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Blog Biology 29 November 2017
A single neuron inside a rat's brain -- one of the images in contention in QBI people's choice award for photography.
A single neuron inside a rat's brain -- one of the images in contention in QBI people's choice award for photography.
QBI

Science and art collide to produce a stunning showcase of images, which are the final entries in this year’s Art in Neuroscience contest, organised by the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

In its tenth year, this unique competition highlights pictures taken by students, researchers and technical staff from the Institute’s neuroscience laboratories. In the past, the images have gone on to grace the covers of leading science journals such as Nature.

The contest will afford you a snapshot, both literal and metaphorical, into the work that goes on at QBI, which is based at the University of Queensland. The 50 entries were narrowed down to just 10 by judges from the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and the university’s own art museum.

The images vary in their versatility and impact. A photograph of the tau protein, which does such ugly things to the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, looks paradoxically beautiful. A singular neuron looks like an exotic creature from the depths of the ocean.

So, have your say in the QBI people’s choice competition, which is on now. You stand a chance to win your favourite print.

If that's piqued your interest and you want to marvel at more images, click here.

The next issue of Cosmos magazine is dedicated to exploring the intersection between art and science, and features interviews with many leading practitioners in both fields. In stores in January, subscribe today or request a pre-order here.

Blog Physics 29 November 2017
ANSTO’s Andrew Peele presents Leonie van ‘t Hag with the Australian Synchrotron Stephen Wilkins Medal for 2017.
ANSTO’s Andrew Peele presents Leonie van ‘t Hag with the Australian Synchrotron Stephen Wilkins Medal for 2017.
ANSTO

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has named Leonie van ‘t Hag as the winner of the Australian Synchrotron Stephen Wilkins Medal for 2017. The honour is bestowed upon the best and brightest PhD graduate studying at an Australian or a New Zealand University who has produced an outstanding thesis in the past two years.

The work must be carried out at one of ANSTO’s various facilities. These include the Australian Synchrotron, Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering and the National Deuteration Facility.

These state-of-the-art facilities are where van ‘t Hag carried out her PhD research, greatly improving the tricky techniques involved in crystallising proteins in order to demystify their structure. Her work will provide more information about membrane protein structure at the atomic and molecular levels, using X-ray crystallography. This has important implications and applications for drug design.

In winning this medal, van t'Hag joins the ranks of Stephen Dubsky, who invented the world’s first 4D lung X-ray machine. The medal itself is named after the renowned Australian physicist Stephen Wilkins, who developed new X-ray methods and instruments.

Blog Climate 28 November 2017
The Australian climate will be front and centre at the conference.
The Australian climate will be front and centre at the conference.
Fabien Astre / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) is joining forces with Engineers Australia to bring you the premier climate science forum of Australia for 2018. This gathering will see experts congregate at the Crown Conference Centre in Melbourne to discuss innovative and practical ways in which we can adapt current policies and practices to tackle one of the biggest problems facing our species today.

The NCCARF, based at Griffith University in Queensland, works with government, NGOs and the private sector to deliver sustainable and resilient solutions to problems such as rising seas levels. So, you can be guaranteed a great line-up at this conference, including keynote addresses by leaders from our very own Australian National University, and the universities of Oxford and Arizona. There will also be networking opportunities for early career professionals and workshops to widen your horizons.

So if you are a professional in this field, and you want to present a full paper, make sure your abstract is in by December 11. If you wish to only submit an abstract, have that in by the February 2. Or if you are just a caring earthling and wish to attend, registrations are now open on the conference website.

Blog Society 21 November 2017
Stuart McMillan

Join cartoonist Stuart McMillan at Australian National University on November 27 to discuss the role of cartoons in the climate change debate.

A crowd-funded Canberra based cartoonist, McMillan will lead a discussion on how real life events can form the basis on non-fiction comics. He will help us find analogies to talk about real climate issues without actually mentioning the subject - the tricky art of cartooning - and ponder other approaches that can be used to communicate about climate change without challenging people’s underlying values.

Research shows that directly confronting people’s beliefs actually has a tendency to reinforce them. Stuart’s work transcends the facts and encourages readers to think about the relevance of historical events in a less direct way.

Climate Café: Can cartoons transform our attitudes to climate change? will be held at ANU on November 27 at 12:15pm. More details about the event and free tickets are available online. Don't miss it.

Blog Society 20 November 2017
Image Source / Getty Images

The world’s first US-Australia biofuel flight has been announced, and will take place early next year with Australian researchers helping to provide the fuel.

The plane will be powered by Brassica carinata, an industrial type of mustard seed that are being trialled at the University of Queensland’s Gatton campus.

UQ faculty of science researcher Dr van Herwaarden has led the seed crop trials in collaboration with Agrisoma BioSciences, a Canadian agricultural technology company.

Several trials in Queensland and South Australia have demonstrated that carinata can be grown successfully in Australia. The seeds produce high quality oil that are ideal for aviation biofuel.

The crop seems almost too good to be true - it’s water efficient and requires no specialised production or processing techniques. In addition, the crushed seeds can provide a high quality, high protein meal for Australia livestock.

