The Malcolm Chaikin Prize for Research Excellence in Engineering 2013


Dr Yi Liu from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering's Hydrology group has won the 2013 Malcolm Chaikin Prize for the best PhD thesis in Engineering. This prestigious prize carries with it a Medal and $10,000 in recognition for the excellence demonstrated by a UNSW doctoral student in any field of Engineering.

Yi completed his PhD degree in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering under the supervision of A/Prof Matthew McCabe and A/Prof Jason Evans from Climate Change Research Centre, on the topic of "using satellite based microwave observations to characterize land surface hydrology". He used remote sensing techniques to monitor elements of Earth’s hydrological cycle, at both the regional and global scale. Much of his research effort was focused on developing long term global products of soil moisture and vegetation water content to aid in the examination of water cycle and climate variability. These satellite products were the first of their kind in the world. The multi-decadal blended dataset resulting from his PhD has been released to the public via the European Space Agency (ESA) as their standard product. These unique data allow a capacity to directly observe the hydrological cycle, understand its partitioning and examine the influence of climate change on the variability of water distribution locally and globally. His work is undoubtedly at the cutting-edge.

Currently, Dr Yi Liu works as a senior research associate in the Water Research Centre at the UNSW, developing an enhanced long term estimation of water and biomass associated with aboveground vegetation.

Yi is the second recipient of this prestigious award for the hydrology group, and the third for the School, all in the last 5 years. Given that this award represents the best PhD thesis across the entire Engineering faculty, it is an apt testimony to the quality of research that is being accomplished in the School.

Yi’s scholarly excellence and the quality of his research output during his 3-year candidature are evidenced by a few simple metrics:

    • Publications linked to his PhD include 15 international peer-reviewed journal papers (8 leading author and 7 co-author contributions);
    • Since 2008, he has accumulated more than 280 citations – with 100+ in 2013 alone;
    • He has an h-index of 9 – of which 8 of the papers were published since 2009;
    • Articles appear in ERA Ranked A*/A journals, with impact factors as high as 7.223;
    • Yi has authored and co-authored more than 30 conference submissions;
    • He was awarded the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering Prize for Research Excellence;
    • Yi was elected as the Outstanding Tutor for Water Resources Engineering.