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Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

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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.

Speaking of music: jazz and democracy

RSNSW 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

Date and time: Tuesday 26 February 2019, 6pm – 7.30
Light refreshments will be served before the lecture

Venue: Thomas Keneally Centre, Level 3, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

Registration https://smsa.org.au/events/booking-form-rsnsw-smsa/

Enquiries: SMSA, phone (02) 9262 7300

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.

Women and science: Mary Shelley

RSNSW 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 will examine 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?

Women and science 

   “Mary Shelley, scientist,
    and Frankenstein”

    Suzanne Burdon

Date and time: Tuesday 31 March 2019, 6pm – 7.30
Light refreshments will be served before the lecture

Venue: Thomas Keneally Centre, Level 3, Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

Registration https://smsa.org.au/events/booking-form-rsnsw-smsa/

Enquiries: SMSA, phone (02) 9262 7300

Suzanne Burdon will discuss 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).

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

Date: Monday 25 February 2019 – BREAKFAST EVENT
Time: Networking and registration 7:15am, light breakfast, 7:35am start. Finish by 9:00am.
Venue: Allens, Level 28, Deutsche Bank Place, 126 Phillip Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Cost: Free
Register online here by Thursday 21 February 2019. Register early as places are limited.

This presentation by Helen Cook will overview international approaches to the development of nuclear power programmes in emerging nuclear countries and discuss legal considerations for Australia should Australia wish to develop a domestic nuclear power programme. She will draw 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, (Second 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.

1269th OGM open lecture and Christmas party

Jak Kelly Award lecture and Christmas party

“Hydroxyl as a probe of the molecular interstellar medium”

Anita Petzler
  Anita Petzler, Jak Kelly Award winner for 2018

  Department of Physics and Astronomy
  Macquarie University

Wednesday 5 December 2018
State Library of NSW, Sydney

The Jak Kelly Award
This award was created in honour of Professor Jak Kelly (1928 - 2012), who was Head of Physics at University of NSW from 1985 to 1989, was made an Honorary Professor of University of Sydney in 2004, and was President of the Royal Society of NSW in 2005 and 2006.  Its purpose is to encourage excellence in postgraduate research in Physics.
The winner was selected from a short list of candidates who made presentations at a recent joint meeting of the Australian Institute of Physics NSW Branch, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the Royal Society of NSW, which was held at UNSW.

Abstract
The interstellar medium is the collection of gas and dust between the stars of a galaxy and is the raw material from which new stars are formed. Its physical properties as well as a complex set of internal and external influences determine the mass distribution of stars formed. By observing the interstellar medium, we can begin to unravel these complex interactions and build robust models of star formation in galaxies. The interstellar medium consists of atomic gas traced by 1420 MHz hydrogen emission, and molecular gas traditionally traced by 115 GHz carbon monoxide emission.
My research recognises the limitations of carbon monoxide as a tracer of more diffuse molecular gas and employs an alternate tracer: hydroxyl. Hydroxyl is expected to coexist with molecular hydrogen in all environments, including those not well traced by carbon monoxide. The ground state of hydroxyl is split into four levels due to lambda doubling and hyperfine splitting. There are four allowable transitions between those levels at 1612, 1665, 1667 and 1720 MHz. The relative population of hydroxyl molecules in each level is determined by the local gas conditions which in turn determines the relative intensity of absorption or emission. I measure the emission and absorption in the transitions of hydroxyl along sightlines towards bright background continuum sources to determine the local conditions of the intervening hydroxyl gas. Modern observation techniques including large-scale surveys using telescopes with unprecedented resolution such as the Square Kilometre Array will give us an overwhelming wealth of data. Therefore, I am developing an automated analysis pipeline that will allow us to quickly extract our target parameters from these observations in a physically and statistically rigorous way. My work will allow us to take full advantage of these remarkable new facilities to complete our understanding of the mechanisms of star formation.

