Invisible films to repair blindness; space bots and biohackers for Science Week, and can you name five Aussie science heroes?

Bulletins, Media bulletins, National Science Week

Today in Melbourne at 11am: researcher and patient talk about vision loss, and a potential cure.

A Melbourne researcher has a patented treatment that has restored eyesight in animal trials. It could potentially restore eyesight for millions of corneal-disease sufferers around the world.

We’re at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in East Melbourne this morning at 11am with the researcher and a cornea-transplant patient who can talk about the life-changing effects of losing vision to corneal disease, and getting it back. Details of the story are below.

Today’s National Science Week highlights:

Brisbane: Broncos, ballet dancers and cricketers battle it out on Centre Stage at Queen Street Mall to see who is the fittest, according to sports science.

Darwin: Move over ‘Paleo Pete’ Evans, paleontologist Dr Paul Willis hunts for the dinosaur in a roast duck at the Territory’s Science Week launch event.

Canberra: Inside Australia’s earthquake alert and tsunami warning centres.

Sydney: Young Creators Conference.

Melbourne: What space robots are on the cards for NASA?

Adelaide: The science of what’s in your water.

Perth: Visiting biohacker and World Biotech Tour come to town.

National: Alan Finkel AO challenges you to name five living Australian scientists. His media release and call to action below.

  • More than 500 events, exhibitions and online activities on offer around the country today.
  • It’s the first school day of Science Week 2016, with many classes learning about ‘Drones, Droids and Robots’.
  • Plenty of photo ops, and scientists and other interesting people to interview.
  • Our specialist story and event collections on Arts and Health are online. Later today we will have collections on Food, Indigenous, Environment, Innovation, Lifestyle and Technology.

And more events below and online

Next week: Indonesia

Today the Australia-Indonesia Centre reported:

  • 87% of Indonesians have a favourable view of Australia—22% are very favourable and a further 65% are somewhat favourable.
  • 43% of Australians have a favourable view of Indonesia—6% are very favourable and a further 37% are somewhat favourable.

The Australia-Indonesia Centre is working to change Australia’s perceptions of our giant neighbour, and to support collaborative research.

Over the past six months we’ve told you about: sunshine preventing pneumonia; testing Java’s rails; a window in a ship hull; how 24 hour power changes communities; and developing a new TB vaccine.

Next week in Surabaya we’ll be at the Australia-Indonesia Research Summit with more stories on innovation between our two nations.

More on the stories and the report below.

Kind regards,

In this bulletin:

Curing blindness by repairing corneas with invisible films

Media call 11am Monday 15 August 2016 in East Melbourne

A patented treatment could restore eyesight for millions of sufferers of corneal disease. The University of Melbourne–led team of researchers have grown corneal cells on a layer of film that can be implanted in the eye to help the cornea heal itself.

“We believe that our new treatment performs better than a donated cornea, and we hope to eventually use the patient’s own cells, reducing the risk of rejection,” says Berkay Ozcelik, who developed the film working at the University of Melbourne.

Berkay is the 2016 Fresh Science Victoria winner and is now working in a related area at CSIRO.
“Further trials are required but we hope to see the treatment trialled in patients next year,” he says.

We’re at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in East Melbourne this morning with the researcher and a cornea-transplant patient who can talk about the life-changing effects of losing vision to corneal disease, and getting it back.

  • Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, East Melbourne
  • Researcher and patient available in a clinical setting
  • Media contact: Errol Hunt, 0423 139 210

Full release here including background images and video.

NASA’s space robots, inside earthquake alert HQ, and dinosaurs in your dinner

National Science Week highlights for Monday 15 August

These are just a few of the highlights, and there are more events listed online at

Broncos vs ballet dancers fitness challenge—Brisbane, QLD

broncosMedia call 12:00 midday Monday 15 August 2016 at Centre Stage Queen Street Mall


  • Dr Geoff Garrett AO, the Queensland Chief Scientist
  • Scott Stewart, Member for Townsville
  • Sport scientists Kurt Vogel (University of Southern Queensland) and Hamish McGorm (University of Queensland)
  • Students
  • ‘Heater’—Brisbane Heat’s mascot.

