Fresh Science

Fresh Science is a national competition that has been helping early-career researchers find, and then share their stories of discovery for the past 18 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.

In 2015 Fresh Science ran in every mainland state, with 61 Fresh Scientists in six state events, and seven public events bringing Fresh Science to around 1000 members of the public.

Read some of the fresh science we discovered in 2015 here.

Click here to visit the Fresh Science website

One step closer to understanding cancer-fighting immune cells

Researchers discover that protective immune cells are not created equally 

Susan Christo, The Peter Doherty Institute & The University of Melbourne

Personalised treatment of cancers has moved one step closer, thanks to University of Melbourne researcher Dr Susan Christo.

Increasingly, cancers are being treated using an approach called immunotherapy – which uses a patient’s own immune cells to fight the disease.

However, challenges arise in so-called “solid cancers”, such as melanoma, where access may be limited so the cancer-fighting immune cells cannot penetrate the tumour site. 

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Whooping cough is fighting back.

Researchers discover how whooping cough is evolving paving the way to a new vaccine.

Laurence Luu, The University of New South Wales

Whooping cough strains are adapting to better infect humans, a team of Sydney researchers has found.

The scientists, led by microbiologist Dr Laurence Luu of the University of New South Wales, may have solved the mystery of why, despite widespread vaccinations, the respiratory disease has been resurgent in Australia across the past decade. There have been more than 200,000 cases recorded during the period.

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Is that plant healthy?

Karina Khambatta, Curtin University

We can’t easily monitor the health of plants, by the time we see that they’re sick it’s usually too late to save that. That’s an issue for your house plants, a field of wheat, orchards and plantations.

Karina Khambatta has developed a way to use the waxy surface of leaves to monitor their health.

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Protecting Tiwi wildlife is a hollow argument

Climbing trees reveals a housing shortage for tree-rats and other endangered animals.

Cara Penton, Charles Darwin University

Estimates of tree hollows – which form the houses of several endangered species in northern Australia – are much too high, researchers at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory have found.

And the discovery could be bad news for several of Australia’s most vulnerable species, including the Black-Footed Tree-Rat (Mesembriomys gouldii) and Brush Tailed Rabbit-Rat (Conilurus penicillatus).

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Stopping poaching by the numbers

Maths model helps rangers protect national parks, despite tight budgets.

Math could be used to prevent elephant poaching.
Image credit: Pixabay

Mathematics can help reduce poaching and illegal logging in national parks, researchers have found.

A team of applied mathematicians including Macquarie University’s David Arnold has developed an algorithm that predicts which areas inside park boundaries offer the greatest possibilities for criminals – and how rangers can most efficiently combat them.

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Hunting molecules that signal pain

Researchers close in on an objective measure for physical distress.

Pain self-assessments are naturally subjective. An independent pain measure will help treatment.
Image credit: Jim De Ramos

A new microscope-based method for detecting a particular molecule in the spinal cord could help lead to an accurate and independent universal pain scale, research from Australia’s Macquarie University suggests.

An accurate way of measuring pain is of critical importance because at present degrees of discomfort are generally assessed by asking a patient to estimate pain on a one-to-10 scale. The situation is even more acute in the treatment of babies, the very old and animals, where speech is absent.

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Device makes electric vehicle charging a two-way street

New tech means cars can power houses, as well as the other way round.

A new device turns electric vehicles into chargers for houses and stranded cars.

Researchers led by Seyedfoad Taghizadeh from Australia’s Macquarie University are looking to commercialise the technology, which may significantly increase the appeal of the vehicles.

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Better emergency responses by removing social bots

Image credit: Mehwish Nasim

Filtering out social bots can help critical response teams see what’s happening in real time

Mehwish Nasim, University of Adelaide

Researchers have created an algorithm that distinguishes between misinformation and genuine conversations on Twitter, by detecting messages churned out by social bots.

Dr Mehwish Nasim and colleagues at the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Adelaide say the algorithm will make it easier for emergency services to detect major events such as civil unrest, natural disasters, and influenza epidemics in real time.

“When something really big is going on, people tweet a huge amount of useful information,” says Mehwish.

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Family matters in autism outcomes

Lauren Lawson, La Trobe Univcersity

Cognition is influenced by siblings, researchers find.

Autistic children with autistic siblings have better cognition than those who are the only family member with the condition, researchers have found.

Importantly, the outcome does not depend on birth order.

Although previous studies have identified that having autistic siblings leads to better cognition for individual children with the condition, it was assumed that the order in which the children were born was a significant factor.

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Sugar found to boost lethal bacteria

Adelaide researchers find how a bacteria digests a sugar can be key to new treatments

Vikrant Minhas, University of Adelaide

The severity of a common and often lethal type of bacteria depends on its ability to process a type of sugar, research from the University of Adelaide reveals.

Streptococcus pneumoniae causes diseases of the lungs, blood, ear and brain, killing an estimated one million people every year. Moreover S. pneumoniae causes otitis media (infection of the middle ear), which devastates Aboriginal populations. It also rapidly develops resistance to antibiotics, making it challenging to treat.

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