Mood food, ending COVID, over-exercising, hastening cures, loneliness and more

Exclude from Home Page, National Science Week

Great National Science Week HEALTH stories up for grabs now around Australia.

  • When will the global pandemic end?
  • Fighting fake medicine and wellness woo
  • Wiping out loneliness
  • Using food to fight depression
  • Protecting space travellers from radiation
  • Can you exercise too much?
  • Portable x-ray machines
  • Quicker cancer cures

These are just a few of the health-related talks, speakers and events taking place during this year’s National Science Week (August 14 to 22).

If you’re after more ideas for stories, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at, and on Twitter at @SciWKMedia.

Scientists, health practitioners, experts and event organisers are available for interview throughout National Science Week. Read on for contact details for each event, or call:

▪ Tanya Ha: or 0404 083 863
▪ Niall Byrne: or 0417 131 977 or 03 9398 1416.

Individual event details and media contacts

Killing COVID-19 – online (NSW)

Scientists are already working on preventing the next global pandemic. But how do we end the current one?

Experts are examining how pandemics have changed the course of history. And how COVID-19 will be stopped. Hear from:

  • Investigative journalist Dr Norman Swan
  • Tony Cunningham AO is Co-Director of the Centre for Virus Research at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research and Director of the Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology Research.
  • Medical virologist and infectious diseases physician Dominic Dwyer – Australia’s representative on the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of COVID-19.
  • Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute (UNSW)

Friday 20 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Sasha Haughan,, or 0405 006 035; or Kym Elphinstone, or 0421 106 139.

Closing the gap with an AI ‘Time Machine’ and a health lab on wheels – Tiwi Islands, Ramingining, Darwin & Rapid Creek, NT

Chronic diseases – such as diabetes and heart disease – cause suffering for thousands of Australians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

In the Northern Territory, the Menzies School of Health Research is letting people experience the effects of long-term diseases before they get sick. HealthLAB – a clinic on wheels – lets people see heart and kidney ultrasounds, hear their heart beating, and try on ‘alcohol goggles’ that mimic raised blood alcohol levels. An award-winning interactive Time Machine app completes the picture – literally – by showing how those choices affect appearance.

HealthLAB will travel to locations around Darwin, the island community of Wurrumiyanga on the Timor Sea, and Ramingining in the Arafura Swamp to work in country with trainee Indigenous health practitioners.

Thursday 12 – Saturday 21 August. Multiple dates and locations

Media enquiries: Minka Dickson, or 08 8946 8539.

Heidi Smith-Vaughan is available for media interviews.

Gut feelings – what to eat to improve your mood – Clarkson, Wanneroo, Girrawheen, WA

Never mind weight loss, your diet can have a direct impact on your mental health. Learn how choose foods that boost your brain and fight off depression and anxiety in this series of events conducted across Perth’s suburbs.

Your intestines are home to a vast population of tiny organisms, known collectively as the microbiome. And the mix of your belly bugs strongly influences not just physical but emotional wellbeing – using an internal communications pathway called the Gut-Brain Axis.

Join Edith Cowan University PhD candidates Tina Yan and Jo Rees as they reveal the ways in which the food you eat can improve your microbiome – and the benefits that brings for health and happiness.

Saturday 14 – Wednesday 18 August. Multiple dates and locations.  

Media enquiries: Pepita Smyth, or 0417 171 551

Tina Yan and Jo Rees are available for media interviews.

How to help an addict – online

Professor Dan Lubman is available to discuss how to help a friend or family member battling addiction.

He can explain why we get addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or the internet and why we struggle to control our behaviour.

Professor Lubman has published more than 500 reports, having worked across mental health and drug treatment settings in the UK and Australia.

He will speak at the event ‘The Science of Us: rethink addiction’.

Thursday 19 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Rebecca Lawrence, or Dan Laubman,

Exposing the quacks – online (ACT)

Science communicator and GP, Dr Brad Mckay is warning us not to trust Dr Google.

His new book “Fake Medicine: Exposing the wellness crazes, cons and quacks” investigates the myths, scams and fads of modern health and wellbeing.