Biography
After growing up in Southern California, Anita Petzler moved to Australia at the age of 18 to complete a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Astrophysics at Monash University in Melbourne. This was followed by a Graduate Diploma of Education, an 8-year career as a High School Physics and Science teacher, and a move to Sydney. She returned to her studies in 2013, completing Honours at UNSW with a project on molecular clouds of the interstellar medium, supervised by Dr Maria Cunningham. Her interest in this field continued with a Masters by Research at Macquarie University supervised by Dr Joanne Dawson. She then began a PhD in July of this year under the supervision of Dr Joanne Dawson and Dr Mark Wardle.
“Ever since the age of 5, when my kindergarten teacher introduced me to the science of space, I've known that I wanted to be an astronomer. It's been a long journey, but the completion of my PhD will represent the realisation of the dreams of that little 5-year-old girl. Thank you for the opportunity to share my enthusiasm and interest in this grand field with such a distinguished group of like-minded scientists.”

RSNSW and Four Academies Forum 2018

“Towards a prosperous and sustainable Australia: what now for the lucky country?”

Government House

Hosted by His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (ret’d.), Governor of NSW and Patron of the Royal Society of NSW

Thursday 29 November 2018
Government House, Sydney

A day dissecting the big questions facing Australia today and into the future. Australia’s 27 years of uninterrupted growth, the longest period without a recession of any developed country, puts it in an enviable position. Yet polling of the Australian population shows a large diversity of opinion on whether people feel better off. Rising wealth inequality, unaffordable housing, increasing traffic congestion, under-employment and increasingly polarised political opinion are hardly signs of a prosperous and harmonious society. Our environment is also suffering – loss of biodiversity, wildlife habitat and topsoil through land clearing and land-use change; the health and resilience of our river systems, forests and agricultural industries are subject to an inexorably warming climate and greater weather extremes.

Is the focus on growth and GDP pushing Australia in the wrong direction? Does Australia have an optimal population? What happens when we stop borrowing from future generations to support our current lifestyles and incessant consumption? Is a steady-state society possible, or desirable, and if so what would it look like?

The 2018 Royal Society of NSW and Four Academies Forum will examine the implications of the focus on growth (as measured by GDP) and population on our society, our economy and the environment. What are the social constructs and economic assumptions on which government policies are based? Our economy has become bifurcated towards resources and services – is this a healthy evolution or is it a hollowing-out of the economy that imperils Australia’s future? What role can science and technology play in a world of increasing automation and computer power? Is full employment possible, or desirable, and what will people do with their spare time?

The programme for the day is available here.

The day concluded with a drinks reception.

Great Australians you’ve never heard of

  Bashford 
   Lecture 4

   “A geologist, geographer and anthropologist”

    Professor Alison Bashford FRSN
    School of Humanities & Languages
    UNSW

Monday 12 November 2018
Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

This is the final in a series of four talks co-hosted by the SMSA and the Royal Society of NSW on the topic “Great Australians You’ve Never Heard Of”.  Our speakers reveal the stories of remarkable Australians who have not received the recognition they deserve.

Our final Great Australian was a geologist, geographer, and anthropologist.  His travels took him from Scott’s final expedition in Antarctica to every continent on Earth, in a life that stretched from the South African War to the Cold War.  Highly controversial in 1920s Australia, he relocated to the University of Toronto, pursuing a stellar career.  Yet this Great Australian has been both acclaimed and derided as one of the twentieth century’s most insistent environmental determinists.  Join Alison Bashford to learn this Great Australian’s identity and to hear about his remarkable life.

Alison Bashford is Research Professor in History.  Her work connects the history of science, global history, and environmental history into new assessments of the modern world, from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.  She has recently focused on the geopolitics of world population, presented in two books: The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus: Re-reading the Principle of Population, with Joyce E. Chaplin (Princeton University Press, 2016) and Global Population: History, Geopolitics and Life on Earth (Columbia University Press, 2014).  Before taking up her Research Chair at UNSW, Alison Bashford was the Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History at the University of Cambridge, Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and Trustee of Royal Museums, Greenwich, UK.  In 2009-10, she was the Whitlam and Fraser Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University’s Department of the History of Science.  She has researched and taught at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University.  Alison Bashford is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Australian Academy of Humanities.  In May 2018, she presented the Wiles Lectures at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Other lectures in the series
22 June 2018 — Thomas Keneally AO DistFRSN ‒ A Tasmanian convict who went from an Irish Rebel to Governor.
23 July 2018 — The Hon Em Prof Peter Baume AC DistFRSN ‒ A Victorian scientist who once injected himself with the myxoma virus.
6 September 2018 — Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert AM FRSN ‒Three great Australians and the horse racing industry.

