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In 2014, The British Council and Fresh Science have joined forces to bring FameLab to Australia.

Fresh Science is a national competition that has been helping early-career researchers publicly share their stories of discovery for the past 12 years.

In 2014 Fresh Science partnered with the British Council to present the inaugural FameLab Australia. This year’s competition has now wrapped up.

Visit www.famelab.org.au for more details about the competition and how to enter in 2015.

You can read the stories from FameLab Australia 2014 below, as well as Fresh Science stories from previous years.

14171849136_6a20a4805e_oWednesday 9 July 2014

Dr James Makinson evicts bees from their homes for a good reason—to figure out how they collectively decide on the next place to live. His research on bee communication and consensus-building has been published in this month’s issue of Animal Behaviour.

James and his colleagues at the University of Sydney in partnership with two universities in Thailand have found that not all honeybee species think like the common Western hive bee when it comes to deciding on a place to nest.

Two little-known species—the giant Asian honeybee and the tiny red dwarf honeybee—use a more  rapid collective decision-making process that enables them to choose a new home quickly. But they aren’t as fussy when it comes to the quality of their new home.

It’s work that could help with understanding and managing honeybees for pollination services, ecological health, and pest control. [click to continue…]

But SAHMRI researchers are making it starve by eating itself to death

Lisa Schafranek at the national final of FameLab Australia, held at the WA Museum in May. Credit: OK-White Lane © International FameLab

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Stubborn cancer cells play a cunning trick when faced with treatments designed to kill them — they eat themselves to survive. But SAHMRI researchers have found a way to starve the cancer cells, making them more susceptible to cancer therapy.

As researchers develop more personalised cancer therapies that target cancer cells, they are also seeing an increase in resistance to treatment, where patients relapse or no longer respond to treatment.

One way that cancer resists treatment is by undergoing a process where the cancer cells eat themselves to maintain energy levels during times of stress — a process that helps them survive cancer treatments that would otherwise starve them.

Lisa Schafranek, a University of Adelaide PhD student working a SAHMRI, and her colleagues have used a clinically available drug to stop leukaemia cells from eating themselves to survive cancer therapy. [click to continue…]

Monday 23 June 2014

Perth researchers have shown that twice-weekly exercise can improve sexual function in prostate cancer patients by 50 per cent.

Now, they’re calling on Perth men to participate in a new study to find out why exercise works, and how effective it can be on a broader range of patients.

One in six Australian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 90 per cent of them will report some form of sexual dysfunction during or after their treatment.

“Men think about sex a lot – on average, every 45 minutes which is more often than they think about food or sleep,” says Dr Prue Cormie, a senior research fellow at Edith Cowan University. “So it’s not surprising that sexual dysfunction is the most frequently identified issue of importance among prostate cancer survivors.”

Last year, Prue and her colleagues at the Edith Cowan University Health and Wellness Institute put a group of men with prostate cancer through a supervised exercise program involving twice-weekly group-based sessions of resistance exercise such as weight lifting, and aerobic exercises including walking and cycling.

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Linden Servinis. Credit: OK-White LaneScientist available for interview, Tuesday 17 June 2014

Lighter-weight, fuel-efficient cars may be closer to reality thanks to Geelong researchers who are giving carbon fibre the gripping power it needs to be able to stand up to impacts from motorists.

High-performance vehicles already use carbon fibre – a high-strength lightweight material that can be moulded into complex shapes – to make cars lighter, more fuel-efficient and faster.

But although strong, carbon fibre is prone to damage from sudden impact. And unlike metal, it can’t be repaired – only replaced.

This factor has limited the material’s uptake by the wider automotive industry, as the common bingle would end up costing motorists a lot more to fix.

Ms Linden Servinis, a PhD student at Deakin University, and her colleagues have developed a treatment for carbon fibre that makes it 16% stronger by forming extra chemical ‘arms’ that grip onto its surroundings, allowing the material to withstand greater impacts. [click to continue…]

But researchers have to teach yeast to make it

Thursday 5 June 2014

Tim Brennan. Credit: AIBN

Tim Brennan. Credit: AIBN

Queensland researchers are persuading baker’s yeast to produce orange-flavoured renewable jet fuel from sugar.

