National Highlights Roundup

Australian Capital Territory

Detecting doping, managing medicines, and launching into space: what government scientists do – Capital Hill, ACT

Every day, thousands of Australian Government scientists are working on tasks like investigating potential drug cheating in sport, stopping weed seeds from coming into Australia, setting standards for radiation safety, and putting our own communication satellites into space.

Meet a plethora of government scientists at Parliament House. These are public servants who do science in the departments, agencies, and regulators that make up the Government Scientists Group (GSG), such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Sport Integrity Australia, Therapeutic Goods Administration, Geoscience Australia, the Australian Antarctic Division Questacon, and many more.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley hosts the GSG STEM Expo, showcasing the diversity of careers available within the 20 or more GSG members exhibiting and presenting insights into their careers, working environments, and experiences.

Thursday 15 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/gsg-stem-expo-2024/capital-hill/

Media enquiries: Angeline Lowther, communications@chiefscientist.gov.au or 02 6213 6553.

Science in the Centres – multiple locations, ACT

Science while you shop! Pop-up science activity centres will give shoppers the chance to meet scientists, engineers, and daleks, and learn about space, engineering with LEGO, live reptiles, dinosaurs, parasites, chemistry, geology, robotics, and more.

Westfield Belconnen, Westfield Woden, South.Point Tuggeranong, Cooleman Court, Gungahlin Marketplace, and the Canberra Centre will host a variety of displays and hands-on science activities during the weekends of National Science Week (10 – 11 and 17 – 18 August).

Multiple dates and locations.

Media enquiries: actscienceweek@gmail.com

Representatives from stallholders are available for interview.

Steel from tyres, tiles from clothes, 3D printing with recycled plastic – Parkes, ACT

Meet the engineer who invented technologies that turn waste into green building materials and business opportunities.

Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla invented polymer injection technology, a process for using recycled tyres in steel production. She also invented an e-waste microfactory that harvests metals from old laptops, circuit boards, and smartphones.

She and her team developed a Green Ceramics MICROfactorie™ that makes ceramic tiles and kitchen benchtops from waste clothes and glass. Now they’re targeting plastic, turning hard plastics into feedstock for 3D printing.

Veena will share her vision for a sustainable future at the annual Ann Moyal Lecture at the National Library of Australia. Veena is director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology at UNSW and heads the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for ‘green manufacturing’.

Monday 12 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/ann-moyal-lecture-scientia-professor-veena-sahajwalla/parkes

New South Wales

Your brain on AI, with Paul Davies and experts – Sydney, NSW

“The development of artificial intelligence may well imply that man will relinquish his intellectual supremacy in favour of thinking machines,” says theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and best-selling author Paul Davies.

What makes a mass of cells come together to think, do and become self-aware?

Technologies like DishBrain, brain organoids and organic AI – using the computing power of brain cells – could revolutionise fields from neuroscience and psychology to data science and robotics.

But how do intelligence and consciousness arise? How are emotions and feelings generated? How do our brains adapt to technological evolution?

The University of Sydney AI expert Sandra Peter will explore these topics in a panel event at the Sydney Opera House, featuring:

  • renowned British quantum physicist, cosmologist, author and TV presenter Paul Davies
  • neuroscientist, DishBrain co-inventor, and Chief Scientific Officer at Cortical Labs Brett Kagan
  • cognitive scientist and expert on brain-computer interfaces Inês Hipólito.

Saturday 17 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/sydney-opera-house-your-brain-on-ai/sydney

Paul Davies, Ines Hipolito, Brett Kagan, and Sandra Peter are available for media interviews.

Media enquiries: Emily Cook, ecook@sydneyoperahouse.com, 0484 566 133.

The Vagina Bible author on menstruation, menopause, and medical mythology – Kensington, NSW

“It’s a vagina, not a piña colada.”

