This week at Science in Public

This Week

$2.5 million CSL Centenary Fellowships announced

CSL Limited

Curing the ‘hidden malaria’ in Asia/Pacific (Darwin)

A path to personalised treatment for most cancers (Adelaide)

Two Australian scientists have each been awarded AUD$1.25 million CSL Centenary Fellowships over five years to improve treatments for two of the world’s biggest health challenges: malaria and cancer. The Fellowships will be presented in Perth at the Australian Academy for Health and Medical Research Gala Dinner on 10 October.

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Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

2019 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science: don’t call us.

For information about the 2019 Prizes please visit www.industry.gov.au/pmscienceprizes.

We had a great run with the Prizes from 2004 to 2018. But all good things come to an end. So please don’t contact us for media information, go straight to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science at media@industry.gov.au. We will be at the dinner on 16 October waiting with bated breath to find out who the 2019 winners are. 

15 years ago, Peter McGauran, Gemma Allman and Virginia Cook placed their trust in us to publicise the Prizes when Science in Public was in its infancy. As awareness of the Prizes has grown so has Science in Public. Please read on for some comments on our journey with the Prizes and for our thanks to the many people who contributed.  Or jump to the next post to access profiles of past winners. 

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Not long ago, the centre of the Milky Way exploded

Media releases

Researchers find evidence of a cataclysmic flare that punched so far out of the Galaxy its impact was felt 200,000 light years away.

An artist’s impression of the massive bursts of ionising radiation exploding from the centre of the Milky Way and impacting the Magellanic Stream.
Credit: James Josephides/ASTRO 3D

A titanic, expanding beam of energy sprang from close to the supermassive black hole in the centre of the Milky Way just 3.5 million years ago, sending a cone-shaped burst of radiation through both poles of the Galaxy and out into deep space.

That’s the finding arising from research conducted by a team of scientists led by Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) and soon to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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It’s complicated: coral bleaching is caused by more than just heat

Macquarie University, Media releases

Analysis of reef damage in the Indo-Pacific during the 2016 El Nino reveals that several different stressors influence bleaching.

Coral responses to temperature depend on a range of local inputs. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Scientists in the Indian and Pacific Oceans used the El Nino of 2016 – the warmest year on record – to evaluate the role of excess heat as the leading driver of coral bleaching and discovered the picture was more nuanced than existing models showed.

The findings were, in a word, complicated, according to marine researchers led by the US based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The international cohort included scientists from Macquarie University in NSW, the University of Queensland, University of WA and two western Australian state government departments.

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Fast radio burst provides clues to galactic halo

Macquarie University, Media releases

Macquarie astronomers find a well of serenity in deep space.

Masters student Lachlan Marnoch has been credited as co-author in a paper in Science before even submitting his thesis. Credit Macquarie University

A massive galaxy four billion light-years from Earth is surrounded by a halo of tranquil gas.

The finding, which reveals a galactic halo much less dense and less magnetised than expected, was made by a team of astronomers that included two researchers from Macquarie University.

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Meet the Freshies at the Pub

Fresh Science

Bright ideas and beer combine when Australia’s Fresh Scientists strut their stuff at 2019’s Fresh Science Pub Nights.

Fresh Science is annual competition that invites early-career scientists to present their fascinating research in the time it takes for a sparkler to burn out.

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Talk to media, business, government: sessions in Cairns and Townsville this week

Other

We’re holding a series of courses at JCU in Cairns and Townsville.

Meet working journalists from TV, radio and online, learn what they need, and how to keep it accurate – Cairns on Tuesday 17 September, Townsville on 19 September and Monday 23 September.

Find out how to talk to business, government and the community: Cairns on Wednesday 18 September, Townsville on Friday 20 September.

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Immune response depends on mathematics of narrow escapes

Macquarie University, Media releases

The shape of immune cells plays key role in recognising invaders.

The ruffled surface of a T cell means only very small areas make close contact with potential enemy cells. CREDIT: Blausen Medical

The way immune cells pick friends from foes can be described by a classic maths puzzle known as the “narrow escape problem”.

That’s a key finding arising from an international collaboration between biologists, immunologists and mathematicians, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The narrow escape problem is a framework often applied in cellular biology. It posits randomly moving particles trapped in a space with only a tiny exit, and calculates the average time required for each one to escape.

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There’s no place like home: butterflies stick to their burbs

Macquarie University, Media releases

Members of at least one species choose mates and egg sites based on where they were born, research reveals

Two American passionfruit butterflies, Heliconius charithonia, part of Dr Darrell Kemp’s research cohort.
Credit: Darrell Kemp.

Birthplace exerts a lifelong influence on butterflies as well as humans, new research reveals.

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Macquarie University ARC Future Fellow Associate Professor Darrell Kemp reveals that the American passionfruit butterfly, Heliconius charithonia, selects its mate and egg-laying site based on the species of plant that hosted its own egg.

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And then there was light: looking for the first stars in the Universe

Media releases

Researchers hunt for a 12-billion-year-old signal that marks the end of the post Big Bang “dark age”.

In this image of the Epoch of Reionisation, neutral hydrogen, in red, is gradually ionizsed by the first stars, shown in white.Credit: Paul Geil and Simon Mutch

Astronomers are closing in on a signal that has been travelling across the Universe for 12 billion years, bringing them nearer to understanding the life and death of the very earliest stars.

In a paper on the preprint site arXiv and soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, a team led by Dr Nichole Barry from Australia’s University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) reports a 10-fold improvement on data gathered by the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) – a collection of 4096 dipole antennas set in the remote hinterland of Western Australia.

