Kieren Topp

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How does the atmosphere’s washing machine work?

A German aircraft flying out of Cairns is measuring the chemistry of the clouds above Australia and the Pacific.

FEBRUARY 23, 2024: This week, a German research aircraft is sampling air up to 15 km above Australia and the Pacific Ocean. The CAFE-Pacific Mission aims to better understand:

  • how the tropical atmosphere deals with air pollution;
  • how clouds form over oceans;
  • how to refine weather and climate models, leading to better forecasts and projections; and, fundamentally
  • to better understand the chemistry of climate.

Flying out of Cairns in the northeast of Australia, the Chemistry of the Atmosphere: Field Experiment (CAFE) team are tracking weather events and taking atmospheric measurements to better understand the atmospheric chemistry occurring above the clouds.

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We achieved gender parity in astronomy in just five years

… all while discovering how the Universe evolved, how galaxies form and where the elements come from.

The ASTRO 3D team at the 2022 annual retreat. Credit: Cristy Roberts.

Around the world, research agencies are struggling to achieve gender parity.

A paper published in Nature Astronomy today reports how a national Australian astronomy centre achieved equal numbers of women and men using science.

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Gas-rich baby galaxies set the early universe alight

Images of a distant extreme emission line galaxy. Seen by James Webb Space Telescope (left) and Hubble Space Telescope (right). This comparison highlights the clarity of JWST images.

New images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have helped Australian astronomers unlock secrets of how infant galaxies started an explosion of star formation in the very early Universe.

Some early galaxies were abundant with a gas that glowed so bright it outshone emerging stars. In research published today, astronomers have now discovered just how prevalent these bright galaxies were some 12 billion years ago.

Images from the JWST have shown that almost 90% of the galaxies in the early universe had this glowing gas, producing so-called ‘extreme emission line features’.

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Can stem cells make drugs to stop osteoarthritis? (Sydney); Stomach stem cells behaving badly (Melbourne)

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Winners of the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia’s Metcalf Prizes announced today

Scientists available for interviews, see below for contact details

Researchers working with stem cells to find treatments for osteoarthritis and stomach cancer are the two winners of the 2023 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research, awarded by the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

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Can stem cells make drugs to stop osteoarthritis?

Dr Jiao Jiao Li

Dr Jiao Jiao Li plans to use stem cells as biofactories to make drugs to reduce inflammation and encourage repair in painful osteoarthritic joints.

Osteoarthritis is a hugely debilitating joint disease with few treatment options.  Injecting stem cells to repair damaged joints has shown inconsistent and poor long-term results and the potential for adverse side effects.

“I believe it would be safer and more effective to use stem cells to create healing biomolecules and inject those instead,” says Jiao Jiao, a bioengineer at University of Technology Sydney.

Jiao Jiao works across disciplines, using artificial intelligence, bioengineering, nanotechnology and stem cell science to develop new stem cell-derived treatments – initially for osteoarthritis but potentially for a wide range of other diseases.

She has a track record in bone repair, having developed a ceramic-based scaffold that becomes populated by the patient’s own stem cells to regrow sections of bone.

In recognition of her leadership in the field, Jiao Jiao has received one of two 2023 $60,000 Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

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Stomach stem cells behaving badly

Dr Dustin Flanagan

People diagnosed with late-stage stomach cancer have a less than 10 per cent chance of surviving more than 5 years.

Dr Dustin Flanagan wants to boost that survival rate by understanding why some deviant stomach stem cells turn cancerous. This knowledge will help in the development of drugs to bring these misbehaving cells back to normal, healthy function.

Dustin’s past research has led to the development of treatments for Crohn’s disease, bowel cancer, and other gastrointestinal conditions.

He’s now at Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute turning his attention to stomach cancer, which is less common than bowel cancer but just as lethal.

In recognition of his leadership in the field, Dustin has received one of two 2023 $60,000 Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

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Will you see a sawfish next week?

From Perth across the North to Sydney tell us if you do or don’t see a sawfish for National Sawfish Sighting Week October 23-29, 2023

Sawfish are remarkable creatures that detect the electrical impulses of fish, then slice and dice them for dinner.

“Today it’s rare to see large sawfish,” says Dr Barbara Wueringer, Principal Scientist and Director at Sharks And Rays Australia. “Most reports are three metres or smaller. But we could be wrong. There may still be some big ones out there.”

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Shifting lifestyle trends boost Victorians’ demand for energy

Monash University’s Emerging Technologies Research Lab unveils massive shifts in future household energy demands in a new report published today. The pivotal study offers energy distribution networks an invaluable glimpse into the future – empowering them to sharpen their forecasts, develop future business plans, and ensure the lights stay on.

The increase in home-based care, a rise in the energy needs to support study and work from home and the increased adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) are among the 51 specific trends found by the research to be affecting Victorians’ future energy needs.

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A heat-wave warning signal; Blade Runner; raising the dead; and a giant inflatable poo palace

Friday 18 August

Highlights from day seven of National Science Week

Researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country.

NSW: Climate solutions: a heat-wave warning signal; carbon capturing seaweed.

NSW: Newcastle’s giant inflatable Poo Palace recreates the journey of food, from lips to loo.

ACT: Blade Runner: what do neuroscientists and bioethics experts think?

VIC: Software, sunscreen and STEM Sisters: pop-up science talks outside the State Library

SA: First Nations perspectives of earth, air, fire and water at SA Museum’s Night Lab.

QLD: Street Science on the farm at the Ekka.

TAS: Racing robots, seed bombs, an augmented reality sandpit: Schools Day at the Festival of Bright Ideas.

WA: Bringing the dead back to life: Ask a palaeontologist and archaeologist how.

Read on for more on these, including direct event contact details.

Also today:
Coming up tomorrow:

Bird brains; an Aussie astronaut; humans’ animal nature; and learning from 60,000+ years of Indigenous knowledge – see a preview of Saturday’s highlights.National Science Week 2023 runs from 12 to 22 August.

Visit to find more stories in your area.

Media centre here. Images for media here.

General Science Week media enquiries: Tanya Ha: or 0404 083 863

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