2019 events - The Royal Society of NSW - Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

152nd AGM, 1272nd OGM and retiring president’s address

Brynn Hibbert

   “Measuring what we can:
   or how to lose weight on May 20th”

   Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert
   School of Analytical Chemistry
   UNSW

Wednesday 3 April 2019
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

Galileo said “Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so”, which is a statement of how important measurement is, not just to science, but living as a human.  I have spent much of my career measuring things in chemistry, and have become fascinated by why, what and how we measure.  Whether it was the length of a Pharoh’s forearm in 3000 BCE, or a ten-millionth of half a meridian in 1795, we have attempted to understand our world by first measuring it: its extent (length, area and volume), how much of it there is (mass, amount of substance), and duration (time).  Modern phenomena of electricity, forms of energy, temperature and the brightness of light, have all been wrestled into submission by the metrologists.
I raise this now, because on 20 May 2019, World Metrology Day, we will witness a new turn of the metrological wheel, as the dear old kilogramme in Paris is retired in favour of a quantum mechanical definition in which the numerical value of the Planck constant is fixed.  There will be other changes and in my talk I shall tell you whether we will all weigh any different at 00:01 on 20 May than we did at 23:59 on 19 May.

Brynn Hibbert occupied the Chair of Analytical Chemistry at the University of New South Wales since arriving from England in 1987 until his retirement in 2013.  His research interests are in metrology and statistics in chemistry, ionic liquids and electroanalytical chemistry, but he also does a sideline in expert opinion, scientific fraud and presenting science to the public.  Long a member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, he has helped name elements, revise the SI units and write the terminology of chemistry.  More recently he has become a go-to expert witness in matters of drugs (of abuse, and sports).  He is the immediate past President of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2018.

Women and science: lecture 1

RSNSW and SMSA crests

The Women and Science lecture series is co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts. It examines the huge changes in the roles women play in science, and the view science has of women. Prohibited for much of history from having a serious interest in such a ‘masculine’ domain, women now abound in science, mathematics and engineering. How did that come to be? How did interaction with the visual and literary arts so often assist women in their scientific endeavours? What fascinating discoveries have women made that have changed our world and our understanding of it?

Mary Shelley
   “Mary Shelley, scientist,
    and Frankenstein”

    Suzanne Burdon

Mary Shelley, by Reginald Easton, and a page of the Frankenstein ms. Both from Bodleian Library, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday 21 March 2019
Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

Suzanne Burdon discussed the remarkable achievements of Mary Shelley, who, as a feisty 18-year-old, read every important scientific treatise and created Frankenstein and his monster in a moral tale that still highlights the exact scientific ethical dilemmas we face today (for example, the cloning of real human babies).

Women and Science: lecture 2

This is the second in a series of eight lectures about Women and Science presented jointly by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts. The series examines the huge changes we have seen in the roles women have played in science, and the view science has held of women.

Ada Lovelace   “Ada Lovelace, without whom
   we might not have computers”

   Susannah Fullerton OAM FRSN

Date and time: Thursday 2 May 2019, 6 to 7.30pm
Venue: Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney
Cost: $15 for members of RSNSW and SMSA, $20 for others
Registration: here 
Enquiries: 9262 7300

The only child of the poet Lord Byron and his wife Annabella who adored mathematics, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, worked with Charles Babbage on his ‘analytical engine’. It was Ada who first recognised the future possibilities of the machine, and who made notes which can be considered the first computer programme. Babbage focussed on what his machine could do with numbers, but Ada saw its potential beyond numbers and anticipated the implications of the computer a hundred years before anyone else. Her view was that if you had a machine that manipulated numbers, then the numbers could represent other things — letters, music, symbols — and so could move beyond calculation to computation. Susannah Fullerton presents an illustrated lecture on the short life and far-reaching achievements of this remarkable woman.

Susannah Fullerton is Sydney’s best-known literary lecturer, giving talks on famous authors, their lives and works. She has spoken at literary conferences around the world, and is regularly sought as an entertaining and informative speaker at fund-raising events, conference dinners, schools, libraries, universities, bookshops and clubs. She is a registered speaker for ADFAS (The Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) and travels Australia giving presentations to the groups. She is interviewed regularly on ABC radio and has often been interviewed for TV. She presents regular series at the Art Gallery of NSW and the State Library of New South Wales.

See the calendar of 2019 events for details of further talks in this series.