The crops are even capable of biofumigation which can improve soil quality and increase the yield of subsequent crops, making it a great investment for farmers.

The potential commercial use of carinata based fuel in the future holds the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the aviation industry.

Qantas and Agrisoma, hope to continue working with Australian farmers after the first test flight to grow Australia’s first commercial aviation biofuel seed crop in the future.


Blog Society 14 November 2017
Flashpop / Getty images

You’re invited to celebrate and learn from influential women in science at The Influencers - Women in STEMM event this Thursday November 16.

The event will feature panel discussions with a diverse group of female scientists, researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs who will share their stories, challenges they’ve faced and the opportunities available to women working in science today.

The Influencers is also an opportunity to hear about Homeward Bound, a 12 month global leadership program that aims to improve the visibility and capabilities of women in STEMM. All proceeds from the night will go toward a 22-day all female expedition to Antarctica in February 2018 - the culmination of the Homeward Bound program.

Guest speakers on the panel include Nicole Fetchet, a Homeward Bound participant, industrial chemist and Science Communicator with the Question Smart Skills Initiative; Michelle Gallagher, a veteran of the Australian life sciences and health sector; and Dr Clare Fedele, a senior postdoctoral researcher at Peter Mac.

The event will be held at One Roof Co-Working in Melbourne on November 16, 6 - 8:30pm. Purchase your ticket now to support these women and be inspired by their stories.


Blog Society 13 November 2017
A Javan gliding tree frog photographed in Australia
kuritafsheen / Getty Images

The Australian Museum launched FrogID last week, a new online platform that employs the help of citizen scientists to save Australia’s frogs - one of the most threatened groups of animals on earth.

As part of their scientific rescue mission, the Australian Museum is asking anyone and everyone to get involved by recording and uploading frog calls to the FrogID smartphone application.

It is hoped that the data collected will help researchers map frog species across Australia and discover the areas where frogs are most at risk of habitat loss, disease and climate change.

To get involved, visit the FrogID website and download the app. You can also connect with the mission on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Blog Society 10 November 2017


Let’s Torque, Melbourne’s premier STEM public speaking competition, has been rounded up for another year, with the grand champion having been announced last month.

The unique public speaking program was launched at Monash University to encourage science students to learn how to talk science and spread STEM ideas in an engaging and effective way.

Today, Let’s Torque sees finalists present a 5 minute talk on a STEM concept and explain how it could benefit Australia in an economic, environmental or social way.

Our very own Elizabeth Finkel, editor-in-chief of Cosmos, attended the final round at The Royal Society of Victoria to judge and deliver the keynote speech.

First place was taken out by Fergus McLaren, a Bachelor of Science Advanced student at Monash University. You can watch his fantastic presentation on plastic, consumerism and consumption above.

The runner up was named Rannee Li, a Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences student also from Monash University.

Both McLaren and Li took home a 2-year subscription to Cosmos magazine to congratulate them for this amazing achievement.

You can watch more of the 2017 final presentations on the Let’s Torque YouTube channel, or connect on their Facebook page.

Blog Society 08 November 2017

Perimeter Institute is hosting a live webcast this Thursday November 9 with Pauline Gagnon, retired scientist and author who will explore the incredible, improbable and seemingly impractical scientific discoveries that have changed the world.

Previously a Senior Research Scientist at Indiana University and working at CERN, Gagnon says her mind has always pondered the big questions of the universe. Intrigued with what the universe was really made of, she studied particle physics and was part of the largest experiment ever built - CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

Today, retired from active research, Pauline Gagnon is passionate about feeding the curiosity of those of all ages, and is well versed in explaining the complex science of particle physics in engaging and comprehensible ways.

In this upcoming Public Lecture presented by the Perimeter Institute, Gagnon will explain some of humanity’s greatest experiments, and why this research - albeit seemingly impractical in terms of everyday usefulness - is vital to the future of our world.

Tickets for seats in the theatre are sold out, but you can tune in here on Thursday November 9 at 11am AEDT, or Wednesday November 8 at 7pm ET to watch the live webcast of the event.

Blog Society 06 November 2017
The Perimeter Institute

In an industry often over-represented by men, the Perimeter Institute is doing its part to shed light on historical women in physics who have changed science with a collection of free print-at-home posters.

They may not be common household names, but we have these women to thank for significant scientific advancements from the creation of the first computer algorithm and stellar classification systems to the discovery of new elements, forces and building blocks of nature. And they did it all in the face of systematic and cultural barriers and gender discrimination that still exists today.

Ada Lovelace became known as the first computer programmer
The Perimeter Institute

The “Forces of Nature” poster series was designed to give these historical female figures the recognition they deserve and celebrate their contribution to science as we continue efforts to break down barriers for present and future female scientists.

The series features eye catching portraits of a number of women to be downloaded, printed and shared in classrooms, offices, homes, physics departments and more.

Those pictured include Marie Skłodowska Curie, winner of two Nobel prizes and one of the key founders of radioactivity theory; Chien-Shiung Wu, known as “The First Lady of Physics”; and Ada Lovelace who fought against discrimination to earn a PhD and share crucial discoveries in symmetry and conservation.

Find out more about their stories and download the posters on the Perimeter Institute website.