Canadian-American gynaecologist Dr Jennifer Gunter’s 2019 book The Vagina Bible became a New York Times best seller. Then she followed it up with The Menopause Manifesto:

“If we applied that same tone to erectile dysfunction, we’d expect textbooks to declare that the penis is worn out. In medicine, men get to age with gentle euphemisms and women get exiled to Not Hotsville.”

Over half the world’s population have had a period or could be having a period right now – so why do menstruation and menopause remain such medical mysteries?

Jen Gunter is in Australia for National Science Week to demystify female anatomy and women’s health.

She will debunk misinformation, discuss why women are sidelined by the medical profession, and outline the steps we need to take to put women’s bodies and healthcare in the spotlight. She’s in conversation with cancer researcher and STEMMinist Book Club founder Caroline Ford at the UNSW Centre for Ideas.

Thursday 15 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/jennifer-gunter-menstruation-menopause-and-medical-mythology/kensington

Media enquiries: UNSW Centre for Ideas, centreforideas@unsw.edu.au or 02 9065 0485.

Bull Shark Bandits and coastal scientists come inland to Dubbo, NSW

The stars of National Geographic’s Bull Shark Bandits, marine scientists, climate experts, and an astronomer equipped with telescopes are headed inland to Dubbo for ‘Science at Heart’ (S@H) to foster curiosity in this regional community.

A day of interactive sessions and talks will offer Dubbo residents the opportunity to hear about the science of oysters, mangroves, human choice (economics), and the physics of climate change, before seeing the stars through telescopes in an evening astronomy session. Marine biologists Mariel Familiar López and Johan Gustafson, who featured in Nat Geo TV shows Bull Shark Bandits and SHARKFEST, will share their knowledge of frogs and sharks.

Saturday 17 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/science-heart/dubbo

Media enquiries: Marian Vidal-Fernandez, m.vidal-fdez@sydney.edu.au or 0451 818 612.

Speakers are available for media interviews.

Northern Territory

Giant whale puppet tells The Whale’s Tale – The Gardens, NT

When a whale washes up on a beach and is discovered by a child, the whale’s spirit embarks on a journey to find out what is wrong, with the help of one Dr Walrus.

Featuring a 9-metre whale puppet, The Whale’s Tale outdoor interactive theatre show combines playful performance with an inspiring environmental message through the eyes of a child. The show highlights the plight of northern Australian whales and the threat of ocean pollution.

The show is part of the Darwin Festival and will be performed outdoors at the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Wednesday 14 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/the-whales-tale/the-gardens

Media enquiries: Kirsti Abbott, Kirsti.Abbott@magnt.net.au or 0466 726 525.

Art bringing Miocene megafauna back to life – Alice Springs, NT

How do palaeo-artists reimagine and recreate what an extinct animal looks like when there are no living specimens to paint from life?

Renowned artist and book author Peter Schouten and fellow palaeo-artist and Megafauna Central’s senior curator of earth sciences Dr Adam Yates discuss the methods they used to put flesh, fur, skin, and scales on long extinct creatures and re-imagine their environments.

Megafauna Central will unveil Peter’s large mural showcasing iconic species from the Late Miocene Alcoota fossil assemblage in their main gallery.

Peter and Adam will discuss the unveiled work, and the process and challenges met in its creation.

Saturday 10 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/brushes-with-the-past-unveiling-the-late-miocene-with-peter-schouten/alice-springs

Media enquiries: Sam Arman, samuel.arman@magnt.net.au or 0431 197 171.

Students making Stories in the Sky – multiple locations

Stories in the Sky transforms individual classrooms across the Territory into a celestial sensory experience with learning kits. Students will be immersed in a world of stars as an audio guide takes them through the science and significance of stars and space.

They will go on a guided journey through the physics and chemistry of space and learn how cultures around the world have been guided by the stars for millennia. Inspired by the experience, students then use their learnings to create a new star design using the power of the sun, for inclusion in an augmented reality gallery.

Multiple dates and locations.

Media enquiries: Sarah Sutcliffe, sarah.sutcliffe@cdu.edu.au or 08 8946 6413.