And challengers:

  • Petero Civoniceva from Brisbane Broncos (rugby league)
  • Lolo Fakaosilea (pronounced Fak-a-seal-eah) from Queensland Reds (rugby union)
  • James Peirson and Jemma Barsby from Brisbane Heat (cricket)
  • Angela Beard, Shannon Brady and Jerome Polenz from Brisbane Roar (soccer)
  • Vito Bernasconi and Sophie Zoricic from Queensland Ballet.

Who is the fittest according to sports science? This event is a fitness challenge between a range of sporting and performing stars.

Six challenges, designed by local students, will pit the different disciplines against each other. Sports scientists will monitor fitness levels and determine the winner of each challenge.

Mon 15 August. Event details

Enquiries: Kylie Kraus, or 07 3215 3769.

Eating Dinosaurs—NT’s National Science Week Launch—Darwin, NT

6:00pm Monday 15 August 2016 at Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

Television personality, Paleontologist and Director of RiAus Dr Paul Willis explains  what it tastes like to eat a dinosaur.

When was the last time you ate a dinosaur? Dr Paul Willis contends that birds evolved from dinosaurs. So inside every duck, chicken and emu, there’s a little dinosaur just waiting to burst out. Join us as Paul pulls apart a BBQ duck to reveal the dinosaur within.

Mon 15 August. Event details

Enquiries: Paul Lyons,, 08 8946 7423.

Eathquake and tsunami alerts, rock dating, and the National Mineral and Fossil collection: behind the scenes at Geoscience Australia—Symonston, ACT

earthquakesJoin one of three unique behind-the-scenes tours of Geoscience Australia to discover our laboratories and rock-dating SHRIMP, the Earthquake Alert Centre or the National Mineral and Fossil collection.

Earthquake Alert Centre: learn how geoscientists monitor, analyse and alert for significant earthquakes in Australia, and help provide warnings as part of the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre.

National Mineral and Fossil Collection: explore the world-class collection of amazing specimens stored in Geoscience Australia’s archive.

Combined Laboratories and SHRIMP Tour: ever wanted to study microfossils used by scientists to explore for petroleum and interpret ancient environments? Take a tour through Geoscience Australia’s Laboratories and Sensitive High-Resolution Ion Microprobe (SHRIMP) laboratory.

Mon 15 – Tues 16 August. Event details

Enquiries: GA Events,, 02 6249 9111.

Young Creators Conference—Ultimo, NSW

young creatorsThis conference is a learner-centred ‘show and tell’ event that will provide opportunities for learners to share their projects, processes, passions and ideas with peers, teachers and museum visitors. Teachers will have the chance to share experiences, discover best practices and network with other inspiring school educators.

School representative groups will display their projects, materials and practices and present their engagement in STEM/STEAM learning programs. The focus areas include makerspaces, code clubs, entrepreneurship, creative computing, cross-curricular practices like Project-Based Learning, and/or integrated technical and academic education approaches.

Mon 15 August. Event details

Enquiries: Sydney Science Festival,, 02 9217 0222.

A web of secrecy: how internet encryption works—Sydney, NSW

We all rely on encryption in our everyday lives. Have you ever wondered how it really works, and how secure it really is?

Dr Randell Heyman is an expert in explaining essential technology in modern day life and has given many talks on mathematics to non-university level audiences. Many of his Youtube videos are first in a search of the topic.

Mon 15 August. Event details

Enquiries: Box Office,, 02 8256 2222.

What’s in the water? The science of water quality monitoring—Mount Barker, SA

An opportunity to come a try some citizen science by joining the NRM Education team with some water monitoring. With three sessions during the day it’s an opportunity for schools, teachers and the general community to come along and have a go at science.

Mon 15 August. Event details

Enquiries: Harry Beauchamp,, 08 8532 9134.

From Penguin to NASA and beyond: reflections on a career in astrophysics—Battery Point, TAS

From growing up on Tasmania’s North West coast to living in Antarctica, Dr Jules Harnett has had an incredible journey throughout her professional career as an astrophysicist.

