A new $100 million International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) was launched last month to spearhead national efforts to attract the world’s largest science project to Western Australia.
ICRAR will coordinate WA's radio astronomy research efforts, and will play a pivotal role in Australia's bid to secure the $2.5 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.
At its official opening in early September, WA Premier Colin Barnett emphasised the significance of the centre in attracting the SKA project. He said it “… is absolutely critical for our bid to be the site for the SKA, one of the world’s greatest scientific endeavours, ranking up there with putting a man on the moon and the cyclotron project”.
These are exciting days for those of us in science teaching and research – even if the economic news is less than rosy. For instance, this year has seen record enrolments in science at UWA, as well as the launch of several major science projects throughout the State. President Obama’s inaugural speech captured this mood well, when he noted that science is going places: “We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise healthcare's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.”
They might look like random poles in a gallery, but an art and science collaboration between UWA’s SymbioticA and a US neuro-engineering laboratory has drawn praise from one of the world’s foremost forums for digital media.
The ‘Silent Barrage’ installation has won an honorary mention for hybrid and transdisciplinary projects in Prix Ars Electronica (PAE).
Ancient microscopic organisms could become the tools of the future when it comes to advancing material science in areas such as solar cell technology.
Furthermore, a 2008 Honours student has published his proof of the concept in the renowned Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).
Jeremiah Toster, who was in the first cohort of Bachelor of Science students to study nanotechnology, has successfully manipulated the silica shells of diatoms so they can be used as platforms for developing useful materials in areas of health, energy and the environment.
People who say that mosquitoes are inexplicably attracted to them might be interested in physicist Stephan Karl’s work.
The PhD candidate took out an award sponsored by Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall’s biotechnology company Ondek Pty Ltd at the recent Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) Symposium. The award was given for Stephan’s work on the magnetic properties of malaria-infected cells and how to exploit them for diagnosis and treatment.
In early October, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Robson, officially launched the presence of UWA in the acclaimed interactive 3D virtual world of Second Life.
The dream to recreate the beautiful, picturesque grounds of the University of Western Australia in virtual 3-Dimensional glory began in May 2007 and resulted in creation of the UWA Virtual Universe & UWA’s triumph in the Google Earth ‘Build your Campus in 3D’ competition. This dream moves into a new dimension, as creators of the Virtual Universe, Dr Chris Thorne (School of Physics Honorary Research Associate) and Jay Jay Jegathesan (School Manager), have teamed up with 3D visualisation guru, Paul Bourke, Senior Research Fellow with UWA’s Western Australian Supercomputer Program (WASP) to bring UWA into Second Life, a virtual world accessible via the Internet which enables its users to interact with others through avatars and they are able to socialize and participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services or travel throughout the virtual world.
Almost a hundred high school science teachers went back to university in June, attending professional development workshops at UWA with the SPICE program – an experience they described as “inspiring, enlightening, stimulating and engaging”.
The teachers heard from leading UWA research scientists and participated in hands-on laboratory sessions as part of the annual SPICE Science Days.
As part of the activities, the science teachers learned how to use automatic pipettes, were covered in clay as part of a facial reconstruction workshop, tried new astronomy software, explored Perth Zoo, and studied soil fauna.
Dr Mark Wood’s hands-on puzzles have been the biggest sellers in a couple of Australia’s leading department store toy sections for the past five years and have won numerous awards here, in the US and the UK.
However, they are more than just a stimulating way to spend a Sunday afternoon; they’re helping create new research opportunities.
Dr Wood, who has a background in psychology and education, creates the puzzles with his research partner Frank Dyksterhuis, a mathematician and physicist.
As well as entertaining people, they can also open children’s and adults’ minds to logical and deductive thinking, enhance problem-solving strategies and encourage creativity.
UWA alumni also had the opportunity to hear from some of the faculty’s Rising Stars at a University Club lunch in February. The researchers featured included West Australian Young Scientist of the Year for 2008, Ben Corry; and Science Student of the Year, Jacinta Delhaize.
Ben and Jacinta are shining examples of the impact scholarships and fellowships can make on shaping an individual’s career and the resulting benefits that flow on to the community.
The event was hailed as a resounding success and the lively exchange of ideas and information generated demonstrates how the passion of science transcends generations.
The Science Futures Foundation is continuing to host public and industry-based events to showcase the groundbreaking research and world-class scientists housed within UWA’s schools and centres.
The foundation followed up the highly successful tours of the School of Sports Science, Exercise and Health; and the School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences with a visit to the School of Anatomy and Human Biology.
Again, the univeristy’s “Rising Stars” took centre stage. Dr Thea Shavlakadze outlined her work in the area of skeletal muscle. Dr Stuart Hodgetts discussed spinal cord injury. Mr Oron Catts introduced guests to SymbioticA, the award-winning Centre of Excellence combining art and science. Dr Jennifer Walsh gave an insight into one of the newest areas of research – sleep science.