SMART has welcomed two new Doctors to the facility – but both are already very familiar faces.

Shiva Pedram and Robert Ogie received their doctorates at a ceremony at the University of Wollongong today.

For Shiva – now Dr – Pedram it will be the end of a journey that started in 2012 when she first started working with Coal Services in Woonona.

Coal Services had spent millions on Virtual Reality across four stations in NSW, including one in the Illawarra, but had never evaluated the effectiveness of the platform for training. Dr Pedram saw an obvious gap in this research and decided to focus on the effectiveness of virtual reality for training miners.

The doctorate took longer than anticipated to complete because, after preliminary research and analysis at Woonona, she applied for funding to visit one more station.

The Board of Coal Services was so impressed by what they saw, that they funded her $20,000 – more than twice what she had asked for – and asked her to conduct her research across NSW.

“At the moment, I am focusing on using virtual reality to manage the mental health of miners in remote locations,” she said.

“Whether they have PTSD, depression, anxiety or suffering from bullying, it’s often too costly for the industry to fly them out for psychological counselling,” she said.

“I am suggesting that they could meet in a virtual reality space to discuss the issue.”

Also graduating will be Robert Ogie, who came to SMART in 2014 to work on the PetaJakarta research project.

Originally from Nigeria, Robert graduated with a Masters in Information Systems from the University of New England in 2013.

His doctorate uses graph theory to enable authorities in coastal megacities of developing nations to more effectively manage infrastructure to mitigate flooding.

Assets such as waterways, floodgates, dams, levees and pumping stations form complex systems that individually affect the efficiency of the network as a whole.

“The focus for me is about disasters,” Dr Ogie said.

“Right now, I am working on a project with the SES and the Multicultural Community Council of the Illawarra to improve disaster communication,” he said.

“Even people whose first language is English can struggle to understand emergency warnings.

“We are working with seven culturally and linguistically diverse communities in the Illawarra to explore the best ways of receiving those messages.”

SMART director Senior Professor Pascal Perez welcomed the news.

“Both Shiva and Robert are highly valued members of the SMART community, and I congratulate them both on their significant achievement,” he said.

(L-R) SMART Director – Snr Prof Pascal Perez, Dr Robert Ogie, SMART COO – Ms Tania Brown & Dr Shiva Pedram