She has worked at some of the finest scientific institutions in the world including the Smithsonian Institute and NASA; has made pioneering discoveries in magnetic fields, and how they affect galaxies; and she was the first Australian woman to live at the South Pole for a year. It was during this Antarctic research trip to that she confirmed the existence of a black hole at the centre of our galaxy.

Dr Hartnett will be returning to Tasmania for National Science Week and sharing some of the highlights of her career.

Mon 15 August. Event details

Enquiries: Jeannie-Marie Leroi,, 03 6226 7477.

What space robots are on the cards for NASA? ‘The Future of US Planetary Exploration’—Melbourne, Victoria

space robotsExcited about Juno and the Mars Curiosity rover? American astronautics expert Dr Randii Wessen knows the technology we will be excited about in 20 to 30 years.

Randii has been an employee of the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1984 and is the A-Team Lead Study Architect for JPL’s Innovation Foundry. He’s in Australia for two weeks to discuss the robotic planetary missions currently in operations at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and those planned for the upcoming decades.

The public talk will include the search for ‘Terra Nova,’ an Earth-like planet outside our Solar System.

Randii will be hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics as part of the 2016 Distinguished Lecture Program.

Mon 15 August. Event details

Enquiries: Cees Bil,, 03 9925 6176.

World Biotech Tour comes to Scitech—West Perth, WA

world biotech tourScitech has been selected as one of four international science centres to host the World Biotech Tour in 2016. Through WBT, Scitech will bring together students, teachers, researchers, industry and the general public to demonstrated the relevance, excitement and wonder of biotechnology in WA.

The World Biotech Tour (WBT) is a multi-year initiative that will bring biotechnology to life at select science centers and museums worldwide. The program, supported by the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) and Biogen Foundation, aims to increase the impact and visibility of biotechnology among youth and the general public through hands-on and discussion-led learning opportunities.

Through the program, Scitech will bring together students, teachers, researchers, industry and the general public to demonstrated the relevance, excitement and wonder of biotechnology in Western Australia.

Mon 15 August. Event details

Enquiries: Tara Broadhurst,, 08 9215 0848.

Hear about community lab Genspace from visiting biohacker Ellen Jorgensen—Perth, WA

Biohacker Ellen Jorgensen will give a presentation about Genspace, the world’s first community lab, as part of National Science Week. Genspace is a platform for science innovation at the grassroots level, and was named one of the World’s Top 10 Innovative Companies in Education by Fast Company magazine.

Ellen’s efforts to develop Genspace into a haven for entrepreneurship, innovation and citizen science have been chronicled by Nature Medicine, Science, Discover Magazine, Wired, Make, BBC News, Dan Rather Reports, PBS News Hour, The Discovery Channel, and The New York Times. Ellen holds a PhD in molecular biology and spent 30 years in the biotech industry before founding Genspace.

Oron Catts will be joining us to present a talk on Life as an Instrument of Art.
As biology is becoming an engineering discipline and life is becoming a raw material, the idea of life is going through some radical transformations; artists have been experimenting with ways of articulating these shifts. This talk will cover some of the strategies and projects that researchers at SymbioticA have employed to deal with life as both raw material and an ever contestable subject of manipulation. Looking at all levels of life—from the molecular to the ecological, this talk will attempt to present the need to develop a new cultural language where words seems to be no longer appropriate.

Mon 15 August. Event details

Enquiries: Susan Kreemer Pickford,, 0416 035 997.

National Science Week general media enquiries

Can you name five living Aussie scientists? Take the Chief Scientist’s challenge

Media release from the Office of the Australian Government Chief Scientist

Take the five scientists pledge

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, is calling on all Australians to get to know the names of at least five living Australian scientists during National Science Week.

“We can all name at least five current athletes, particularly during the Olympic games. We can all name at least five actors. These days, we can probably even name at least five celebrity chefs,” Dr Finkel said.

“But most of us would struggle to name five Australian scientists – or perhaps, five scientists at all!

“If we all knew of at least five of our nation’s scientists, and the stories of their achievements, we would think of our country with a re-doubled sense of pride.
“Just as importantly, we would look to the future in the expectation that life will be better tomorrow than it is today.”