 

Image credits: Foreground: detail of a watercolour portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace) possibly by A E Chalon (1780-1860), from the collection of the Science Museum, used under Creative Commons licence. Background: diagram of an algorithm for the Analytical Engine by Ada Lovelace, from ‘Sketch of The Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage’ by Luigi Menabrea with notes by Ada Lovelace, 1842, Wikimedia Commons.

Annual Dinner 2019 and Distinguished Fellow’s Lecture

Guest of Honour:  The Honourable Margaret Beazley, AO QC
                               Governor of New South Wales

Michelle Simmons  Distinguished Fellow’s Lecture:
  “The new field of atomic electronics”

  Michelle Simmons FRS FAA FTSE DistFRSN
  Australian of the Year 2018
  ARC Laureate Professor 
  Scientia Professor of Physics, UNSW

Award of Distinguished Fellowship:
   Sir Anthony Mason AC KBE CBE FRSN QC

Award of Medals:

James Cook Medal:  
   Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM FRSN, University of Sydney
Edgeworth David Medal: 
   A/Professor Elizabeth J. New FRSN, University of Sydney
Clarke Medal (Zoology):  
   Professor Emma Johnston AO FRSN, UNSW
   
History & Philosophy of Science Medal: 
   Professor Paul Griffiths FRSN, University of Sydney
  
Poggendorff Lecture: 
   Professor Robert F. Park FRSN, University of Sydney

Date: Friday 10 May 2019, 6 pm (drinks & music from 6.30, seated by 7 pm)
Venue: Swissôtel – Ballroom, level 8, 68 Market Street, Sydney
Cost (including dinner and drinks): $135 per person
Dress: black tie
Open to Fellows, Members and friends of the RSNSW and their guests
Registration: here
Enquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 9431 8691
Note: places are limited

Final date for reservations is 2 May

At the Swissôtel a large function space allows us to collect before the dinner to catch up with friends and colleagues and to enjoy the music and drinks (starting 6.30 pm) before going in to be seated. Our three-course dinner will be complemented by drinks service continuing until 9.30 pm. Guests who would like to extend the conversation can slide over to the very inviting bar in the adjacent lobby when our dinner finishes at 10 pm.

Special Newcastle meeting

Mechanisms by which the Royal Society of NSW can collaborate with the University of Newcastle for the benefit of the Newcastle region

Thursday 7 March 2019, 4-6 pm
Hunter Medical Research Institute, New Lambton Heights

The purpose of the meeting was to explore possible collaboration between the Royal Society of NSW and the University of Newcastle in establishing a presence for the Society in Newcastle for the benefit of both organisations and for the Newcastle community as a whole.

The meeting was hosted by the University of Newcastle at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, with the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and several Pro Vice-Chancellors of the University present. It was followed by a dinner at the Newcastle Club at 40 Newcomen Street.

1271st OGM and open lecture

Belov 2019 1712 OGM
    “Using genomics to conserve
     Australia’s biodiversity”

    Katherine Belov
    School of Life and Environmental Sciences
    University of Sydney

There was also a 3-minute thesis (3MT) talk: “Pee-cycling: transforming our urine into valuable fertiliser” by Federico Volpin, University of Technology Sydney.

Wednesday 6 March 2019
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

In recent years innovations in genomic technologies and the drop in the cost of sequencing has made it feasible to apply conservation genomics techniques to conservation of threatened species. The speaker discussed how we have used genomics data to make informed management decisions for the conservation of two iconic Australian marsupials, the Tasmanian devil and the koala.

The Tasmanian devil, Australia’s largest remaining marsupial carnivore, faces extinction in the wild due to the emergence of a new infectious disease. Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is a contagious cancer that is spread as an allograft by biting. The tumour spreads due to low levels of genetic diversity in devil populations plus its capacity to evade the immune system. The disease continues to decimate Tasmanian devil populations, with over 85% of the species already lost. Interestingly, although predicted, extinction has not yet occurred. The speaker discussed the use of genomics and transcriptomics to help us to understand the disease, its evolutionary trajectory and the role of genomics in the quest to save the species from extinction in the wild.

The koala is an iconic Australian animal, famous for their ability to sleep up to 22 hours a day high in eucalyptus trees and subsist on a diet of toxic eucalyptus leaves. Joeys are born after a short pregnancy of only 35 days. Sadly the species is threatened due to heavy exploitation for their pelt, followed by habitat clearing and fragmentation of populations. They also have a chequered history of population management, with extensive translocations resulting in population bottlenecks in southern populations. Significant localised extinctions of koalas are occurring, particularly in South-East QLD and Northern NSW. Recent modelling has shown that the best way to stabilise heavily affected koala populations is to target disease. The speaker discussed the use of genomics data to help understand and manage koala populations through greater understanding of disease, immunity and koala biology, including immunological protection in the pouch and eucalyptus detoxification.

