Tag Archives: Australian Museum

eureka prize 2016

Eureka Prize Winners of 2016

Featured image above: Winners of the 2016 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research, Melissa Little and Minoru Takasato from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Credit: Australian Museum

Regenerating kidneys, smart plastics, artificial memory cells and a citizen science network that tracks falling meteors. These and many other pioneering scientific endeavours have been recognised in the 2016 annual Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, awarded at a gala dinner in Sydney.

Having trouble with a kidney? It may not be long before you can simply grow a new one. This is the ultimate ambition behind the research of the 2016 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research winners, which was awarded to Melissa Little and Minoru Takasato from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

They have developed a method of growing kidney tissue from stem cells, and their kidney “organoids” develop all the different types of cells that are needed for kidney function. The kidney tissue is currently used in the lab to model kidney disease and to test new drugs, but one day the technique could be developed to regrow replacement kidneys for transplant.

For his work using the latest in 3D printing and materials technology develop a world centre for electromaterials science, Gordon Wallace, from the University of Wollongong, received the 2016 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science.

Some of the materials he and his team are developing include structures that are biocompatible, meaning they can be used inside the body without causing an adverse reaction. These structures can be used to promote muscle and nerve cell growth. Other cells include artificial muscles using carbon nanotubes.

The CSIRO’s Lisa Harvey-Smith has been one of the most vocal and energetic proponents of science in the media and the general public, especially amongst Indigenous communities. It is for her work as the face of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) and communicating astronomy to the public that Harvey-Smith was awarded the 2016 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science.

Have you ever seen a meteor streak across the sky and wondered where it landed? Phil Bland, from Curtin University, certainly hopes you have. He and his team set up the Desert Fireball Network, which allows members of the public to track meteors as they fall, helping them to identify where they land, and where they came from.

For this, Bland and his team were awarded the 2016 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

But not all the awards went to seasoned researchers. Some were reserved for the next generation of scientific pioneers.

Hayden Ingle, a Grade 6 student from Banksmeadow Primary School in Botany, received the 2016 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for Primary Schools for his video production, The Bluebottle and the Glaucus. It tells the remarkable tale of a little known sea predator, the tiny sea lizard, or glacus atlantica, and its fascinating relationship with the bluebottle.

Speaking of predators, a video by Claire Galvin and Anna Hardy, Year 10 students at St Monica’s College, Cairns, won the 2016 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for Secondary Schools for exploring the eating habits of the Barn Owl.

They examined “owl pellets”, which contain the indigestible components of the owl’s last meal, and used them to identify its prey.

Other winners of the 2016 Eureka Prize

Ewa Goldys from Macquarie University and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics and Martin Gosnell from Quantitative Pty Ltd have been awarded the ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology for their development of hyperspectral imaging technology, which enables the colour of cells and tissues to be used as a non-invasive medical diagnostic tool.

For his discovery and development of novel treatments for serious brain disorders, Michael Bowen, from the University of Sydney, is the winner of the Macquarie University Eureka prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher. His research has established oxytocin and novel molecules that target the brain’s oxytocin system as prime candidates to fill the void left by the lack of effective treatments for alcohol-use disorders and social disorders.

For developing a new generation of armoured vehicles to keep Australian soldiers safe in war zones, Thales Australia and Mark Brennan have won the 2016 Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

Davidson Patricia Davidson is Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Maryland, and has mentored more than 35 doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, working tirelessly and with passion to build the capacity of early career researchers, an achievement that has won her the 2016 University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers.

For taking basic Australian research discoveries and developing them into a new cancer therapy that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in April this year, David Huang and his team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has win the 2016 Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research. The drug, venetoclax, was approved for a high-risk sub-group of patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and is now marketed in the US.

For creating a three part documentary that portrayed both the good and the evil of uranium in a series seen around the world, Twisting the Dragon’s Tail, Sonya Pemberton, Wain Fimeri and Derek Muller, won the 2016 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Science Journalism.

Sharath Sriram, Deputy Director of the A$30 million Micro Nano Research Facility at RMIT University, has won the 2016 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science for his extraordinary career – during which he and his team have developed the world’s first artificial memory cell that mimics the way the brain stores long term memory.

For bringing together a team with skills ranging from mathematical modelling to cell biology and biochemistry, Leann Tilley and her team from the University of Melbourne have won the 2016 Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Disease Research. They have uncovered an important life saving mechanism by which the malaria parasite has developed resistance to what has been previously a widely used and successful malarial treatment.

For recruiting an international team of scientists to measure trace elements in the oceans from 3.5 billion years ago to the present day to understand the events that led to the evolution of life and extinction of life in the oceans, Ross Large from the University of Tasmania and researchers from as far as Russia and the US have won the 2016 Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Research.

For conducting the world’s first survey of plastic pollutants which has given us a confronting snapshot of the impacts on marine wildlife of the 8.4 million tones of plastic that enters the oceans each year, Denise Hardesty, Chris Wilcox, Tonya Van Der Velde, TJ Lawson, Matt Landell and David Milton from CSIRO in Tasmania and Queensland have won the 2016 NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.