Queensland

Design and 3D print pills: ask a pharmacist how and why – Woolloongabba

Ask pharmacist and 3D printing researcher Dr Jared Miles why 3D printed pharmaceuticals should be brought to the clinic. And design and print your own tablets.

Customisable colour, flavour, texture, and even braille or symbols play an important role in medication usage. For example, polypills with multiple active ingredients could reduce the mix-ups that often occur when people take several different drugs daily.

Following a talk from Jared, participants will take part in a workshop demonstration of 3D printing tablets facilitated by University of Queensland researchers, with the opportunity to design and print their own.

Friday 16 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/from-pixels-to-pills-why-we-should-be-3d-printing-medicines/woolloongabba/

Media enquiries: Liam Krueger, l.krueger@uq.edu.au

Scientists available for media interviews.

Symposium to get Queensland quantum ready – Fortitude Valley

Quantum technologies are already used in smart phones and cars, medical imaging, manufacturing, and navigation. But today’s technologies capture only a small fraction of the potential of quantum science.

Quantum technologies could reshape our industries. But how much do we really know about it? And are we truly ‘quantum ready’?

Researchers, industry professionals, investors, and government representatives will get together for a one-day symposium to explore the opportunities in Queensland’s growing technology scene.

Hosted by the Queensland Government, in partnership with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems. 

Tuesday 13 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/qx-queensland-advanced-technologies-future/fortitude-valley

Media enquiries: Kim Wood, kim.wood@des.qld.gov.au or 0424 620 303.

Satirical science music, astrophysicists, and ‘homeopathic cocktails’ at a live Planetarium concert – Toowong

Award-wining songwriter and science communicator Nathan Eggins (aka Conspiracy of One) is bringing his signature sciencey music back to the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, with a couple of University of Queensland astro-experts in tow.

Nathan’s pop-rock-funk music explores scientific and psychological concepts while highlighting and satirising many forms of pseudoscience, misinformation, and cognitive biases.

Nathan and his band will share songs from his debut album ‘Road to Reason’, along with fan favourite science songs like ‘We’re All Aliens, Baby’ and ‘The Sound a Duck Makes’, set against the backdrop of the starscapes of the Skydome.

Participants will also hear from dark energy expert Tamara Davis and extrasolar planets researcher Benjamin Pope and enjoy free popcorn and ‘homeopathic cocktails’.

Saturday 17 August. Event details: www.scienceweek.net.au/event/planetarium-concert-live-music-in-the-skydome-2/toowong

Media enquiries: Nathan Eggins, nathan@sentientproductions.com.au or 0402 593 431.

HeadStartSwiss: early career opportunities to study or work in Switzerland

Early career researchers and young professionals are invited to apply to undertake study, work experience and/or research in Switzerland, through the following programs:

  • Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships – for doctoral and postdoctoral candidates, as well as candidates wishing to undertake research in the realm of their PhD or medical specialisation. Open now.
  • Mertz Fellowship – for early-career researchers from the polar and high-altitude science fields. Now closed.
  • Young Professionals Programme – for Australian citizens aged 20-30 who have completed vocational training (apprenticeship or university degree) now working in the profession in which they trained. Open for applications year-round.
  • ThinkSwiss program for students who have completed their second year of under-graduate studies or are currently enrolled in a post-graduate (Master’s) degree. Open now.

Hear from past scholars below:

Read More about HeadStartSwiss: early career opportunities to study or work in Switzerland

Mining between a rock and a hard place – Wednesday at the World Mining Congress

Mining between a rock and a hard place

With more storms, fires and floods

Hydrogen economy, rock cutting, automation, sharing water…

Plus Rio, Allkem, Bechtel and Newmont leaders

It’s Day 3, Wednesday 28 June at the 26th World Mining Congress, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

Media welcome.