Beyond devil and koala, the speaker talked about the Earth Biogenome project, an ambitious project that aims to sequence the genomes of all eukaryotic life on earth and our role in sequencing the genomes of 50 of Australia’s most endangered species with the specific purpose of providing genetic management advice to conservation agencies.

Professor Kathy Belov is a Professor of Comparative Genomics in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney. Kathy’s research expertise is in the area of comparative genomics and immunogenetics of Australian wildlife, including Tasmanian devils and koalas, two iconic species that are threatened by disease processes. Her research team has participated in the koala, opossum, platypus and wallaby genome projects where they have gained insights into genes involved in immunity and defense, including platypus venom genes and novel antimicrobial peptides in the pouch. Kathy has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers, including papers in Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and PLoS Biology. She has received two Eureka awards, the Crozier medal and the Fenner medal from the Australian Academy of Science for her research. She is currently the immediate past president of the Genetics Society of Australasia and a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW. Kathy is also the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Global Engagement) at the University of Sydney. In this position she takes responsibility for managing the development and execution of the University’s global engagement strategy. Key priorities are the development of the capacity of academic and professional staff to support international student learning and international research collaborations, and to achieve educational excellence in the international arena. She also promotes the University’s position in the international academic and research community, and identifies and enables strategic opportunities for partnership and collaboration in research and education.

Speaking of music: lecture 1

RSNSW and SMSA crests

The Speaking of Music lecture series is co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts. Our speakers will examine music, its relation to the world and its profound power to affect us – sometimes in surprising ways.

dr wes   

    “Jazz and democracy”

   Dr. Wesley J. Watkins IV
   Jazz and Democracy Project

Tuesday 26 February 2019
Thomas Keneally Centre, Level 3, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts

Dr Watkins is founder of the Jazz and Democracy Project, a music integrated curriculum that utilizes jazz as a metaphor to bring American democracy to life, enrich the study and teaching of U.S. history, government, civics and culture, and inspire youth to become active, positive contributors to their communities.

“Dr. Wes,” as his students call him, first proposed such a curriculum as part of the Stanford University School of Education Undergraduate Honors Program. He conducted research for his undergraduate honors thesis at Oxford University where he engaged and learned from music educators at both local elementary schools and world-renowned secondary institutions like The Bedales School, Eaton College, and The Yehudi Menuhin School.

After earning his PhD from the International Centre for Research in Music Education at the University of Reading, England, Dr. Wes immediately applied his knowledge as an independent arts education consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area, working at the district, school, and classroom levels. He then spent three years working for education-reform non-profits where he facilitated professional development for teachers, instructional coaches and administrators.

Dr. Wes is an avid music lover—particularly jazz and Afro-Cuban jazz—who loves to witness artists standing emotionally naked, transmitting their emotions to the audience, and modeling the best of what improvised music has to offer: a lesson in unity. Now living in Sydney, Dr Wes is speculating on how these principles might apply to Australian democracy and Australian education.

Annual Meeting of the Four Societies 2019

Four societies crests

 

Helen Cook 4 Societies
   “Legal considerations pertaining to
    nuclear energy as an option for Australia”

   Helen Cook
   GNE Advisory

Monday 25 February 2019
Allens, Level 28, Deutsche Bank Place, 126 Phillip Street, Sydney

This presentation gave an overview of international approaches to the development of nuclear power programmes in emerging nuclear countries, and discussed legal considerations for Australia should Australia wish to develop a domestic nuclear power programme. The speaker drew on her experience advising on nuclear projects and transactions in the United Kingdom, the United States, Egypt, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, India, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, as well as her cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Helen Cook from GNE Advisory is an independent nuclear energy lawyer dedicated to all aspects of the civil nuclear sector. She is the author of the comprehensive legal text book, The Law of Nuclear Energy published by Sweet & Maxwell, (2nd edition, March 2018), recently reviewed in the International Energy Law Journal by Tim Stone CBE. She is the former chairperson of the Law Working Group of the World Nuclear Association. Helen obtained her law degree from the University of Sydney and commenced her career at Allens Arthur Robinson.

