New grant program grows research exchange with South America

June 14 / 138

The Rocinha favela is one of the largest shantytowns in South America with over 200,000 inhabitants.
The Rocinha favela is one of the largest shantytowns in South America with over 200,000 inhabitants.

A scientific cooperation agreement between the University and the São Paulo Research Federation (FAPESP) will provide funding for researchers in Brazil and Australia to undertake collaborative exchanges.

There will likely be five rounds of funding provided, to support up to 25 new research collaborations. 

Four projects have already received grants under the agreement, examining city planning, wellbeing of livestock in tropical conditions, infectious agents of neurological diseases and the interaction between Pontiac Fever infections and host cells.

Professor Dick Strugnell, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Graduate Research) said the range and quality of applicants for the inaugural round of grants was very pleasing. 

“As the first joint program with an Australian institution, the scheme demonstrates that there is strong interest in both research communities to enhance ‘South-South’ research and research training links with São Paulo,” he said.

Professor Strugnell said the grant recipients were working on areas of great need.

“Brazil is a priority for the University under the Research at Melbourne strategy 'Ensuring Excellence and Impact to 2025'.  São Paulo is the leading location for research in Brazil and FAPESP has played a critical role in the development of this capacity,” he said.

“The relationship with FAPESP is therefore critical to our ambitions for stronger research and research training links with Latin America.”

Associate Professor Justyna Karakiewicz from the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning and Dr Michael Kirley from the Melbourne School of Engineering are collaborating with colleagues at São Paulo’s University of Campinas to model the complex adaptive systems of Brazil’s sprawling urban slums, called favelas.

Associate Professor Karakiewicz said the organic adaptability of the favelas holds lessons for Western city planners.

“The favelas seems to have this ability to reconfigure itself based on needs,” she said

“The separation between public and private spaces is not as strict, allowing for strong adaptation between the two – a washing line strung across the road for example, or a public workshop operating out of a private house.”

The favelas’ central location allows for entrepreneurial residents to make a living.

“Contrast that with what we have here in Australia – when we set up affordable housing, we’re often putting it in areas where it is very difficult for people to access work and their living is not affordable,” she said.

The full list of successful proposals is available at

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