Media releases

Dark matter, light science, wine science and NASA’s search for new planets

Launch tonight 7pm at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Plus 280+ Science Week events around SA:

  • Who will win tonight’s South Australia’s Science Excellence Awards?
  • Are there habitable planets outside our solar system? Meet NASA scientists and planet hunters
  • Why does food taste different when you have a cold? And how do your neurons communicate? Meet your brain and find out
  • What can maths and science tell you about politics and voting?
  • Grape expectations: what’s the future of wine? And what causes white wine haze?
  • Revisit Coober Pedy when it was under sea: paeleontology meets musical theatre
  • A mobile observatory on wheels tours regional SA
  • GM-food aside, should humanity edit our own genes? Ask the experts
  • Help build a better picture of the Great Barrier Reef’s health, without getting your feet wet.

More on these highlights below, and others at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/science-week, and on Twitter at @SciWKMedia. [click to continue…]

Whisky science, daleks, disaster art, and Indigenous songs of the night sky

Launch today 11.30am at the Kingston Transport Depot, plus 125+ Science Week events around ACT:

  • Who will win the ACT Scientist of the Year?
  • How will climate change affect whisky?
  • Indigenous knowedge can help with urban planning, saving species and fighting climate change—find out how
  • Canberra’s critters, daleks, science careers and knitting for brain health at Science in ACTion
  • Meet the UK actor bringing dead scientists (Einstein and Curie) to life on stage
  • Moving climates: theatre, dance and digital art that deals with the data of disaster
  • Music meets Indigenous astronomy, exploring the Southern night sky
  • Girl guides meet women in science
  • Help build a better picture of the Great Barrier Reef’s health, without getting your feet wet.

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Coral in the outback, laser power, reef diving at the footy, and dead scientists live on stage

280+ Science Week events around Queensland

  • From up-start to start-up: Taj Pabara and Fiftysix Creations tour regional Queensland
  • The world’s most powerful laser. Meet Ceri Brenner: the UK physicist pressing FIRE, in Toowoomba
  • Our prehistoric past in theatre and song: palaeontology meets ‘rock’ music
  • What is the past, present and future of Queensland’s coral reefs? The ocean comes to the outback
  • Ask a flying scientist, a coral watcher and a fossil finder what it’s like to work in science, in Longreach
  • Meet the UK actor bringing Albert Einstein and Marie Curie to life on stage
  • Tech, butterflies, drones and science shows at the Gold Coast’s pop-up science centre
  • Building, electrifying and making water drinkable: engineers for humanity show how it’s done
  • Help build a better picture of the Great Barrier Reef’s health, without getting your feet wet.

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Eating insects, NASA scientists, slime moulds, and the man headed for Mars

Launch 10am: Minister gets experimental at QVMAG, Launceston. Plus 150+ Science Week events around Tasmania

  • Why do wasps have sex with orchids, and can we climate-proof pinot? Ask a scientist over a drink at a pop-up science bar
  • A geologist who blasts rocks with lasers, a brainy researcher studying our super senses, and an Antarctic expeditioner with a passion for Pokémon—meet the Young Tassie Scientists
  • The surprising beauty of slime moulds
  • The secrets are hidden in Antarctica’s ice and snow
  • The pros and cons of eating insects
  • Are there habitable planets outside our solar system? Meet NASA scientists and planet hunters
  • What is the point of snot, pus, wee, saliva, ear wax, and all that other gross stuff? Ask science!
  • Help build a better picture of the Great Barrier Reef’s health, without getting your feet wet.

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Drone challenges, wildlife, weird weather and NASA’s search for new worlds

Launch tonight 6pm at Brown’s Mart Theatre, with dramatic weather. Plus 100+ Science Week events around NT:

  • Face-to-face with Frill Collins the frill neck lizard and Frida the tawny frogmouth
  • Who will win the ultimate drone challenge?
  • What’s the weather like on Mars, and are there habitable planets outside our solar system? Meet NASA scientists and planet hunters
  • The women changing the world and Costa’s green science in the garden, Alice Springs
  • HealthLAB goes remote, taking a mobile health clinic on the road from Darwin to Tiwi Islands to the Gulf of Carpentaria
  • Weather small talk becomes high drama at the Darwin Festival
  • Help build a better picture of the Great Barrier Reef’s health, without getting your feet wet.

