 
  • Postgraduate teaching in Maximum Entropy Analysis, including a Masters / PhD course at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and numerous short courses and summer school courses for research audiences.
  • Past and present supervisor of a number of BE thesis, Masters and PhD students.

Academic Engagement and Leadership:

  • Editorial Board Member of the journal Entropy since 2007, and Editor-in-Chief of the Multidisciplinary Applications section since 2019.
  • Founding member of the ACT Chapter of the Australasian Fluid Mechanics Society, starting 2019.
  • Undergraduate Aeronautical Coordinator, SEIT, UNSW Canberra, 2016-2018.
  • Research Development and Mentoring Coordinator, SEIT, UNSW Canberra, 2016-2018.
  • Host or member of the organising committee of international conferences: MODSIM, Canberra, Dec 2019; MaxEnt 2018, The Alan Turing Institute, London, UK, Jul 2018; MaxEnt 2017, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jul 2017; MaxEnt 2015, Potsdam, NY USA, Jul 2015; BayesianControl 2015, Poitiers, France, Apr 2015; MaxEnt 2013, Canberra, Dec 2013 (the first time held in Australia); MaxEP Workshop, ANU, Canberra, Australia, Sep 2011; and Facets of Entropy, Copenhagen, Denmark, Oct 2007. 
  • Host of numerous visiting scholars and PhD students to SEIT, UNSW Canberra.
  • Past or present research grant assessor for funding agencies in Australia, Romania, Chile and USA.

External Engagement and Leadership:

  • Public commentary on PFAS contamination in Australia, including to an inquiry of the Parliament of Australia, since 2018.
  • Expert Opinion services in major disputes concerning soil and groundwater contamination, including cases to the Supreme Court of NSW.
  • Founder and President (since 2013) of The MaxEnt and Bayesian Association of Australia, Inc., a scientific association and registered charity to support research and teaching in probabilistic inference.

My Qualifications

  • BSc(Hons) and The University Medal in Chemistry and Geology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 1991.
  • PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 1998.

My Awards

  • Invited Professor, 2 months, 2018, hosted by Laboratoire des signaux et systèmes (L2S), CentraleSupélec / CNRS / Université Paris Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
  • Invited Professor, 2 months, 2018, hosted by Institut Pprime and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Poitiers, France.
  • Invited Professor, 11 months, 2014-2015, hosted by CEAT, Institut Pprime, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Poitiers, France, funded by Region Poitou-Charentes and Institut Pprime, Poitiers, France.
  • Invited Senior Research Fellow, 1 month, 2012, hosted and funded by Institut Pprime, CEAT, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Poitiers, France.
  • Senior Research Fellow, 3 months, 2011, hosted and funded by Institut Pprime, CEAT, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Poitiers, France.
  • Visiting Fellowship, 1 month, 2010, hosted and funded by the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge, UK.
  • Endeavour Executive Award, 2 months, 2010, hosted by the Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University, Japan, funded by the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
  • Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowship, 14 months, 2007-2008, at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, funded by the European Commission (6th Framework Programme).
  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Invitation Fellowship, 1 month, 2006, at Dept of Information & Image Sciences, Chiba University, Japan.
  • Fulbright Professional Fellowship, 4 months, 2003, hosted by 3 universities in USA, funded by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission.
  • Churchill Fellow, 3 months, 1998, funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
  • Recipient of 6 other awards and prizes during BSc(Hons) studies in chemistry and geology.

My Research Supervision


Areas of supervision

  • Probabilistic inference, including maximum entropy analysis and Bayesian inference methods applied to complex engineered and human systems, especially in automated form for machine learning.
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination in soil and groundwater, and remediation by in situ fluidization.

My Engagement

Recent engagement:

  • Niven, R.K., Khan, S., Taylor, M., Wilson, S.P. and Wright, I. (2019), Summary and Position Paper: The need for a Commonwealth Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA) for enforcement of the regulation of environmental contaminants, May 2019, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.10638.00323.
  • Niven, R.K. (2018), Submission, Parliamentary Inquiry into the Management of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance (PFAS) Contamination in and around Defence Bases, Parliament of Australia, 6 July 2018, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.20480.74245.
  • Niven, R.K. (2018), Submission to NSW Government on Proposed Remediation of Land State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), NSW Government, April 2018, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.15140.78721.
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Location

Building 20 Room 129
School of Engineering and Information Technology,
The University of New South Wales at Canberra,
PO Box 7916,
Canberra BC ACT 2610,
AUSTRALIA

Contact

+61 2 6268 8330