Read More about Mining between a rock and a hard place – Wednesday at the World Mining Congress

Prizes, awards and opportunities

  • Nominate your top scientists, science communicators, and research leaders for one of 18 Eureka Prizes. Nominations open until 14 April.
  • ATSE awards are open until 29 May, for excellence in technology, applied science and engineering.
  • Look out for the ABC Top 5 Media Residency Program, opening soon. For early-career researchers across science, arts and humanities with a flair and passion for communicating their work.

More on each below.

If you need support with planning and editing your nominations, we can help.

Read More about Prizes, awards and opportunities

Wow, wow, wow. Galaxies collide and tumble in a cosmic dance: Webb reactions

Aussie astronomers react to NASA Webb first images.

Media contacts: Niall Byrne, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au, or
Jane Watkins, jane@scienceinpublic.com.au,

Nearly 40 researchers across Australia are eagerly awaiting data from Webb for their projects. Many of them are available to talk on Tuesday about what they hope to see with Webb and about their reaction to the first pictures

Read More about Wow, wow, wow. Galaxies collide and tumble in a cosmic dance: Webb reactions

President Biden to release first pics from the $US10 billion James Webb Space Telescope Tuesday 12 July, 7.30 am AEST

What will Australians see with Webb?

Aussie astronomers available for interviews in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra.

They’re using Webb to look for the first stars, the first galaxies, baby planets, massive black holes.

Media contacts: Niall Byrne, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au, 0417-131-977 or
Jane Watkins, jane@scienceinpublic.com.au, 0425 803 204

Over the past 30 years, Hubble has transformed science and culture, revealing a Universe of 200 billion galaxies. Webb will see further, solving today’s mysteries and creating new ones.

Image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, known as Webb’s First Deep Field, taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Courtesy of NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

On Tuesday morning Joe Biden will release ‘the first picture’ then NASA will release a suite of images early Wednesday morning from the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble.

Nearly 40 researchers across Australia are eagerly awaiting data from web for their projects. Many of them are available to talk on Tuesday about what they hope to see with Webb and about their reaction to the first pictures.

Much of the Webb data is flowing back to Earth through Tidbinbilla, and some comes from an instrument designed by Peter Tuthill at the University of Sydney. He is relieved and excited. “This is a day I have been looking forward to for a big part of my career. Everything about the Webb is so over-the-top audacious – from the titanic articulated mirror down to its orbit out in the cold voids of interplanetary space.”

Read More about President Biden to release first pics from the $US10 billion James Webb Space Telescope Tuesday 12 July, 7.30 am AEST

First James Webb pictures – comments from Australian users

Professor Karl Glazebrook, Swinburne University/ASTRO 3D

Dr. Elisabete da Cunha, UWA/ICRAR/ASTRO 3D

Dr Nicha Leethochawalit, University of Melbourne/ ASTRO 3D,

Dr. Kathryn Grasha, ANU/ASTRO 3D

Professor Peter Tuthill, University of Sydney

Dr Benjamin Pope, University of Queensland

Professor James Miller-Jones, Curtin University

Dr Christophe Pinte, Monash University, Melbourne

Professor Simon Driver, UWA, Perth

Associate Professor Kim-Vy Tran, Astrophysicist, UNSW

Professor Orsola De Marco, Macquarie University

Tidbinbilla (Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex)

Read More about First James Webb pictures – comments from Australian users

Scent of life on Venus

Artist’s impression of Venus, with an inset showing a representation of the phosphine molecules detected in the high cloud decks.
Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser / L. Calçada & NASA / JPL / Caltech

Microbial life may be present in the atmosphere of Venus, according to a paper published in Nature Astronomy today.

(Written by Rohan Byrne, our resident geoscientist. Follow him at @buildmeaplanet)

Traces of a telltale gas called phosphine have been detected in sunlight bouncing off the planet. The gas, a rare chemical sometimes used as a pesticide, has never before been observed on rocky planets other than Earth, where it is almost always a product of life.

Read More about Scent of life on Venus