Dr Finkel will spend National Science Week inspecting some of Australia’s big ticket items of science and research equipment, as part of ongoing consultations for the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap.

“Everywhere I go, I am inspired by the scientists and students I meet. Australians can believe me when I say we have some of the finest problem-solvers in the world; and we are training up the next generation to follow their lead,” Dr Finkel said.

“Science is not just for scientists, it’s for everyone who takes an interest in making things work.

“That’s why I challenge everyone to take the five scientist pledge for National Science Week. If you can’t name five living Australian scientists now, spend five minutes to find out – ask your friends, ask your family, or do a web search.

“Start with just five names – five stories – and you may just find yourself hooked.”

Media enquiries: 0410 029 407 or
For more information about National Science Week, go to

Australia-Indonesia innovation stories

Here are some of the ways we’re working with Indonesia on common issues. Read more at

Let me know if you’d like more on these stories. Next week in Surabaya we’ll release our next set of stories at the Australia-Indonesia Research Summit.

  • Can sunshine help prevent pneumonia: a team from Universitas Gadjah Mada and Melbourne’s Murdoch Childrens Research Institute are investigating a link between vitamin D deficiency and respiratory illnesses.
  • How do island communities adapt when their traditional fisheries decline? A team from Hasanuddin University, Australian National University, the University of Tasmania, Pattimura University and the Tual Fisheries Polytechnic are working with communities on the Kai Islands in Indonesia’s Maluku Region.
  • A research railcar is riding the rail tracks of East Java testing their condition. It’s part of a Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology/Monash University project supporting the development of rail freight for the new Teluk Lamong container port in Surabaya.
  • A laser equipped window in a ship’s hull is revealing how much barnacles and algae slow ships down, and what the cost is for shipping and emissions. The research is led by the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology and Monash University, with the University of Southampton.
  • How do communities change with access to 24/7 energy? Monash University and Universitas Gadjah experts – ranging in expertise from cultural anthropology to the economics of energy – are assessing existing possibilities and resources for electricity generation and provision in an isolated area of West Kalimantan (Borneo), and a group of villages on the island of Kai Besar.
  • Developing a new TB vaccine: researchers from the Universitas Gadjah Mada and the University of Sydney are testing two proteins that they hope will prime the immune system.

More at

Indonesians and Australians want a closer relationship

Trade, education, health, security and cultural knowledge can be key drivers of a closer Australia-Indonesia relationship, according to comprehensive research conducted by EY Sweeney on behalf of the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

The research, while identifying differences in overall perceptions, shows that Indonesians would value deeper connections in the region. The survey involved 2103 face-to-face interviews in Indonesia and 2008 online interviews in Australia.

Key findings include:


87% of Indonesians have a favourable view of Australia – 22% are very favourable and a further 65% are somewhat favourable.

43% of Australians have a favourable view of Indonesia 6% are very favourable and a further 37% are somewhat favourable.


65% of Indonesians say Australia is an important trading partner.

50% of Australians believe that growing trade would make a big difference in improving the relationship between the two nations.


40% of Indonesians and 31% of Australians believe that education and training will have the biggest influence on future prosperity.

43% of Australians believe basic education about Indonesia should be improved in schools.


72% of Australians who want to learn more about Indonesia would like to learn more about Indonesian culture.

The research covered areas such as:

  • The mood and mindset of Indonesians and Australians.
  • How Indonesians and Australians rate the importance of relationships in Asia.
  • Strengths and weaknesses in the Indonesia-Australia relationship.
  • The extent to which Indonesians and Australians see opportunities to build closer relationships.

More at

More about Science in Public

We’re always happy to help put you in contact with scientists. Our work is funded by the science world – from the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes to Nature. We’re keen to suggest interesting people and stories – and not just those of our clients.

If you’re looking for ideas or people for features we know hundreds of science prize winners past, present, and future and are always happy to chew the fat about the developing themes in Australian science.

Feel free to pass these stories along to colleagues. And between bulletins, you can follow me on Twitter (@scienceinpublic) for more science news and story tips.
Kind regards,

Niall Byrne

Creative Director
Science in Public

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