1270th OGM and open lecture

Royal Society of NSW Scholarship Award Winners for 2019

Fiona McDougall, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University
Evelyn Todd, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

There was also a 3-minute thesis (3MT) talk: “Finding the best-fitting jeans for railway foundations” by Mr Chuhao Liu, 2018 3MT winner, University of Wollongong.

Wednesday 6 February 2019
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

Royal Society of NSW Scholarships
The Royal Society of New South Wales Scholarships recognise outstanding achievements by individuals working towards a research degree in a science-related field within New South Wales or the Australian Capital Territory. Each year up to three scholarships of $500 plus and a complimentary year of membership of the Society are awarded. The award winners give talks about their research at the first OGM each year.

Fiona McDougallFiona McDougall

Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University

“Human-associated bacteria and antibiotic resistance in grey-headed flying foxes”

Over recent decades, the number of grey-headed flying foxes (also known as fruit bats) roosting in urban environments has increased dramatically. Each year, several thousand sick, injured and orphaned flying foxes enter wildlife rehabilitation facilities. In urban areas and rehabilitation facilities, flying foxes encounter human-associated bacteria which may be pathogenic. At present, the transmission of human-associated organisms between humans and flying foxes is poorly understood. Additionally, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are spreading from humans to wildlife; currently there is a paucity of surveillance data on the spread of antibiotic resistance into Australian wildlife, including flying foxes.
This research examining the spread of human-associated bacteria (escherichia coli and klebsiella pneumoniae) to flying foxes is providing insight into the unique diversity and ecology of these bacteria in the grey-headed flying fox (pteropus poliocephalus). Flying foxes have also acquired antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including multidrug-resistant escherichia coli, in both urban and rehabilitation settings. The prevalence of genetic determinants of antibiotic resistance is higher in flying foxes in rehabilitation facilities than in wild urban flying foxes. We are yet to understand the implications of these findings on the management and conservation of the endangered grey-headed flying fox.

Fiona McDougall obtained a Bachelor of Veterinary Science from the University of Sydney in 1998 and subsequently spent over ten years working as a veterinarian and conducting biomedical and wildlife research. In 2013 she obtained a Master of Veterinary Studies in conservation medicine from Murdoch University. She is currently in the third year of her PhD at Macquarie University. In 2017 she was awarded a Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment grant, and she is also a co-investigator on a Lake Macquarie Environmental Trust grant (2017).

Evelyn ToddEvelyn Todd

School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

“Using genetics to improve athletic performance in thoroughbred horses”

Thoroughbred horse racing holds both historical and economic significance in Australian society, dating back to the early colonial years of settlement. The thoroughbred racing and breeding industry is also a major contributor to the Australian economy due to the internationally recognised quality of the horses it produces.
The thoroughbred horse breed was founded in the 18th century, making it the oldest closed animal population in the world. Uniquely, all modern thoroughbred horses throughout the world trace their pedigree back to this time (an average of 24 generations). Although thoroughbreds are the product of many generations of inbreeding for the selection of racing performance, the population is still viable and thriving. Evelyn's research examines how these many generations of selective breeding has influenced the genetic characteristics of modern thoroughbred horses. These findings assist in understanding the effects of long-term selection on the health and viability of animal populations.

Evelyn Todd is a PhD student at University of Sydney, researching and writing a thesis titled “Inbreeding and performance genetics in horses”. She started her PhD candidature at the beginning of 2017, having completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in 2015. Her self-directed honours thesis focussed on the effects of inbreeding on racing performance in thoroughbred horses. After completing her undergraduate degree, she spent a year working in industry before returning to postgraduate study. Her PhD aims to understand genetic trends in horse populations, particularly focussing on thoroughbred racehorses.

Three-minute thesis (3MT) talk
The Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition brings together some of the best and brightest PhD students, who have just three minutes to explain what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why it is important. The competition cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills, and their capacity to communicate complex ideas to a non-specialist audience. Competitors are allowed one PowerPoint slide, but no other resources or props.

This month’s presentation, “Finding the best-fitting jeans for railway foundations”, was by Mr Chuhao Liu, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of Wollongong, winner of the University of Wollongong 2018 3MT competition.

Train is a very popular choice for travelling and freight transport in Australia. However, track foundation particles (ballast) are almost free to move laterally and subjected to significant breakage upon repeated train passage. To solve this problem, industry currently installs a plastic grid, named Geogrid, inside the railway foundations. But the best design of geogrid remains an open question. The research aims to find out the optimum design of geogrid, especially the size of the hole (aperture) on the grid, and develop a standard for rail manufacturing.

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