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Dr Nickolas Falkner

Telephone +61 8 8313 6185
Position Associate Professor
Fax +61 8 8313 4366
Building Ingkarni Wardli
Floor/Room 4 39
Campus North Terrace
Org Unit School of Computer Science

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Biography/ Background

  • Associate Professor, School of Computer Science, University of Adelaide
  • 2012-2014: Associate Dean (IT), Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences
  • 2007- : Employed as academic at the University of Adelaide
  • 2003-2006: Network engineer
  • 2000-2004: Winemaker
  • 1996-2000: Senior Systems Administrator, School of Computer Science, University of Adelaide 

Awards & Achievements

  • 2015: Stephen Cole the Elder Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • 2012-2014: Australian Council of Deans of ICT Learning and Teaching Academy Fellowship
  • 2013: Executive Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • 2013: Faculty Learning and Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • 2008: Nominated for Australian Distinguished Dissertation Award 

Teaching Interests

I teach across the curriculum and am recognised as a leader in learning and teaching, with expertise in new approaches to course delivery and assessment strategies, both face-to-face and on-line. My goal is to engage and motivate students to learn. I have a learning and teaching blog that I update regularly. This year's theme is "beautiful education".

I am particularly interested in innovative assessment mechanisms that encourage personal development, rather than rote-learning. I try to make extensive use of new and innovative technologies, once I have established that they are actually of benefit to all concerned!

In 2017, at North Terrace Campus, I will be teaching:

  • First year: COMP SCI 1104 Grand Challenges (Restricted Entry)
  • Honours/Masters: COMP SCI 4405/7405 Research Methods in Software Engineering and Computer Science
In 2017, at NAAEC in Singapore, I will be teaching:
  • Third Year: COMP SCI 3012NA Distributed Systems
  • Third Year: COMP SCI 3013NA Event Driven Computing

Research Interests

Research Supervision

Note: I regret to say that I am currently limited in the number of additional students I can accept, due to administrative changes. I will update this if and when this situation changes.

As a supervisor, I expect you to be an active participant within the school's research community and also the Faculty and University community. That means attending seminars, reading lots of paper, thinking and discussing your ideas with me, other supervisors, and other academics, as needed. I'll help you with your project planning and initial methodology but I expect you to work with me and, as you progress, take more and more responsibility for your own project and research direction. (I will always be there to help you if you get stuck!)

I expect to meet with most of my students at least once a week and we find that the best results tend to come when students come in and work, at Uni, over a roughly 9-5 work day, 5 days a week. For part-time students, or students with pre-existing commitments, we are flexible and you should always discuss things with me first so that I can help you, or let you know where to go to get help.

Working with me, you will read a lot and you will write a lot. I turn drafts around quickly, but often with a lot of red pen showing where improvements can be made. This is 'friendly' red pen because I'm trying to help you make your work better. Your final thesis is a statement to the world of what you have done and what you have discovered - I want to help you make it the best document you can, but you will be the one doing the writing.

Finally, I will try to pass on to you my excitement about research in this growing and interesting field, as well as the importance of scientific rigour, accuracy and producing work that is both interesting and useful.

Applying for me to be your Supervisor

If you wish to ask me to be your supervisor, I expect you to provide a brief covering e-mail, your current CV, an academic transcript for all of your qualifications and a 5 page research proposal, outlining which of my research areas you are thinking about. Please do not submit a research proposal that is composed of text that you have copied from the Internet and then mildly edited to make it read sensibly. I want to read your own words so that I can form an idea as to how and if we could work together.

I am always happy to consider a candidate but I regularly tell potential students that I can't supervise them because they have obviously not checked my areas of research or they send me proposals that are obviously cut-and-pasted from Internet sources. I require a very high standard of integrity in research and scholarship, as does the University. Please, send me your own ideas in your own words. (All documents greatly preferred as PDFs, no smaller than 10 point Times New Roman, single spaced!)

Areas of Research

Education Research (Currently the majority of my research is in this area.)

My education research interests include improving student engagement and retention, with an additional goal of developing professional skills, including problem solving abilities and the importance of a consistent ethical framework. I am always lookings for PhD student candidates for projects involving student time management, social currency and a detailed analysis of over 10 years of accumulated data on student hand-in behaviours. I welcome applicants with a social science background, who have some familiarity with computer science education and a reasonable grasp of statistics. (Any floating cognitive neuroscientists, or related psychologists, please consider applying!) My work also involves both learning and academic analytics.

Network Research

My areas in this area included Software Defined Networking (as Adelaide is one of the partners in the new Australian research SDN network), network topologies, Internet of things, network abstraction and TOR.


I have a great deal of interest in anonymisation and privacy preserving operations, often in conjunction with the areas above. While I am not a crypto specialist, I am fortunate enough to work with people who are and we would construct a supervisory panel that would provide the best support.

Current Postgraduate Students

  • Wenjie Ruan (PhD) with Q. Michael Sheng
  • Dinesha Ranatunga (PhD) with Matthew Roughan and Phil Kernick
  • Lachlang Kang (PhD) with Matthew Roughan and Yuval Yarom
  • Dung Le Ba (PhD) with Hong Shen
  • Amir Kanan Kashefi (Masters) with Katrina Falkner and Claudia Szabo
  • Richard Matthews (Masters) with Matthew Sorell

Graduated PhD/Masters Students

  • Zhigang Lu
  • Yongrui Qin
  • Thushari Atapattu


Selected publications: 

D Ranathunga, M Roughan, H Nguyen, P Kernick, N Falkner, "Case Studies of SCADA Firewall Configurations and the Implications for Best Practices", IEEE Transactions on Network and Service Management 13 (4), 871-884, 2016.

Ranathunga, D., Roughan, M., Kernick, P., Falkner, N., Nguyen, H., McClintock, M., & Mihailescu, M., "Verifiable Policy-defined Networking for Security Management", In Proceedings of the 13th International Joint Conference on e-Business and Telecommunications (ICETE 2016) - Volume 4: SECRYPT, pages 344-351, 2016.

D Ranathunga, M Roughan, P Kernick, N Falkner, "Malachite: Firewall policy comparison", Computers and Communication (ISCC), 2016 IEEE Symposium on, 310-317, 2016.

Y Qin, QZ Sheng, NJG Falkner, S Dustdar, H Wang, AV Vasilakos, "When things matter: A survey on data-centric internet of things", Journal of Network and Computer Applications 64, 137-153, 2016.

T. Atapattu, K. Falkner, N. Falkner, “Task-Adapted Concept Map Scaffolding to Support Quizzes in an Online Environment”, Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, 2015. 

H. Tarmazdi, R. Vivian, C. Szabo, K. Falkner, N. Falkner, “Using Learning Analytics to Visualise Computer Science Teamwork”, Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, 2015. 

T. Atapattu, K. Falkner, N. Falkner, “Educational Question Answering motivated by Question-Specific Concept Maps”, Artificial Intelligence in Education, 13-22, 2015.

Y. Qin, Q. Z. Sheng, N. Falkner, W. Zhang, H. Wang, Indexing Linked Data in a Wireless Broadcast System with 3D Hilbert Space-Filling Curves Proceedings of the 23rd ACM International Conference on Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM 2014), Shanghai, China, Nov, 2014. 

N. Falkner & K. Falkner, ‘“Whither, Badges?” or “Wither, Badges!”: A Metastudy of Badges in Computer Science Education to Clarify Effects, Significance and Influence’, Koli Calling Conference, Koli, Finland, 20th-23rd November, 2014.

K. Falkner, R. Vivian and N. Falkner, “Identifying Computer Science Self-Regulated Learning Strategies”, in proceedings of ITiCSE 2014, 19th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, Uppsala, Sweden, June 23-25, 2014. 

R. Vivian, K Falkner and N. Falkner, "Addressing the challenges of a new digital technologies curriculum: MOOCs as a scalable solution for teacher professional development", Research in Learning Technology, Volume 22, 2014.

K. E. Falkner and N. Falkner, "Supporting and structuring 'Contributing Student Pedagogy' in Computer Science Curricula", Computer Science Education, 22(4), 2012

K. Falkner, N. Falkner, "Integrating Communication Skills into the Computer Science Curriculum", SIGCSE 2012, Raleigh, North Carolina, 2012.

S. Knight, H. Nguyen, N. Falkner, R. Bowden, M. Roughan, "The Internet Topology Zoo", IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communication, special issue on Measurement of Internet Topologies, 2011.

R. Bowden, H. Nguyen, N. Falkner, S. Knight, M. Roughan, "Planarity of Data Networks", International Telecommunications Conference, September, 2011, San Francisco.

N. J. G. Falkner, “Security technologies and policies in organisations.” in ICT Ethics and Security in the 21st Century: New Developments and Applications, Chapter 10, M. Quigley (ed.), IGI Global, 2011.

H. Nguyen, M. Roughan, S. Knight, N. Falkner, R. Bush, and O. Maennel, “How to build complex, large-scale emulated networks,” Proceedings of TridentCOM 2010, LNCIST, Springer, Berlin, 2010. 

N. J. G. Falkner, R. Sooriamurthi and Z. Michalewicz, “Puzzle-Based Learning for Engineering and Computer Science”, 43, 4, IEEE Computer, IEEE Computer Society, April, 2010. 

Community Engagement

I have an active blogging presence at, covering topical issues in education, as well as my ongoing contributions to a yearly theme. This year's theme, "beautiful education", returns to the ancient Greeks and their concepts of beauty, goodness and truth to find convincing arguments to change current educational practice based on our research evidence.

My Twitter handle is @nickfalkner and I regularly live-blog any conferences that I attend, across the long-form blog and Twitter.

I regularly engage with school communities as part of outreach and to present on work we are conducting at University, as well as drawing on my skills as a facilitator.

As part of the CSER Digital Technologies design and delivery team, I have provided support to thousands of teachers across Australia.

Expertise for Media Contact

CategoriesEducation, Information Technology
Expertiseteaching technology; computer networking; higher education; teaching; teaching approaches; computer security; information management; data science; data scientist; distributed computing; advanced teaching; student engagement; winemaking
NotesFellow of the Australian Council of Deans of ICT's Learning and Teaching Academy

Entry last updated: Wednesday, 22 Feb 2017

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