The Functional Annotation of the Mammalian Genome (FANTOM5) project produced a map that is being used to interpret genetic diseases and to engineer new cells for therapeutic use. The team led by Alistair Forrest from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research has won the 2016 Scopus Eureka Excellence in International Scientific Collaboration Prize.

– Tim Dean

This article on the Eureka Prize 2016 winners was first published by The Conversation on 31 August 2016. Read the original article here.

David Attenborough

Virtual diving with David Attenborough

Award-winning naturalist David Attenborough has brought some of the world’s most remote environments into our living rooms with documentaries like Planet Earth and Life.

But now you can be side-by-side with Attenborough as you are immersed in a prehistoric ocean and the Great Barrier Reef in two virtual reality films screening at the Australian Museum.

The virtual reality experiences were created by innovative UK-based studio Alchemy VR and are presented at the museum in partnership with Samsung.

In First Life, viewers travel back 540 million years and come face-to-face with ancient sea creatures such as giant shrimp-like predator Anomalocaris and the spine-covered Hallucigenia. While Attenborough guides you through the seamlessly animated ocean, you can explore all 360 degrees of the visuals.

But in Great Barrier Reef Dive things get even more real. Filmed at the museum’s own Lizard Island Research Station as part of David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef  TV series, viewers explore the world’s largest reef system in a bubble-like submarine. Turn to your right, and David is seated next to you gazing at the multitudes of fish, sharks and coral surrounding the submarine. The real-world footage also gives viewers a glimpse at the devastating effects of coral bleaching.

While virtual reality is still seen as a novelty by many, Kim McKay, CEO of the Australian Museum, says the technology is a game-changer for engaging the public in museum experiences.

“Virtual reality is a powerful new way of transporting us to the most extraordinary places on our planet, and David Attenborough is the perfect guide,” says Kim McKay, CEO of the Australian Museum. “It revolutionises the way people experience museums.”

The virtual reality films are also setting a new benchmark for educating viewers about the natural world in a compelling way.

“VR is opening up new frontiers for how Australians create, consume and interact with content,” says Phillip Newton, Corporate Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Samsung Electronics. “What better way to be fully immersed in our innovative technology than through these experiences?”

The two films are showing at the Australian Museum until 9th October 2016.

– Gemma Conroy

Featured image credit: Alchemy

science in the spotlight

Science in the spotlight

There has never been a better time to work in science communication, but as the Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum – Australia’s first museum and second oldest science institution – I may be a little biased.

The popularity of science is growing thanks to the rise of social media. Translating this increased street credibility into tangible, sustainable benefits for both the Australian Museum and the scientists we employ is high on my agenda – because we can’t ask others to innovate if we aren’t innovating ourselves.

Most people only see the public facing side of the Australian Museum, for example the exhibitions and collections that are open for public viewing, and don’t know about the tremendous scientific research undertaken by the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI). The AMRI conducts research into pests and invasive species, which provides vital information and solutions to common problems that impact on our agricultural industries. It is also home to one of the most advanced wildlife genomic laboratories in Australia, and its experts work with customs and quarantine departments on cases involving illegally imported and exported species.

Despite the manifold practical applications of the research we conduct, many people still don’t realise that museums are deeply engaged in science and science education. Naturally, some scientists are reluctant to champion and promote the vital work that they do.

As the first person from a marketing and communications background to take the reins at the museum, I am firmly focused on communicating the work of the AMRI and the public programs at the Australian Museum. It’s my job to help identify the stories that put science in the spotlight, to educate the public on the value of science.

Forming strong relationships with the media and collaborating with the corporate world – to not only generate revenue but also to put STEM on the agenda beyond the usual circles – is a smart strategy.

The AMRI works with the airline industry on tackling problematic bird strikes by analysing tissue samples of bird remains to identify the species and determine whether the flock can be safely relocated. Recently, the Australian Museum Lizard Island Research Station, located 270 km north of Cairns, assisted climate scientists to identify the worst coral bleaching event ever reported on the Great Barrier Reef.

In the past, scientific institutions may have been reticent to form mutually-beneficial partnerships with industry, but I believe that sponsorship deals and philanthropy are key to the long-term relevance and viability of scientific organisations.

In many ways, the collection at the Australian Museum reflects the work and research we undertake. We have more than 18 million specimens and a cultural collection of more than one million objects from Australian Indigenous cultures, the Pacific Islands and South-East Asia. We also have the largest Egyptian collection in Australia.

But today, it isn’t enough to let your work do the talking. To ensure innovative STEM solutions spark ideas in the wider community and create a snowball effect, it takes the active communication of scientific research and the benefits it can provide – both from a sustainability and economic perspective. The STEM community must continue to share news of its work, to inspire and foster innovation in future generations.

Kim McKay AO

Executive Director & CEO, Australian Museum

Read next: Robert Hillard, Managing Partner of Deloitte Consulting, on Disruptive STEM.

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