This week at Science in Public

This Week
  • This week: the breathing Earth, light beams, frogs, crystals, and guidewires: Prime Minister’s Prizes 2018 were announced on Wednesday 17 October.
    Winners available for interview, plus photos, videos and profiles available.
  • A new coating that’s halved the build-up of barnacles and algae on ship parts in trials is now being used on a ship in the Navy. Swinburne and Defence scientists available for interview. See more details
  • Do you need help to find the story in your science that works for media, funders, and other stakeholders? Join one of our communication training days.

2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science: the breathing Earth, light beams, frogs, crystals, guidewires

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Recipients from Brisbane, Townsville, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Cessnock available for interview.

Photos from the awards presentation are available. Please credit ‘Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’.

Winners of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science (Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science)

Profiles, more photos, and broadcast quality video are available below.

[click to continue…]

Prime Minister’s Prize for Science: Revealing the breathing Earth

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Emeritus Professor Kurt Lambeck AO

Emeritus Professor Kurt Lambeck AO has revealed how our planet changes shape—every second, every day, and over millennia. These changes influence sea levels, the movement of continents, and the orbits of satellites.

Kurt’s original work in the 1960s enabled accurate planning of space missions. It led him to use the deformation of continents during the ice ages to study changes deep in the mantle of the planet. It also led to a better understanding of the impact of sea level changes on human civilization in the past, present and future.

Today’s highly accurate GPS-based systems build on his work and enable precision agriculture, new ways to explore for minerals, and the remarkable navigation tools we all use in our smartphones.

For transforming our understanding of our living planet, Kurt Lambeck receives the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. He is an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University in Canberra.

[click to continue…]

Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation: Switching light for faster, more reliable internet

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

The Finisar team: Dr Simon Poole, Mr Andrew Bartos, Dr Glenn Baxter and Dr Steven Frisken

Finisar have created technologies that make global internet connections faster and more efficient. About half of the world’s internet traffic travels through devices developed by the team and made in Sydney.

The global internet we rely on is carried by optical fibres that link continents, countries and cities. The speed and volume of internet traffic was limited by the need to convert data from light to electrical signals for switching and processing. To tackle the problem, the Finisar team created light-bending switches using prisms, liquid crystals and silicon, which have dramatically improved the capacity and reliability of the internet. One switch can handle a million simultaneous high-definition streaming videos. The team are now working on boosting the capacity of their devices further to meet the demands of 5G and the Internet of Things.

For creating and commercialising technologies that underpin the global internet, Dr Simon Poole, Mr Andrew Bartos, Dr Glenn Baxter and Dr Steven Frisken receive the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation. Their company, Finisar Australia, is based in Sydney.

[click to continue…]

Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year: Saving frogs, and revealing new extinction threats

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Dr Lee Berger

Dr Lee Berger solved the global mystery of disappearing frogs and challenged paradigms about wildlife health, all in the course of her PhD.

Starting in the 1970s frogs disappeared in pristine habitats in Queensland and in Central America. Whole species vanished; there was worldwide concern. Was it pollution or UV from the hole in the ozone layer? Were frogs the ‘canary in the coal mine’? Would we be next?

Lee and her mentors thought that an introduced infection such as a virus could explain the pattern of declines. The dogma of the time was that infectious diseases don’t cause extinctions. Now, thanks to Lee, we know they do. She didn’t find a virus, but she did find a fungus growing on the skin of sick frogs. This chytrid fungus is now known to be the cause of a global mass extinction of frogs. Hundreds of species have declined, and at least six species have disappeared entirely in Australia.

It took over a decade of research and debate to persuade the sceptics. Today, quarantine protocols recognise the threat of disease to biodiversity, recovery programs are designed to reduce the risk of infection, and wildlife health experts are alert to the spread of diseases such as those found in bats and salamanders in recent years.

For solving the mystery of frog extinction, Dr Lee Berger receives the $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Lee is based in Townsville and holds Adjunct Research Fellowships at James Cook University and the University of Melbourne.

[click to continue…]

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year: Making flexible crystals and new separation technologies

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Associate Professor Jack Clegg

Our smartphones, like all modern electronic devices, are packed with crystal semiconductors. When we drop them, it’s not just the screen that breaks. Crystals as we know them are brittle, but that will change in the future. Associate Professor Jack Clegg has designed new kinds of crystals that are so flexible you can tie them in a knot. These crystals use common elements such as iron, copper, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

He has also created molecules that can be customised to act as sieves for a vast range of manufacturing processes from the oil industry to water filtration and pharmaceuticals. He hopes the first applications will be in drug production where much of the cost of making new drugs is in the purification process. About 15 per cent of the world’s energy use is for separation processes, so more efficient technologies will find eager customers.

