Prof. Sujeeva Setunge
Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation, STEM college
RMIT University (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology)
Where is your hometown? Where do you live now?
I am originally from Colombo, Sri Lanka and relocated to Melbourne to commence my Ph.D in Civil Engineering at Monash University. I Live in Melbourne, Victoria.
Where did you go to university and your field of study and most importantly why did you choose that field?
I completed my first degree B.Sc (Eng) in Civil Engineering at University of Moratuwa Sri Lanka and completed my Ph.D at Monash University. I love Civil & Structural Engineering as a field, due to the creativity and accomplishment associated with the profession. I worked as a Civil Engineer prior to embarking on a pathway to an academic career. As an academic my passion has been in research activities which deliver clear outcomes to the end users.
Who do you work for now? What has been a highlight of your career?
I work for RMIT University, one of the largest dual sector Universities in Australia. A highlight in my career is commercialising the infrastructure asset management software platform developed through research conducted over a 10 year period, which is now implemented by many organisations in Australia and being implemented in South East Asia with funding from the Asian Development Bank. A more recent highlight is leading a consortium of 9 academic institutions and 32 industry partners to secure an ARC industrial transformation research hub on transformation of reclaimed resources to engineered materials and solutions for a circular economy.
What do you most enjoy about your research and role at RMIT?
I enjoy exploring cross disciplinary research to deliver solutions for complex research problems. Currently I am interested in digital transformation of the Civil infrastructure sector and developing sustainable construction materials incorporating reclaimed resources.
My current research leadership role offers a fantastic opportunity to inspire and lead academics to engage with industry stakeholders and create diverse mechanisms of engagement. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to drive large and sustained collaborations with end users to translate academic research through strategic academic-industry partnerships.
Tell us why and how you first got involved with Concrete?
The complexity of designing structures with concrete has sparked my interest as an undergraduate. My first job as a Civil Engineer was managing a construction site of a reinforced concrete water retaining structure where I learnt the challenges of moving from theory to practice. My interest in concrete led to selection of a Ph.D research project on structural properties of very high strength concrete, which developed a failure criterion and a constitutive model for concrete with strengths over 100 MPa. Designing safe infrastructure with new concrete materials, which are not covered by design standards is my area of interest and strength. During my career I have worked on many research projects and have developed and delivered academic programs on design of reinforced and prestressed concrete structures.
What do you find most challenging about working in the industry?
In some developed economies, the pathway to translation is fast. In Australia the concrete and construction industry is still very conservative. One issue I find challenging is the long lead time for innovations to be translated into practice. A solution to this is co-creation and co-design of the solutions with industry and creating an evidence base to convince the end users, which is offered through collaborations such as Smartcrete CRC.
If there was one thing you could bring to life to help shape the future of infrastructure, what would it be?
Creative and smart design of materials and structures to enable self-monitoring for optimised maintenance, flexibility of reuse, ease of deconstruction and resource recovery leading to circular solutions.
SmartCrete’s objective is to help guarantee the long-term viability of crucial concrete infrastructure in Australia, what are your thoughts on this?
Concrete being the second largest commodity used in the world, the SmartCrete CRC is addressing an urgent need of the concrete industry in supporting research towards sustainable materials and intelligent infrastructure. Co-creation opportunities provided by the partnerships of industry and academia will open up shorter pathways to impact.
Anything else you would like to add?
The SmartCrete CRC leadership and the researchers have the required credentials to deliver the expected outcomes. I am delighted to be part of the SmartCrete community.