Mr Timothy Brennan and his colleagues at the University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology have helped genetically-engineered yeast to evolve to make an oil called limonene, which is found naturally in lemons and oranges, and also happens to be an efficient jet fuel.

They’ve worked out how to get the yeast to make more oil without killing itself in the process.

It’s an important step in scaling up biofuel production so that it can become a serious alternative to traditional fossil fuels. [click to continue…]

Francis Torres. Credit: British Council/OK-White LaneTuesday 3 June 2014

Dr Francis Torres, a physicist at the University of Western Australia, has developed the mirror device at the heart of a new amplifier technology, which uses an interaction between a high-powered laser and mirror motion to magnify subtle metal, temperature and biological vibrations so they are more easily detected.

“Our idea is to connect the sensors in existing space exploration tools to our amplifier so they can look deeper underground and find smaller and hard-to-find targets such as hidden mineral deposits, water or other bacterial life,” says Francis, who developed the resonator mirror as part of his PhD.

According to Francis, the amplifier technology could also enhance the detection sensitivity of Earth exploration tools and medical sensors.

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James Aridas presenting his talk at the FameLab Australia National Final in May. Credit: OK-White Lane © International FameLabA simple and affordable ‘jetlag’ skin patch could help prevent deaths and disabilities of two million babies worldwide each year by reducing brain damage caused by low oxygen during birth.

Monash University PhD student James Aridas and his colleagues at MIMR-PHI Institute’s Ritchie Centre have found that melatonin patches, commonly used to treat jetlag in the US, can reduce damaging free radicals and subsequent brain cell death when they are administered in the hours after birth asphyxia has occurred.

The discovery could help change the fate of around 300 Australian babies who develop disabilities and neurodevelopmental disorders after birth asphyxia each year, as well as that of millions of babies in developing countries where treatment is almost non-existent.

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Michael025am AEST, 28 May 2014

Cairns researchers have discovered a wound-healing and cancer-causing hormone in the spit of a liver worm that lives in over nine million people and infects adventurous Australian tourists. The Southeast Asian liver fluke munches through the liver repairing the damage as it goes. But after many years of infection it can cause liver cancer and kills 20,000 people each year in Thailand alone.

Now James Cook University researcher Dr Michael Smout has found that a protein in the spit also sends wound-healing messages.

In 2010 James Cook University researchers discovered that the worm spit was promoting cell growth and wound repair. Then in 2012 Dr Michael Smout discovered a growth hormone in the spit, showed it was responsible both for the repair and in part for the cancer, and that it promotes wound-healing. He hopes that the work will lead both to new wound-healing compounds, and to a vaccine against the worm.

The discovery received no public attention at the time. But now its discoverer, Dr Michael Smout, is presenting the work publically for the first time thanks to FameLab Australia. He won the Australian final two weeks ago in Perth using a teddy bear to assist in his talk. He flies to the International FameLab final in the UK on Friday to represent Australia. [click to continue…]

Congratulations to Dr Michael Smout from James Cook University for taking out Australia’s first FameLab competition on Tuesday night in Fremantle, WA.

Michael and his research story on cancer-causing liver worms will be heading to the UK in June to represent Australia at the International FameLab competition held at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival.

He’ll be needing some extra luggage allowance to take his props with him.

Congratulations to all the finalists, and to the runner-up Tim Brennan from The University of Queensland.

You’ll be hearing more about Michael’s work and other Fresh Science stories in the coming weeks.

FameLab Australia 2014 Finalists with the Judges

FameLab Australia 2014 (Top left: James Makinson, Vince Polito, Niraj Lal, Nick Roden, Prue Cormie, Robyn Williams (MC), His Excellency Malcolm McCusker AO, Francis Torres, Tim Brennan, James Aridas, Linden Servinis. Front left: Dr Ian McLeod (judge), Michael Smout, Lydia Tong, Lisa Schafranek, Prof Lyn Beazley (judge), Nick Marchand (judge). Photo: OK-White Lane. © International FameLab.

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Killer bees and cannibalistic cancer, future fuels and drilling on mars: FameLab Australia National Final

Join us to hear Fresh Science stories on stage at the FameLab Australia national final in Perth on 13 May

Across Australia, more than 300 people gathered at pubs, museums and universities to hear our first crop of FameLab Australia state finalists.

Now we’re stepping things up a notch – we’ve chosen a dozen of the most inspiring competitors with engaging stories from across the country to compete at the FameLab National Final in Perth.

If you’re in Perth, join us for the National Final:

When: Tuesday, 13 May, 6-8pm
Where: WA Maritime Museum, Fremantle
RSVP: www.famelabaus14.eventbrite.com This is a free event, and all are welcome.

The overall winner will represent Australia at the FameLab International Grand Final at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK in June.

This year’s FameLab finalists are:

  • James Makinson, The University of Sydney
  • Nick Roden, University of Tasmania and CSIRO
  • James Aridas, Monash University
  • Prue Cormie, Edith Cowan University
  • Vince Polito, Macquarie University
  • Lydia Tong, University of Sydney
  • Francis Torres, University of Western Australia
  • Niraj Lal, Australian National University
  • Lisa Schafranek, SAHMRI
  • Tim Brennan, AIBN, University of Queensland
  • Linden Servinis, Deakin University
  • Michael Smout,  James Cook University

FameLab is aimed at training our early-career scientists to become our future media voices, role models, and educators in Australian science. Read more about FameLab Australia at www.famelab.org.au

 

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Lights! Camera! Science! Passionate Aussie scientists are in the spotlight talking science.

No jargon, no lab coats – props, music and poetry optional.

Join us in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide for the State Heats of FameLab Australia – a competition that gives early-career researchers the chance to talk about their science in plain English.

But they’ve only got 3 minutes.

The State Heat winner will head to Perth to compete in the FameLab national final in May.

All events are free to attend and all are welcome.

Register your attendance in your state via Eventbrite:

 

Our State Finalists are:

NSW Finalists

Dr Matt Baker, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
Mr Jordan Collier, University of Western Sydney
Mr Matthew Collins, CUDOS/University of Sydney
Dr. Graham Doig, University of New South Wales
Mr. Ali Fathi, University of Sydney
Mr Nathanial Harris, University of Wollongong
Mr Steve Krezo, University of Western Sydney
Dr James Makinson, University of Sydney
Mr Andrew Merdith, University of Sydney
Dr Vince Polito, Macquarie University
Dr Lydia Tong, University of Sydney

Qld Finalists

Mr Peter Gous, Centre of Nutrition and Food Science – QAAFI/University of Queensland
Dr Katharine Greenaway, University of Queensland / Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Ms Anthea King, University of Queensland/University of Copenhagen
Mrs Karishma Mody, The University of Queensland
Ms Saira Mumtaz, James Cook University
Dr Linda Pfeiffer, Central Queensland University
Mr Anton Pluschke, The University of Queensland
Dr Michael Smout, James Cook University
Ms Kelly Hitchens, The University of Queensland
Mr Tim Brennan, The University of Queensland

SA Finalists (Including ACT and Tas)

Mr Michael Douglass, University of Adelaide
Dr Niraj Lal, Australian National University
Ms Mika Peace, University of Adelaide / Bureau of Meteorology
Dr Sally Potter, Australian National University
Ms Daisy Veitch, TU Delft
Dr Benny Samuel Eathakkattu Antony, Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, University of Tasmania
Mr Nick Roden, University of Tasmania and CSIRO
Ms Lisa Schafranek

Vic Finalists

Mr James Aridas, Monash University
Dr Ebrahim Bani Hassan, The University of Melbourne
Mr Matthew Bird, The University of Melbourne
Mr Justin Chen, MIMR-PHI Institute of Medical Research, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Monash University
Mr David Collins, Monash University
Ms Lori Ferrins, Monash University
Ms Melanie Finch, Monash University
Dr Nishar Hameed, Deakin University
Mr. Jared Horvath, University of Melbourne
Dr Katherine Locock, CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering Division
Miss Linden Servinis, Deakin University
Dr Kartik Venkatraman, East Gippsland Shire Council

WA Finalists

Ms Jenny Fairthorne, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and the University of Western Australia
Dr Luke Hopper, University of Notre Dame Australia/Edith Cowan University
Dr Therese O’Sullivan, Edith Cowan University
Mr Francis Torres, University of Western Australia
Mr Mark Zammit, Curtin University
Dr Prue Cormie, Edith Cowan University
Dr James Tweedley, Murdoch University
Ms Aja Ellis, Curtin University

Australia wastes 7.3 million tonnes of food a year, with Australian households responsible for dumping more than half of that: about 4.1 million tonnes or around 9kg of food from every home, every week.

But for the first time, we know exactly what we waste, how it is wasted, and where it goes.

Researchers from the University of South Australia have traced the cycle of food waste in a three-year study looking at the economic, environmental and psychological modelling of food waste.

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MVI_0587 001

A Pacific Ocean coral island, populated around 40 years ago, reveals how human settlement can quickly degrade water quality and affect the health of coral reefs, Sydney scientists say.

Jessica Carilli, of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, and Sheila Walsh, of the Nature Conservancy, used Kirimati Island to examine the shells made by an organism that thrives in high-nutrient conditions, which is considered detrimental to coral.

[click to continue…]

curiosity_large_verge_medium_landscapeEvidence of life on Mars may have drawn one step closer after geological scientists discovered how water and nutrients could be found on the red planet.

Siobhan Wilson, of Monash University, has collaborated with America’s Indiana University to find that water-bearing crystals on the planet’s surface can produce water and help release nutrients, supporting the possibility that minerals could sustain life beyond Earth.

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cryptosporidiosis-cryptosporidium-hominisA CSIRO scientist has developed a fast, reliable and cheap test for detecting dangerous parasites in swimming pools and water supplies

Dr David Beale from Victoria has developed a test that detects the by-products of Cryptosporidium, which allows the rapid identification of the parasite and a quicker response to ensuring water quality in public pools and water utilities.

“The simplicity of my test means pools and water supplies can be tested proactively instead of reacting to an outbreak,” says David.  “Because the test is cheap, they can test water supplies more frequently and more widely, ensuring safer water for families.”

The research, published in Environment Pollution, identified Cryptosporidium by its unique chemical fingerprint. The developed test still requires water samples to be sent to a laboratory for analysis; however, David has plans for a simplified version.

“We want to use this technology to develop a simple test, similar to those available for chlorine and pH, so that mum and dad at home can test their own pool water for this nasty bug and protect their families,” he says.

Cryptosporidium is found in water contaminated with faeces and is resistant to current disinfectant treatments. Thousands of people are infected with the parasite each year, and water utilities and pool operators are hampered in issuing public warnings until an outbreak has occurred.

Victoria State Finalist: David Beale, CSIRO

air_on_boardAirlines and their passengers may both breathe a little easier thanks to a Sydney scientist’s discovery of how to increase cabin airflow without increasing cost.

Chaofan Wu, a PhD student at the University of NSW, has developed a ventilation system that improves airflow in airplane cabins by 10 per cent without consuming more fuel and creating a larger carbon footprint.

“We often hear people complaining about the ventilation during the flight; however, ventilation in the air is extremely expensive because the fresh air is taken from the engine and consumes the airplane’s thrust,” says Chaofan.

“The results of our ventilation system are encouraging as it shows the promise to provide passengers fresher air with no extra cost of engine thrust, which means fuels,” he says.

During his research, Chaofan discovered that fresh air travelled along the ceiling and the side of the cabin before coming to the passengers, in traditional airflow delivery systems.

“If the ventilation air could be smarter and go straight to the passengers, the air freshness would be greatly enhanced,” he says.

With the help of colleagues, he developed airflow small devices that could be attached to the inlets on a plane’s ventilation system, creating a more direct trajectory of fresh air to passengers.

Chaofan says his system is compact, inexpensive to build and could be easily integrated with an existing plane ventilation system.

NSW State Finalist: Chaofan Wu, University of New South Wales