Associate Professor Robert Niven

Associate Professor
School of Engineering and Information Technology
+61 2 6268 8330


Building 20 Room 129
School of Engineering and Information Technology,
The University of New South Wales at Canberra,
PO Box 7916,
Canberra BC ACT 2610,



  • Internationally recognised research leader in (a) theory and applications of probabilistic inference, including maximum entropy analysis and Bayesian inference; and (b) environmental contaminants, systems and impacts. This includes:
    • Maximum entropy analysis, Bayesian inference and machine learning applied to networked flow systems, including water distribution, energy distribution, transport and electricity distribution networks;
    • Maximum entropy analysis and Bayesian inference for the analysis of fluid flow systems, dynamical systems, dissipative systems and fluid turbulence;
    • Dimensional analysis, Lie scaling, and spatial and parametric analogues of the Reynolds transport theorem, Liouville equation, and Perron-Frobenius and Koopman operators;
    • The combinatorial basis of entropy and its applications, including to the analysis of graphs and flow networks;
    • Per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substance (PFAS) contaminants such as perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), including entrapment mechanisms and their active remediation by in situ fluidization.
    • Non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) in porous media, including surface/interfacial tension phenomena, nucleation phenomena and multiphase systems;
    • Heavy metal and inorganic contaminants in surface waters, groundwater and soil;
    • Environmental impacts, sustainability and environmental management.
  • Success in research funding, with a career total of A$3.4 million in grants and fellowships from Australian, European, French, German, Japanese, UK and U.S. sources. This includes ARC Discovery Project grants for 2010-12 and 2014-16, and an ARC SRI PFAS grant over 2019-21.
  • Success in competitive research fellowships, including Churchill (1998), Fulbright (2003), JSPS (2006), Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowship, Denmark (14 months, 2007-08), Endeavour (2010), Isaac Newton Institute (2010) and Institute PPrime CNRS / Region Poitou-Charentes, France (11 months, 2014-15, and 4 months 2018).


  • Course coordinator and lecturer for undergraduate courses in fluid mechanics, hydraulic engineering, environmental engineering, geology, soil mechanics, hydrology and contaminant hydrogeology, across BE Aeronautical, Civil and Mechanical programs and BTech degrees in Aeronautics and Aviation.
  • Implementation of flipped mode teaching in environmental engineering, since 2015. 
  • Postgraduate teaching in Maximum Entropy Analysis, including a Masters / PhD course at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and numerous short courses and summer school courses for research audiences.
  • Past and present supervisor of a number of BE thesis, Masters and PhD students.

Academic Engagement and Leadership:

  • Editorial Board Member of the journal Entropy since 2007, and Editor-in-Chief of the Multidisciplinary Applications section since 2019.
  • Founding member of the ACT Chapter of the Australasian Fluid Mechanics Society, starting 2019.
  • Undergraduate Aeronautical Coordinator, SEIT, UNSW Canberra, 2016-2018.
  • Research Development and Mentoring Coordinator, SEIT, UNSW Canberra, 2016-2018.
  • Host or member of the organising committee of international conferences: MODSIM, Canberra, Dec 2019; MaxEnt 2018, The Alan Turing Institute, London, UK, Jul 2018; MaxEnt 2017, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jul 2017; MaxEnt 2015, Potsdam, NY USA, Jul 2015; BayesianControl 2015, Poitiers, France, Apr 2015; MaxEnt 2013, Canberra, Dec 2013 (the first time held in Australia); MaxEP Workshop, ANU, Canberra, Australia, Sep 2011; and Facets of Entropy, Copenhagen, Denmark, Oct 2007. 
  • Host of numerous visiting scholars and PhD students to SEIT, UNSW Canberra.
  • Past or present research grant assessor for funding agencies in Australia, Romania, Chile and USA.

External Engagement and Leadership:

  • Public commentary on PFAS contamination in Australia, including to an inquiry of the Parliament of Australia, since 2018.
  • Expert Opinion services in major disputes concerning soil and groundwater contamination, including cases to the Supreme Court of NSW.
  • Founder and President (since 2013) of The MaxEnt and Bayesian Association of Australia, Inc., a scientific association and registered charity to support research and teaching in probabilistic inference.


Dewar RC; Lineweaver C; Niven RK; Regenauer-Lieb K, (eds.), 2013, Beyond the Second Law: Entropy Production and Non-Equilibrium Systems, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg,

Niven RK, 2006, Workshop on Maximum Entropy Analysis (A Series of Tutorials on Concepts and Applications), Original, UNSW@ADFA, Canberra ACT

Niven RK; Burgess JS; Harrowfield DL; Khalili N; Chattopadhyay G, 2005, Preliminary Soil Contamination Investigation, `Mirror Peninsula`, Larsemann Hills, East Antartica. I: Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (Diesel Range Organics), 1, Australian Defence Force Academy- School of Aerospace, Civil and Mechanical Engineering, Canberra, ACT

Niven RK, 2005, Towards the Information Theoretic Paradigm of Contaminant Transport Modelling, 1, ADFA, Canberra, ACT

Book Chapters

Niven RK; Ozawa H, 2016, 'Entropy production extremum principles', in Singh V (ed.), Handbook of Applied Hydrology, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill Education, New York, pp. 32-1 - 32-7

Niven RK; Noack BR, 2013, 'Control volume analysis, entropy balance and the entropy production in flow systems', in Dewar RC; Lineweaver C; Niven RK; Regenauer-Lieb K (ed.), Beyond the Second Law: Entropy Production and Non-Equilibrium Systems, pp. 129 - 162

Niven RK; Andresen B, 2009, 'Jaynes' maximum entropy principle, Riemannian metrics and generalised least action bound', in Dewar RL; Detering F (ed.), Complex Physical, Biophysical and Econophysical Systems, Proc. 22nd Canberra International Physics Summer School, The Australian National University, Canberra, 8-19 December 2008, edn. World Scientific Lecture Notes in Complex Systems, Vol. 9, World Scientific, Hackensack, NJ, pp. 283 - 318,

Niven RK, 2003, 'In Situ fluidization for permeable reactive barrier installation and maintenance', in Henry SM; Warner SD (ed.), Chlorinated Solvent and DNAPL Remediation, Innovative Strategies for Subsurface Cleanup, edn. Original, American Chemical Society, Washington DC, pp. 217 - 235

Niven RK, 2002, 'In Situ Fluidization for Permeable Reactive Barrier Installation and Maintenance', in Henry SM; Warner SD (ed.), 220th ACS National Meeting Washington DC, edn. ACS SYMPOSIUM SERIES, AMER CHEMICAL SOC, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, pp. 217 - 235,

Journal articles

Niven R; Mohammad-Djafari A; Cordier L; Abel M; Quade M, 2020, 'Bayesian Identification of Dynamical Systems', Proceedings, vol. 33, pp. 33 - 33,

Niven RK; Abel M; Schlegel M; Waldrip SH, 2019, 'Maximum entropy analysis of flow networks: Theoretical foundation and applications', Entropy, vol. 21,

Oberst SM; Niven RK; Lester DR; Ord A; Hobbs B; Hoffmann N, 2018, 'Detection of unstable periodic orbits in mineralising geological systems', Chaos, vol. 28, pp. 085711 - 085721,

Gout J; Quade M; Shafi K; Niven RK; Abel M, 2018, 'Synchronization control of oscillator networks using symbolic regression', Nonlinear Dynamics, vol. 91, pp. 1001 - 1021,

Waldrip SH; Niven RK; Abel M; Schlegel M, 2018, 'Reduced-parameter method for maximum entropy analysis of hydraulic pipe flow networks', Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, vol. 144,

Abdelraouf YA; Niven RK, 2018, 'Effect of water and solid activities at high pressure on supercritical CO2 sequestration in saline aquifers', Chemical Geology, vol. 476, pp. 11 - 23,

Waldrip SH; Niven RK, 2017, 'Comparison between Bayesian and maximum entropy analyses of flow networks', Entropy, vol. 19,

Waldrip SH; Niven RK; Abel M; Schlegel M, 2016, 'Maximum entropy analysis of hydraulic pipe flow networks', Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, vol. 142,

Quade M; Abel M; Shafi K; Niven RK; Noack BR, 2016, 'Prediction of dynamical systems by symbolic regression', Physical Review E, vol. 94,

Waldrip SH; Niven RK, 2016, 'Maximum entropy derivation of Quasi-Newton Methods', SIAM Journal on Optimization, vol. 26, pp. 2495 - 2511,

Kaiser E; Noack BR; Cordier L; Spohn A; Segond M; Abel M; Daviller G; Östh J; Krajnović S; Niven RK, 2014, 'Cluster-based reduced-order modelling of a mixing layer', Journal of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 754, pp. 365 - 414,

Cordier L; Noack BR; Tissot G; Lehnasch G; Delville J; Balajewicz M; Daviller G; Niven RK, 2013, 'Identification strategies for model-based control Topics in Flow Control. Guest editors J.P. Bonnet and L. Cattafesta', Experiments in Fluids, vol. 54,

Noack BR; Niven RK, 2013, 'A hierarchy of maximum entropy closures for Galerkin systems of incompressible flows', Computers and Mathematics with Applications, vol. 65, pp. 1558 - 1574,

Singh K; Niven RK, 2013, 'Non-aqueous phase liquid spills in freezing and thawing soils: critical analysis of pore-scale processes', Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology,, vol. 43, pp. 551 - 597,

Cordier L; Noack BR; Tissot G; Lehnasch G; Delville J; Daviller G; Balajewicz M; Niven RK, 2013, 'Identification strategies for model-based control', Experiments in Fluids, vol. 54, pp. 1 - 21,

Noack BR; Niven RK, 2012, 'Maximum-entropy closure for a Galerkin model of an incompressible periodic wake', Journal of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 700, pp. 187 - 213,

Singh K; Niven RK; Senden TJ; Turner ML; Sheppard A; Middleton J; Knackstedt MA, 2011, 'Remobilization of residual non-aqueous phase liquid in porous media by freeze - Thaw cycles', Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 45, pp. 3473 - 3478,

Niven RK, 2010, 'Minimisation of a free-energy-like potential for non-equilibrium systems at steady state', Philosophical Transactions B, vol. 365, pp. 1323 - 1331,

Niven RK, 2010, 'Simultaneous extrema in the entropy production for steady-state fluid flow in parallel pipes', Journal of Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics, vol. 35, pp. 347 - 378,

Grendar M; Niven RK, 2010, 'The Polya information divergence', Information Sciences, vol. 180, pp. 4189 - 4194,

Niven RK; Suyari H, 2009, 'The q-gamma and (q,q)-polygamma functions of Tsallis statistics', Physica A - Statistical Mechanics and Its Applications, vol. 388, pp. 4045 - 4060,

Niven RK; Grendar M, 2009, 'Generalized classical, quantum and intermediate statistics and the Polya urn model', Physics Letters, Section A, vol. 373, pp. 621 - 626,

Niven RK, 2009, 'Combinatorial entropies and statistics', European Physical Journal B, vol. 70, pp. 49 - 63,

Niven RK, 2009, 'Steady state of a dissipative flow-controlled system and the maximum entropy production principle', Physical Review E, vol. 80, pp. 021113,

Niven RK, 2009, 'Non-asymptotic thermodynamic ensembles', Europhysics Letters, vol. 86, pp. 20010-p1 - 20010-p6,

Niven RK; Suyari H, 2008, 'Combinatorial basis and non-asymptotic form of the Tsallis entropy function', European Physical Journal B, vol. 61, pp. 75 - 82,

Niven RK, 2008, 'Comment on ``A fiber optic Raman sensor for hydrocarbon detection`` by Khijwania et al. [Sens. Actuators B 125 (2007) 563-568]', Sensors and Actuators B - Chemical, vol. 130, pp. 575,

Niven RK; Singh K, 2008, 'Mobilization and rupture of LNAPL ganglia during freeze-thaw: Two-dimensional cell experiments', Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 42, pp. 5467 - 5472,

Niven RK, 2006, 'q-Exponential structure of arbitrary-order reaction kinetics', Chemical Engineering Science, vol. 61, pp. 3785 - 3790,

Niven RK, 2006, 'Cost of s-fold decisions in exact Maxwell-Boltzmann, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac statistics', Physica A - Statistical Mechanics and Its Applications, vol. 365, pp. 142 - 149,

Niven RK, 2006, 'Force stability of pore-scale fluid bridges and ganglia in axisymmetric and non-axisymmetric configurations', Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, vol. 52, pp. 1 - 18,

Niven RK, 2005, 'Reply to the comments by D. Stevenson on `Physical insight into theErgun and Wen and Yu equations for fluid flow in packed and fluidisedbeds` by RK Niven [Chemical Engineering Science, 57 (2002), 527-534]', Chemical Engineering Science, vol. 60, pp. 299 - 300,

Niven RK, 2005, 'Ethanol in gasoline: environmental impacts and sustainability: review article', Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 9, pp. 535 - 555,

Niven RK, 2005, 'Exact Maxwell-Boltzmann, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac Statistics', Physics Letters, Section A, vol. 342, pp. 286 - 293,

Niven RK, 2004, 'The constrained entropy and cross-entropy functions', Physica A - Statistical Mechanics and Its Applications, vol. 334, pp. 444 - 458,

Niven RK, 2003, 'Turbulent flow through porous media.', Ground water, vol. 41, pp. 544 - 545

Niven RK, 2003, 'Turbulent Flow Through Porous Media by D.W. Barr, September-October 2001 issue, v. 39, no. 5: 646-650', Ground Water, vol. 41, pp. 544 - 545,

Niven RK, 2003, 'Discussion paper concerning D.W.Barr (2001), Turbulent Flow through porous media, Ground Water, 39(5):646-650', Ground Water, vol. 41, pp. 544 - 545

Niven RK, 2002, 'Discussion of papers/', Ground Water, vol. 40, pp. 670 - 671

Niven RK, 2002, 'Physical insight into the Ergun and Wen and Yu equations for fluid flow in packed and fluidised beds', Chemical Engineering Science, vol. 57, pp. 527 - 534,

Niven RK, 2002, 'A derivation of Darcy's law.', Ground water, vol. 40, pp. 670 - 671

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