More on these highlights below, and others at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/science-week, and on Twitter at @SciWKMedia. [click to continue…]

Dozens of stories and interesting people at 280+ Science Week events in WA

Launch tonight 5.30pm, with dancer and engineer turned science champion. Plus events around the state:

  • Can dance help disadvantaged girls to engage with science? Visiting US dancer and algebra teacher says yes!
  • What’s the weather like on Mars, and are there habitable planets outside our solar system? Meet NASA scientists and planet hunters
  • How to make yourself sick and win a Nobel Prize—Barry Marshall Skypes into Geraldton
  • Counting minibeasts: it’s census time for Perth’s bugs and slugs
  • What are the science-related future career and business opportunities for rural areas?
  • Science and recipes for feeding yourself and your gut flora
  • Hear the sounds of the Universe and songs of Indigenous astronomy
  • Help build a better picture of the Great Barrier Reef’s health, without getting your feet wet
  • And science festivals in Perth, Geraldton, Shark Bay and Gingin.

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Dozens of stories and interesting people at 450+ Science Week events in New South Wales

Lasers, wild Westies, sporty science, music and memory, and more

  • Our galaxy is on a collision path with Andromeda. Ask astrophysicist Lisa Harvey-Smith what will happen.
  • Can we use music to manage dementia? Ask neuroscientist Muireann Irish about how your brain remembers the past and imagines the future
  • The problem with light pollution, and why we need a national park in the night sky
  • What science is learning from 60,000+ years of Indigenous knowledge
  • The world’s most powerful laser. Meet Ceri Brenner, the UK physicist pressing FIRE
  • Vitamins: health revolution or expensive pee? Talk with Derek Muller and the scientists behind Vitamania
  • The Wild West: what creatures live in Sydney’s western suburbs?
  • Regional science festivals in Bega, Wagga Wagga, Lismore, Illawarra, and the Hunter Valley
  • Help build a better picture of the Great Barrier Reef’s state, without getting your feet wet.

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Help protect the Great Barrier Reef without getting your feet wet

The Great Barrier Reef is big, so big that scientists need your help to track its health.

We’re inviting every Australian to dive through their computer screens into the Reef by taking part in Virtual Reef Diver—the ABC’s online citizen science project for National Science Week and the International Year of the Reef.

“We need the community to pitch in to help us classify thousands of underwater images of the Reef,” says spatial scientist and project leader Dr Erin Peterson from Queensland University of Technology.

“Tell us whether you can see coral, algae or sand, and we’ll be able to get an estimate of the coral cover in that image.”

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$6.9 million quest for new antibiotics from Australia’s unique microbiome

Macquarie University and UWA scientists will join forces with two Australian companies to search for new antibiotics in 500,000 species of Australian microbes.

Background information below.

The project will be supported by a $3 million CRC-P grant announced by Australia’s Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, Senator Zed Seselja.

“We have samples of over 500,000 Australian microbes,” says Dr Ernest Lacey, Managing Director of Sydney-based company, Microbial Screening Technologies (MST), and the leader of the project.

Microbe-covered plates. Image credit: Andrew Piggott

“We’ve collected them from the soil in backyards, in paddocks, and forests. We’ve collected them from insects, plants and animals. We’ve gone everywhere to find Australia’s unique microbiome.”

“Each microbe contains a unique cocktail of metabolites. When we find an interesting new molecule, we’ll be relying on Macquarie University researcher Dr Andrew Piggott and his team to help us to work out its structure and mode of action.”

“Then Dr Heng Chooi from UWA will use genomics to unravel how the microbes assemble these metabolites and then boost their productivity.”

“Advanced Veterinary Therapeutics (AVT) is led by Dr Stephen Page and will focus on animal health potential,” says Dr Lacey.

“The CRC-P Program helps businesses, industries and research organisations to work together on short-term projects to develop practical solutions to challenges in key industry sectors,” Assistant Minister Seselja said at the project launch.

The three-year project, “BioAustralis, towards the future, will harness MST’s unique collection as a source of next-generation antibiotics capable of overcoming microbial resistance. [click to continue…]

Physical sciences (alone) can’t save us: we need to understand human behaviour, too.

Science is important in solving the world’s biggest problems.

But can the social sciences solve our planet’s biggest issues on their own?

Last month’s Woolworths’ and Coles’ plastic bag ban is a perfect example: environmental scientists have known for decades that plastic is harmful to the environment but changing habits at the individual level has not been simple.