He’s available to discuss how to spot the charlatans, dodgy practitioners and avoid fad diets.

Canberra Skeptics hosts Dr McKay for an online ‘Fake Medicine’ talk and Q&A this National Science Week.

Monday 16 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Jemma Ferreira Rowe, or 02 8248 0800

Dr McKay is available for interviews.

Protecting Mars astronauts from cancer – online, NSW

How do you stop Mars astronauts from developing cancer?

Space experts Sarah Brough and Iver Cairns and Susanna Guatelli can discuss what’s being done to shield astronauts from space weather, which exposes them to acute long-term radiation.

This event is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and the Australian Institute of Physics.

Tuesday 17 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Laura Boland, or 0408 166 426

Sarah Brough is available for media interviews.

Is too much exercise harmful? – online

Associate Professor Anne Tiedemann says physical activity for older people is important, but too much exercise can be harmful.

How does exercise prevent chronic disease and what happens if you don’t move at all.

Ask Associate Professor Tiedemann about the role of exercise in healthy ageing.

Tuesday 17 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Anne Tiedemann,

Ending loneliness – online

Researchers warn that social disconnection poses a greater health threat than smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise.

What makes us feel lonely?

How can we form meaningful relationships?

Psychology researchers Dr Michelle Lim and Professor Catherine Haslam will discuss loneliness, its effects on physical and mental health, and what we can do about it.

Tuesday 17 August. Event details:

Contacts: Michelle Lim,; Catherine Haslam,

Does gut bacteria affect our brains and behaviour? – Kogarah, NSW

Without the microbiome – the bugs in our guts – we couldn’t digest our food properly.

How do we sustain good bugs in our tummies? And does the tummy bacteria affect our mental health?

Dr Caitlin Cowan from the University of Sydney is studying how our microbiome might influence our brains and our behaviour through a complex bodily system known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis.

Find out about the scientific research into the links between the microbiome and mental health.

Thursday 19 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Caitlin Cowan,

Making fast and safe vaccines – online, VIC talent

Vaccines save lives, having eradicated once-common illnesses such as polio and smallpox.

The global COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the speedy development of a new set of vaccines.

How were they made so swiftly? And are they safe?

Dr Jennifer Juno from The Doherty Institute is available for interview.

Friday 20 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Daryl Holland, or 0434 952 009.

Smaller, lighter, faster X-rays – Tonsley

How does X-ray imaging work? How is it different to photography? And how will it change in the future? Find out about X-rays and see the high-tech equipment involved, without breaking an arm or leg.

This series of events will give people the opportunity to see inside Adelaide’s Micro-X factory, which makes ‘go-anywhere’ lightweight X-ray machines incorporating innovative design and carbon nanotube technology.

Friday 20 August to Saturday 21 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Tennille Reed, or 0428 271 243.

Engineer and CEO Peter Rowland is available for interviews.

Why do medical discoveries take so long? – online

Researchers delivered multiple COVID-19 vaccines in under a year, but we’re still waiting for an AIDS vaccine, decades later.

And where’s our cure for cancer?

It seems to take forever for medical discoveries to reach the doctor’s consulting rooms.

UNSW medical experts, Anushka Patel, Louisa Jorm, Anand Deva, Joseph Powell and Vlado Perkovic are available to discuss why discoveries typically take so long and how to hasten medical and health advances.

They are presenting an online forum, organised by the UNSW Centre for Ideas.

Wednesday 1 September. Event details:

Media enquiries: Laura Boland, or 0408 166 426

Anushka Patel, Louisa Jorm, Anand Deva, Joseph Powell and Vlado Perkovic are available for media interviews.

About National Science Week

National Science Week is one of Australia’s largest festivals, first held in 1997.

Last year about 1.1 million people participated in more than 1200 events, despite a global pandemic.

It is proudly supported by the Australian Government; and partners CSIRO, the Australian Science Teachers Association and the ABC. More information:

National Science Week 2021 runs from 14 to 22 August. Media kit at Or visit the National Science Week website for more events and activities: