Predicting change, brains, trains and mental health

State Awards

“Trait-based ecology” enables Macquarie University’s Mark Westoby to explain patterns of species occurrence and abundance and to understand the impacts of climate change and changing patterns of land use. He received the $55,000 NSW Scientist of the Year.

Nanocapsules for drugs delivery: Frank Caruso is making miniature capsules that could better deliver drugs for cancer, AIDS and cardiovascular diseases. He won one of the 2014 Victoria Prizes for Science & Innovation worth $50,000.

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Using Japanese to inspire students

Many teachers struggle to make science fun for their students. For a Canberra teacher, this means creating an environment where every student can see the impact of science in daily life. And an Adelaide teacher is keeping kids engaged by teaching science in Japanese.

Brian Schiller says “students can play and create, and relate their learning to the world around them”. Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear
Brian Schiller says “students can play and create, and relate their learning to the world around them”. Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear

Geoff McNamara from Melrose High School in Canberra has created a hothouse of science learning—complete with a seismometer, GPS antenna and weather station, each transmitting real-time data straight into the classroom.

“We all need science literacy to navigate the complexity of the modern world,” says Geoff. So he reaches out to each student’s interests— from genetics to driving to cosmology— to demonstrate the inevitable relevance of science.

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A new job for glass fibres

While researching the performance of the optical fibres that are the backbone of telecommunications and the internet, Tanya Monro realised that they could do much more.

Tanya Monro. Credit: Jennie Groom

She’s invented a new class of hollow or holey fibres using soft glass, which have thousands of applications as sensors: detecting metal fatigue in aircraft wings and other structures; monitoring contamination in water supplies; and a smart bung that monitors wine development while it’s still in the barrel.

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Citizen science: eyes in the skies and on the seas

Australian citizen scientists are helping to catch shooting stars in the vast skies of outback Australia and to track the impact of climate change on species in our warming oceans.

Kevin Wilson recorded a Red Emperor 300 km further south than previously recorded. Credit: Kevin Wilson

Curtin University’s Fireballs in the Sky project invites people to use a smartphone app to record and submit the time, location, trajectory and appearance of meteors they spot.

By triangulating these reports with observations from an array of cameras in remote Western and South Australia, scientists can try to determine where the meteorite may have come from and where it landed.

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Glucosamine study raises fertility concerns

Research on the effects of the popular joint supplement glucosamine has raised fears for women’s fertility, and a knee-jerk reaction from the vitamin industry, as Adelaide scientists reveal its threat to conception.

Photo: Green staining in a glucosamine-treated egg (bottom) shows increased activity in the glucose-sensing pathway compared with a control (top). Credit: Robinson Research Institute

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