Nature Sustainability’s Australian launch with (L-R) Tanya Ha, Rebekah Brown, Kath Rowley, Veena Sahajwalla and Robyn Schofield. Image credit: Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute/Claire Denby

Relying on the physical sciences alone to fix the world’s problems is futile. So the leaders of Springer Nature have decided it’s time for a journal that is broad based and cross-disciplinary. Nature Sustainability publishes research about sustainability from the natural and social sciences, as well as engineering and policy, and was launched in Australia on July 17 by Monica Contestabile, the Chief Editor of the new journal.

Academics are traditionally siloed into research areas and often forget to think about how the research will be embedded into society. Yet understanding human behaviour and how the public may respond to research can be the difference between failure and success in policy.

There is a need for academia and policy, along with the social sciences, to work together, so science can be developed with society in mind. And when these three things work together, real change can happen.

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NASA scientists, Vitamania, colliding galaxies, gut health, and dancing with science

August is a prime time to talk innovation and science—National Science Week kicks off Saturday 11 August

It’s time to plan your coverage of 2,000+ events across Australia for National Science Week, 11-19 August.

We have national touring speakers, and local events everywhere from the Tiwi Islands to Hobart:

  • NASA scientists touring Australia, including Aussie astrophysicist Jessie Christiansen, Silicon Valley astronomer Geert Barentsen, and influential planet hunter Natalie Batalha
  • using dance to teach STEM— US dancer and algebra teacher Yamilee Toussaint visits Perth
  • are vitamins worth it? Ask Derek Muller, the Canadian-Australian host of the new film Vitamania
  • what will happen when our galaxy collides with Andromeda? Astrophysicist, author and Stargazing Live TV presenter Lisa Harvey-Smith on the future of the night sky, in Sydney and Melbourne
  • actor and comedian Lawrence Leung does stand-up for science in Hobart

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Macquarie and Analog Devices announce partnership to develop the next generation of design engineers

New lab designed to meet the demands of the next wireless revolution

Images credit: Bruce Guenter/Flickr

Macquarie’s School of Engineering today announced a partnership with  semiconductor company Analog Devices, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADI) to launch the Macquarie and Analog Devices Teaching and Research Laboratory (MADTRL).

The new teaching and research lab will bring industrial experience into Macquarie University, to better prepare the next generation of engineers.

“Traditionally, undergraduate engineering education has been structured around classroom theory, laboratory exercises, and a relatively disconnected industry-placement or internship system,” says the School of Engineering’s Professor Michael Heimlich.

“Similarly, Masters and PhD work is typically done in an academic setting with inputs and arms-length interactions with the ‘real world’ at best.”

Many emerging applications ranging from 5G mobile networks to low Earth orbit satellite constellations will require new design paradigms to meet their technical needs and cost constraints.

Analog Devices hopes this partnership will help develop the next generation of microwave and millimetre-wave integrated circuit (MMIC) designers to meet the demand.

“Macquarie University has a history of world class MMIC design and modelling expertise,” says Analog Devices’ Senior Director of Engineering, John Cowles.

“Bringing these technical skills closer to real product development is critical towards accelerating the introduction of next generation technologies into emerging high frequency applications. The merging of design innovation with world class manufacturing is what makes this partnership so exciting.”

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The future of electronics is chemical

We can’t cram any more processing power into silicon-based computer chips.

But a paper published in Nature overnight reveals how we can make electronic devices 10 times smaller, and use molecules to build electronic circuits instead.

Computer chip

Image credit: Brian Kostiuk/Unsplash

We’re reaching the limits of what we can do with conventional silicon semiconductors. In order for electronic components to continue getting smaller we need a new approach.

Molecular electronics, which aims to use molecules to build electronic devices, could be the answer.

But until now, scientists haven’t been able to make a stable device platform for these molecules to sit inside which could reliably connect with the molecules, exploit their ability to respond to a current, and be easily mass-produced.

An international team of researchers, including Macquarie University’s Associate Professor Koushik Venkatesan, have developed a proof of concept device which they say addresses all these issues.

Their research was published overnight in Nature.

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When will stem cells save more lives?

When will stem cells save more lives?

Melissa Little and her colleagues worked for six years to bring the world’s largest stem cell meeting to Melbourne this week.

What did she learn? What are the next big steps should we should be watching for in curing diseases and saving lives with stem cells?

Melissa can also talk about her own research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. She’s made mini-kidneys that are a step towards stopping a silent killer, chronic kidney disease.

The International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting closes today. 2,500+ stem cell scientists from 53 countries heard from 150+ speakers.