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Blue Carbon Horizons team wins Eureka Prize for Environmental Research

Eureka Prizes, Macquarie University, Media releases

Collaboration investigates the link between changing sea levels, global warming and the health of marine wetlands.

Blue Carbon Horizons Team Eureka Prizes 2019 © Salty Dingo 2019 CRG-7409

Carbon dioxide capture by coastal ecosystems operates in direct relation to the speed of sea level rise.

That was the conclusion of extensive research conducted by a team of scientists from Macquarie University, University of Wollongong and ANSTO – work that has now won the scientists the NSW Environment, Energy and Science (DPIE) Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.

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Riding the nurdle wave to a Eureka

Other

Science In Public’s Michael Lucy wins a Eureka Prize

Michael Lucy, winner Finkel Foundation Eureka Prize for Long- Science Journalism. 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes © Salty Dingo 2019 CRG

Michael won the award – presented at a glittering ceremony at the Australian Museum in Sydney on Wednesday, August 28 – for a feature he wrote on plastic pollution. The story was published in Cosmos magazine.

At the time of publication, Michael was also features editor of the magazine, working alongside editor Andrew Masterson – who is now editor-in-chief at Science In Public.

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Pioneering collaboration between Indigenous communities and Macquarie wins Eureka Prize for STEM inclusion

Macquarie University, Media releases

The NISEP program has helped almost 1000 Indigenous school children enter leadership roles.

National Indigenous Science Education Program Eureka Prizes 2019 © Salty Dingo 2019 CRG-7382

The National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP), based at the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Sydney’s Macquarie University, won the inaugural the Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion at the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

The awards were held in Sydney on Wednesday, August 28.

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Searching for insight? Maybe get into nature

ABC projects, National Science Week

Early results from Australia-wide experiment suggest being outdoors can be a good way to trigger “aha” moments.

People are most likely to have a sudden bright idea when out in the bush – or lying in bed.

That’s one of the early observations arising from The Aha! Challenge, the month-long Australia-wide science experiment that kicked off during National Science Week and runs until the end of August.

The experiment, which revolves around a series of online brainteasers, aims to explore sudden bursts of clarity and insight, and their role in problem-solving. In effect, it’s a nationwide quest to find the things that make you go “aha!

And so far the results have been very revealing.

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A New Hope for Coral Reefs: Largest-Ever Study Unlocks Global Solution to Save Coral Communities

Macquarie University, Media releases

Scientists urge priority action on hundreds of surviving reefs.

Image credit: Jeremy Bishop

The majority of 2500 reefs surveyed in a major international exercise retain the coral species that give them their distinctive structure.

More than 80 marine scientists, including several from Australia, contributed to the study, which is published in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution.

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Antiseptic resistance in bacteria could lead to next-gen plastics

Macquarie University, Media releases

Australia-UK researchers identify ancient protein pumps that make bacteria tough to treat – but could be key to new green polymers

The molecular machinery used by bacteria to resist chemicals designed to kill them could also help produce precursors for a new generation of nylon and other polymers, according to new research by scientists from Australia and the UK.

“Resistance to artificial antiseptics appears to be a lucky accident for the bacteria, and it could also be useful for humans,” says Professor Ian Paulsen of Australia’s Macquarie University, one of the leaders of the research group.

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National challenge seeks to get inside your head

ABC projects, Media releases, National Science Week

Researchers set up Australia-wide experiment to explore why and when the pennies drop.

Scientists want to know the things that make you go “aha!”.

Throughout August, researchers from the University of Melbourne are conducting a country-wide citizen science project to better understand how the human brain works.

The focus of the project, dubbed The Aha! Challenge, is to investigate the kind of sudden problem-solving insight that makes you spontaneously exclaim “yes!” or “at last!” or, indeed, “aha!”. It’s the ABC’s community project for National Science Week.

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Using quantum dots and a smartphone to find killer bacteria

Macquarie University, Media releases

Australian scientists develop cheap and rapid way to identify antibiotic-resistant golden staph (MRSA).

Researchers Anwar Sunna (right) and Vinoth Kumar Rajendran with their smartphone-enabled MRSA detector.
Credit: Sunna Lab

A combination of off-the-shelf quantum dot nanotechnology and a smartphone camera soon could allow doctors to identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria in just 40 minutes, potentially saving patient lives.

Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph), is a common form of bacterium that causes serious and sometimes fatal conditions such as pneumonia and heart valve infections. Of particular concern is a strain that does not respond to methicillin, the antibiotic of first resort, and is known as methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA.

Recent reports estimate that 700 000 deaths globally could be attributed to antimicrobial resistance, such as methicillin-resistance. Rapid identification of MRSA is essential for effective treatment, but current methods make it a challenging process, even within well-equipped hospitals.

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Gender bending: baby turtles influence their own sex

Macquarie University, Media releases

Chinese-Australian research finds climate change good news, and solves an evolutionary mystery

Chinese Pond Turtle (Mauremys reevesii)
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Baby turtles influence their gender by moving around inside their eggs, research has revealed.

The idea that an embryo reptile can act in a way that affects its chances of developing as male or female has long been thought impossible, but findings by scientists from China and Australia have now provided clear proof of the process.

The research, published in the journal Current Biology, solves a long-standing evolutionary mystery – and offers hope that at least some species thought especially vulnerable to effects of climate change will prove more robust than thought.

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