For creating flexible crystals and new separation technologies, Associate Professor Jack Clegg receives the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.

[click to continue…]

Prize for New Innovators: A steerable guidewire to improve the treatment of heart disease

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Dr Geoff Rogers

Dr Geoff Rogers has created a robotic guidewire that cardiologists can steer with a joystick through the body to reach a damaged artery.

The use of guidewires has replaced open heart surgery for many cardiac patients. However, about 20 per cent of cardiac patients can’t be treated using current guidewire technology, which the cardiologist has to twist and turn by hand to guide it through the arteries. The guidewires can’t always get through.

As an undergraduate engineering student Geoff heard a clinician express his frustration with the technology. So, for his undergraduate project and PhD Geoff invented a steerable guidewire with a diameter of just two human hairs. Following his PhD, he co-founded a company and worked with cardiologists at the Epworth and Melbourne Private Hospitals to develop the IntelliWire.

In 2017 the guidewire and the company were purchased by Merit Medical Systems, a global leader in surgical devices, which is now working to bring the guidewire to market.

Now Geoff is leading two new initiatives: the first as CEO of a biomedical start-up company developing new solutions to antibiotic resistance; the second is a real-time system to adjust car wheel alignment. He’s also mentoring future biomedical entrepreneurs.

For creating and commercialising his pioneering biomedical engineering, Dr Geoff Rogers receives the $50,000 Prize for New Innovators.

[click to continue…]

Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools: A school where everyone teaches science

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Mr Brett Crawford

Mr Brett Crawford has transformed science teaching at Warrigal Road State School in Brisbane. All the school’s 50-plus teachers now actively teach science in their classes.

Warrigal Road is a large primary school in Brisbane with more than 1,300 students. The students are from 54 cultures, English is a second language for 60 per cent of them, and there’s also a cohort of hearing-impaired children.

The local high schools have recognised that Warrigal Road students come to them curious about the world and ready for secondary science. Test results back that up, showing the school’s science performance is well above national averages.
Brett is the lead science teacher at the school. He believes that science teaching in primary schools is easy.

Primary school students are curious about the world. You can engage them with simple, inexpensive experiments.

But Brett also knows that many primary school teachers are anxious about teaching science.

So, at Warrigal Road he led a program in which he spent two days every week mentoring his fellow teachers.

The results speak for themselves and other schools are now picking up his ideas and programs.

For creating an environment in which every teacher is engaged in science, Brett Crawford receives the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools. Brett is the lead science teacher at Warrigal Road State School in Brisbane.

[click to continue…]

Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching in Secondary Schools: Opening young eyes to careers in science, technology, engineering and maths

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Dr Scott Sleap

Cessnock in New South Wales was traditionally a mining town, but today’s high-value jobs in the Hunter Valley are in agriculture, tourism and increasingly in aerospace. Williamtown is already a maintenance base for Australia’s F/A-18 fighters. Soon it will be a maintenance hub for the Joint Strike Fighter in the Asia-Pacific.

Many of Cessnock’s students don’t believe that the new jobs are for them. Dr Scott Sleap is opening their eyes and showing them that they can participate in the new economy. He’s done that by creating the Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence, a partnership between Cessnock High School, its feeder primary schools, and local industry.

Students struggling with numeracy are catching up with the help of robotics. A team of Aboriginal girls are making and racing model F1 cars, mentored by Boeing engineers. And the number of students signing up for STEM subjects is growing. NSW Education is now rolling out similar programs in other regional centres.

Dr Scott Sleap receives the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching in Secondary Schools. Scott is Deputy Principal, STEM, for the Cessnock Learning Community.

[click to continue…]

Videos: 2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Final broadcast quality videos with and without music are now available for download via:

files.wildbear.tv

Username: PMScience18

Password: PMScience18

Please note that both the username and password are case sensitive.

Once logged in you will be able to download either the final master videos or the master videos with no music.

YouTube links for embedding in websites and sharing via social media are available below (please note these videos will also be made public on YouTube).  [click to continue…]

Photos: 2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

For hi-res versions please click on the photo and then right click to download the file.

[click to continue…]

The breathing Earth, light beams, frogs, crystals, and guidewires—Prime Minister’s Prizes 2018 announced; media training in Hobart and more

Science stakeholder bulletins
The recipients of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes are:

[click to continue…]

New coating cuts barnacle build-up to keep ships at sea longer

Fresh Science, Media releases

Footage of HMAS Canberra  available. Photos and video below.

