Fresh Science is a national competition that has been helping early-career researchers find, and then share their stories of discovery for the past 22 years.
Taking young researchers with no media experience and turning them into spokespeople for science, Fresh Science gives its finalists a taste of life in the limelight, with a day of media training and a public event in their home state.
Read some of the fresh science we discovered in 2021 here.
Click here to visit the Fresh Science website
Group music therapy helps hearing-impaired kids understand complex sounds
The improved listening skills boost educational and emotional growth
A 12-week music program is helping deaf and hard-of-hearing children learn to optimise their hearing aids and cochlear implants, by teaching them to better understand the sounds they detect.
The program, developed by Dr Chi Yhun Lo from Macquarie University, helps the children to extract meaningful information, such as separating noise from what they want to hear, a skill that is critical to their education and emotional development.
“Deafness is often seen as a barrier to engagement with music,” says Chi. “On the contrary, music actually is an excellent way to improve the problems associated with hearing loss.”
RMIT researcher calls for reducing ‘microplastics’ in bathroom products
Mussels in Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne are ingesting microscopic pieces of plastic used in cosmetics. And it’s affecting their ability to grow and reproduce, an RMIT University eco-toxicologist has found.
The microplastics travel from our bathroom sinks to the ocean, where they are easily confused with algae or seaweeds. Because they cannot tell the difference, the mussels take in the plastic along with their normal diet of algae.
But, says researcher Dr Charlene Trestrail, the plastics affect the action of four of their key digestive enzymes which means the mussels then struggle to break down starch into the simple sugars they need to survive.
“We don’t think the plastic affects mussels directly, but it does reduce their ability to digest the real food in their gut, which means they miss out on energy and nutrients,” says Dr Trestrail.
A glove is being trialled at Liverpool Hospital that gives surgical trainees instant and accurate feedback. Researchers say the gloves could also be used by musicians and artists.
Engineers at Western Sydney University have invented a new surgical glove built around low-cost sensors which can record hand movements in fine detail, giving trainee surgeons and their mentors actionable data to evaluate and improve on intricate surgical procedures.
The research team are working closely with surgeons and students at Liverpool Hospital to develop the technology, which will augment rather than replace traditional surgical training.
Work, housing and friendships are core factors to feeling included.
By identifying the early signs of isolation and loneliness, support can be provided to prevent more serious mental ill-health.
In mental healthcare, simple screening tools for common conditions like depression and anxiety make it possible to diagnose people quickly and get help sooner.
A new tool developed at Orygen does the same, but for social inclusion: the F-SIM (Filia Social Inclusion Measure), developed by Dr Kate Filia and being presented in Hobart this week at the Society for Mental Health Research conference, could help to pinpoint the causes of isolation and social exclusion,
For the first time in Australia, archaeobotany has been used by researchers from UWA to examine charcoal from ancient campfires in the Western Desert.
They found wattle and other Acacias which proves it was (and still is) used by Indigenous people for tools, food and medicine.
The iconic wattle isn’t just about sports uniforms and the coat of arms – new finds in the oldest archaeological site on the land of the Martu in the Western Desert shows how wattle has defined culture and been important to Australians for over 50,000 years.
Australians have the highest rates of ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) knee injuries worldwide, and young Australians are most at risk, with a 74% increase in knee surgery in people under 25 since 2000. Half the people who’ve had a knee reconstruction develop knee arthritis in their 30s, which means a less active lifestyle and potentially even a knee replacement in middle-age.
La Trobe University researcher Dr Brooke Patterson, a former basketballer and AFLW footballer, is driven by her own ACL injury to prevent the rise of this crippling condition and keep people playing sport for longer.
RMIT researchers call on Melburnians to plant the right plants and create the right homes for native pollinators.
They say we’ll get better tomato crops, more flowers and boost urban biodiversity.
Link for footage from Botanic Gardens and images of native bees
As Melbourne’s gardens burst into life after a wet spring, native insects are out looking for flowers and pollen. City gardeners rely on bees, butterflies and other insects to pollinate their plants, which is how flowering plants reproduce and grow fruit or seeds.
But city gardens often don’t have the right types of food and homes for these helpful native bees and flies, with knock-on effects for our gardens and for biodiversity. Urban ecologist Katherine Berthon from RMIT University found that only 43% of flowers in the Melbourne city gardens she studied were being used by bees and other pollinating insects.
Research conducted by former Fresh Science participant Dale Robinson has been covered in the 2020-2021 edition of Defence Science and Technology’s Outlook magazine.
Dr Robinson is a biomedical engineer at the University of Melbourne.
Minimising severe injury from blast events on military vehicles
Blast events inflicted on military vehicles are a consistent threat in contemporary conflicts. Developing equipment that better protects soldiers from this threat has become the focus of significant military research. It is critical to understand how severe injuries are inflicted and how forces from blast events are transmitted to the human body in order to strengthen blast protection for soldiers.
Researchers have been able to pick a water leak within 1 percent of its location within seconds.
Artificial intelligence combined with pressure waves has been used to find faults in major water pipelines faster and more cheaply than existing methods.
Jessica Bohorquez and researchers from the University of Adelaide have developed a system that utilises the deep learning capability of AI and has dramatically increased the chances of detecting cracks in underground pipes.
“In a country where water is scarce, there is an urgent need for this type of technology,” says Jessica.
Using a face mask, Adelaide researchers have a new way to detect a major hidden equine health issue.
Up to 80 percent of horses – including racehorses and showjumpers – suffer from a form of asthma that affects their performance and wellbeing.
Researchers led by veterinarian Surita Du Preez from the University of Adelaide are designing a way to detect the condition – which often produces no obvious symptoms – without adding further stress to the affected animals.
“Currently the methods that are available to diagnose the mild to moderate form of horse asthma are invasive,” says Surita.