Treating haemophilia and eye disease with gene therapy

Katherine High (USA) will report today on an FDA approved gene therapy for a form of blindness, and on a clinical trial in people with haemophilia. [click to continue…]

Manufacturing a cell therapy peace-keeping force, and more

20-23 June 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting: 2,500+ stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers including:

Lab-grown mini-brains make new connections

Fred ‘Rusty’ Gage (USA) is making mini-brains from human stem cells in the lab. But in order for these new tissues to function, they need to become well-connected.

Fred is pioneering research to explore how transplanted human neural organoids (mini-organs) can mature into tissues with blood vessel and nerve connections. This work could lead to methods of replacing brain tissue lost to stroke or disease, and repairing spinal cords damaged by trauma.

Tracing blood back to its beginnings to tackle leukaemia

Right now, the stem cells in your bone marrow are making one billion new red blood cells per minute. Andrew Elefanty (Australia) is studying both embryonic stem cells and more specialised blood-forming stem cells to reveal how our body makes blood and what leads to leukaemia and other blood diseases. He will reveal his team’s latest insights. [click to continue…]

Treating diabetes; turning skin cells into brain cells; hearts in a dish

20-23 June 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting: 2,500+ stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers including:

Treating type 1 diabetes with stem cells

A Harvard team has shown they can control glucose levels in mice using a transplant of insulin-producing cells made from human stem cells. Doug Melton presents his research today.

His effort to fight diabetes involves a 30-person lab at Harvard and a start-up company, Semma Therapeutics, which he named after his children. His son Sam and daughter Emma both have type 1 diabetes.

Skin cells become brain cells to solve a mystery

Queensland researchers have taken skin cells from a young patient with a rare genetic brain condition and turned them into stem cells that are coaxed to become brain cells. Massimo Damiani has now passed away, but his legacy of growing  brain cells in the lab could help others with this rare condition.

Hearts in a dish helping personalised medicine

Queensland researchers have taken skin cells from a young patient with a rare genetic brain condition and turned them into stem cells that are coaxed to become brain cells. Massimo Damiani has now passed away, but his legacy of growing  brain cells in the lab could help others with this rare condition.

Christine Mummery and her Dutch research team have discovered that heart cells made from patient stem cells with known mutations predicted the electrical heart problems and drug sensitivities observed in the patients themselves.

Christine is co-author of the book Stem Cells: Scientific Facts and Fiction.

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Could you regrow an arm or a leg? Salamanders can.

  • Could you regrow an arm or a leg? Salamanders can.
  • Should you be allowed to try unapproved treatments without the FDA tick when you’re terminally ill? President Trump says yes.

20-23 June 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting: more than 2,500 stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers, including:

Taking stem cell science from the lab to the clinic, and what’s wrong with the US ‘right to try’ legislation—Roger Barker, UK

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Stem cells: making blood, replacing skin, restoring eyesight. Regulations need to protect patients from snake oil merchants

Media preview

20-23 JUNE 2018 AT THE MELBOURNE CONVENTION AND EXHIBITION CENTRE

  • Stem cells are saving lives today—through bone marrow and cord blood transplants
  • We’ll hear about trials making new skin, restoring sight, treating diabetes, repairing the brain
  • But we’ll also hear of the dangers of risky treatments, snake oil merchants, and new US regulations

Australia is tightening regulations in an effort to reign in rogue stem cell clinics.

The US is also cracking down on clinics marketing unproven treatments to patients. But ‘right to try’ laws there allow seriously ill patients to try experimental therapies without regulation or oversight. Doctors and scientists are alarmed.

More than 2,500 stem cell scientists from 50 countries are in Melbourne next week for the massive International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting. They will hear sound science from 150+ speakers, including: [click to continue…]

Brainwave to let Parkinson’s patients sleep through surgery

Melbourne scientists have discovered a unique brain signal that will act as a homing device, making deep brain stimulation surgery for Parkinson’s disease and other conditions more accurate, more effective, and less confronting for the patient.

Deep brain stimulation has transformed the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease by reducing their tremors and other symptoms. Surgeons insert electrodes to stimulate a tiny part of the brain—the size of a grain of rice. To get the best results the patient has to be awake. And that’s scary for many patients. Now they can sleep through the surgery.

Bionics Institute clinicians and researchers have recorded and studied the brainwaves of 19 patients during surgery—14 with Parkinson’s disease and five with a condition called essential tremor. They discovered that the part that they’re targeting produces a unique brain signal that can be used to guide the surgeon.

This discovery will enable the surgery to be performed without the need for the patient to be awake.

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