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UniSQ graduate full steam ahead after award haul

Student recognised for honours thesis on railway sleeper sustainability

A University of Southern Queensland graduate is on the track to success, having won two national awards for his rail-based honours thesis.

Thomas Murphy will travel to Melbourne this month for the Conference on Railway Excellence to receive the Railway Technical Society of Australasia Undergraduate Thesis Award for his work on railway sleepers.

This comes after Mr Murphy was awarded the winner of the Futures Challenge by the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia, after presenting his thesis at the annual Queensland conference in October 2022.

During his time at UniSQ completing a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours), Mr Murphy said it had been a natural decision to pursue a railway-related topic for his honours thesis project.

“The joke is with a name like Thomas, of course I was going to like trains and railways,” Mr Murphy said.

“Growing up, I was a big fan of Thomas the Tank Engine, and that never left me.

“When I started looking into what I could do my Honours thesis project on, I saw it as an opportunity to explore something I had a keen interest in – and railway engineering was related to my program.”

Mr Murphy’s honours project focused on the sustainability of Australia’s railway sleepers, which are heavy wooden beams that support the rails on a railway track.

“I conducted a detailed review and analysis of current rail track structures before investigating how emerging sleeper technologies could impact track behaviour in Australia and the best way to employ them,” Mr Murphy said.

“I looked at the effectiveness of interspersing sleepers of different materials together, that is a timber sleeper next to a concrete sleeper, or one concrete sleeper for every two to four timber sleepers.

"Based on my results I was able to make a recommendation for the interspersing ratio, which in turn can ultimately help to improve the sustainability and durability of our railways.”

Mr Murphy said he had been delighted to receive the news of the awards.

“It was very exciting to have engineering professionals recognise my work,” Mr Murphy said.

“As an engineer, design and sustainability is a big part of what we do.

“There is a lot of work going on at the moment in the area of sleepers. Even as a railway enthusiast, I didn’t realise all the new materials being explored.”

Learn more about Engineering at the University of Southern Queensland.

Man standing next to train track.
Student recognised for honours thesis on railway sleeper sustainability