A new corrosion-resistant coating that halved the build-up of algae and barnacles on ship hydraulic components is now being trialled on HMAS Canberra, one of the Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock ships.

Corrosion-resistant coating that halved the build-up of algae and barnacles.
Credit: Defence Science Technology

Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology are collaborating with experts from the Defence Materials Technology Centre, MacTaggart Scott Australia, United Surface Technologies and the Defence Science and Technology Group to advance the new technology.

[click to continue…]

Slipped discs: robot shows it’s not all bending and twisting

Media releases

High res photos available below.  

Video of Dhara and the bending robot available here

Dhara hopes her work will lead to improved guidelines on repetitive and heavy lifting. Credit: Flinders University

Some slipped disc injuries might be caused by movements other than the commonly blamed bending and twisting, according to new research by South Australian engineers.

It’s a finding that will lead to a better understanding of the motions that put people at greatest risk of a slipped disc and help develop more robust guidelines for safe lifting.

[click to continue…]

Kid-friendly chocolate formula helps the medicine go down

Fresh Science, Media releases

FOR VIDEO AND IMAGES CLICK HERE

Researchers from The University of Western Australia have developed a winning medicine formula that makes bad-tasting medicine taste nice, making it easier to treat sick children.

The UWA study published by the journal Anaesthesia tested 150 children and found that the majority of children who were given the new chocolate-tasting medicine would take it again, unlike the standard treatment, while they still experienced the same beneficial effects.

UWA Clinical Senior Lecturer Dr Sam Salman said the poor taste of many medicines, such as Midazolam, a sedative used prior to surgery, presented a real difficulty in effectively treating children.

[click to continue…]

Bugs’ burps for efficient hydrogen production

Macquarie University, Media releases

Bacteria that turn sugar into hydrogen are being engineered by Macquarie University researchers who received a $1.1 million grant from ARENA, the Australian government’s renewable energy agency.

“There’s global interest in using hydrogen gas to produce electricity in hydrogen fuel cells, for example to power vehicles, heat buildings or provide electricity for industry,” says Professor Robert Willows, who is one of the project leaders. “It’s a clean and efficient energy source.”

While 95 per cent of the hydrogen used worldwide currently is produced from fossil fuels, increasingly people are looking at how to produce hydrogen from renewables.

[click to continue…]

Overcoming knee pain with the help of a digital twin

Fresh Science, Media releases

Scientists use computer simulations of joint and muscle movements to teach us to exercise smarter

Image: Dr Pizzolato is making digital twins to help improve how people move in real life. Credit: Gold Coast Orthopaedic Research Alliance, Griffith University

Researchers have developed computer simulations of joint and muscle movements that can teach us how to exercise smarter and prevent knee pain and further damage.

One in five Australians over the age of 45 suffer from painful and debilitating osteoarthritis, with the knee being the most commonly affected joint.  

Dr Claudio Pizzolato from Griffith University is making computer avatars or ‘digital twins’ of individual patients to see how their muscles and joints work. [click to continue…]

Turning coffee waste into coffee cups

Macquarie University, Media releases

Dominik Kopp in the lab.

A Macquarie PhD student believes he’s come up with a way to turn coffee waste into biodegradable plastic coffee cups.

He’s developed a method to turn coffee grounds into lactic acid, which can then be used to produce biodegradable plastics, and is now refining the process as he finishes his PhD.

[click to continue…]

Aussie citizen scientists unite to help the Great Barrier Reef

ABC projects, Media releases, National Science Week

Citizen scientists from around Australia are helping scientists and reef managers get a much better picture of the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

So far, they have looked at over 2.7 million points on more than 170,000 underwater images of the Reef and told us whether they can see coral, algae or sand.

They’re all taking part in Virtual Reef Diver—the ABC’s online citizen science project for National Science Week.

[click to continue…]

Coober Pedy under the sea, Perth’s slug census, what makes us human?

Media releases, National Science Week

Sunday 19 August 2018

Highlights from the final day of National Science Week

110 events and exhibitions, 13 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.

Adelaide

  • Why does food taste different when you have a cold? And how do your neurons communicate? Meet your brain and find out
  • Revisit Coober Pedy when it was under sea: paeleontology meets musical theatre

Sydney

  • Art explores what makes us human, now and in the future
  • What can Western science learn from 60,000+ years of Indigenous knowledge and culture?

Perth

  • The science of living more sustainably: expo on the Canning
  • Counting minibeasts: it’s census time for Perth’s bugs and slugs
  • Science and recipes for feeding yourself and your microbiome

[click to continue…]