1268th OGM and open lecture

tara murphy compressed
   “Breakthrough! The detection of gravitational
    waves from a neutron star merger”

   Associate Professor Tara Murphy
   School of Physics
   The University of Sydney

There was also a 3-minute thesis talk, “Bio-Nano Robo-Mofos”, by Mr Jonathan Berengut, UNSW 2018 3MT winner.

Wednesday 7 November 2018
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

On August 17th 2017 the LIGO-Virgo interferometer detected gravitational waves from a neutron star merger in a galaxy 130 million light years away. This was a breakthrough for physics and astronomy. What followed was a frenzy of activity as astronomers around the world worked to detect electromagnetic radiation with conventional telescopes. After this unprecedented effort the event was detected in gamma-rays, x-rays, visible light and radio waves. Professor Murphy described this incredible scientific result and its implications, including predictions made by Einstein, the production of gold and other heavy elements, and our understanding of black hole formation. She also gave a ‘behind the scenes’ perspective of how it happened, and discussed the changes in the way we do science in this era of big astronomy.

Associate Professor Tara Murphy is an astrophysicist working at the University of Sydney and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. She has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Sydney and a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Edinburgh.  Tara leads an international team of researchers trying to detect and study transient and highly variable astrophysical phenomena with the MWA and ASKAP radio telescopes in Western Australia. In 2017 her team detected the first radio emission from a gravitational wave event caused by the merger of two neutron stars. Tara is also passionate about teaching and public outreach. In 2014 she co-founded a start-up company, Grok Learning, to get high school students around the world excited about computational thinking.

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition

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 was by Mr Jonathan Berengut, winner of the UNSW 2018 3MT competition. In the field of bionanotechnology, complex, precise nanoscale structures are assembled from biological molecules like DNA. It is even possible to build flexible, modular ‘nanobots’ capable of relatively simple tasks like targeted drug delivery and biosensing. To increase the scale and complexity of the tasks that these nanobots can perform, it is necessary to program them to assemble into larger formations. Jonathan’s research centres around the design and synthesis of DNA-nanobots that assemble into specific formations such as rows of fixed length. This research furthers our control of matter at the nanoscale and thus may lead to novel nanomaterials, nanoelectronics and nanomedicines.

1267th OGM and open lecture

wallace   “3D printing of body parts: practical applications
   and fundamental explorations” 

   Professor Gordon Wallace AO FRSN
   Director, Intelligent Polymer Research Institute
   University of Wollongong

There was also a 3-minute thesis talk, “Knowing your alien”, by Mr Yingyod Lapwong, Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney.

Wednesday 3 October 2018
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

In recent times we have witnessed medical breakthroughs enabled by advances in cell therapies, biomaterials science and 3D printing. The convergence of these three areas has enabled rapid progress. We have seen this impact on customised wearable prosthetics as well as implantable components (such as 3D metal printed jaw or heel implants) that provide structural support. The ability to replicate not just 3D shapes but also the distribution of mechanical properties from medical imaging data is being used to create models to understand airway collapse and to develop innovative intervention strategies in sleep apnoea. Polymer-based 3D printed structures have been used to provide scaffolds that facilitate tissue regeneration through strategic distribution of bioactive molecules including drugs and growth factors.

Perhaps the ultimate regenerative platform is a 3D printed structure that contains stem cells configured in an appropriate chemical and mechanical environment to induce appropriate tissue regeneration. This ability to create 3D structures containing living cells is impacting on diverse clinical challenges. These include cartilage regeneration using adipose stem cells and corneal regeneration using limbal stem cells. Professor Wallace’s research team is developing 3D printing protocols to allow for more effective transplantation of islet cells to treat Type 1 Diabetes. These new approaches to the assembly of cells within 3D structures are also enabling unprecedented fundamental explanations in the development of stem cells.

His research team is particularly interested in the development into neural lineages. Their quest to create a ‘brain on a bench’ is expected to enable us to better understand the development of illnesses such as epilepsy and schizophrenia and to devise more innovative interventions. Professor Wallace reported on their most recent studies on printing stem cells and the impact of the printed environment on stem cell development, also touching on some non-technical challenges arising in this rapidly developing area of medical research: ethical and regulatory issues.


Professor Wallace is Executive Research Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science and Director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility, Materials Node at the University of Wollongong. His research focuses on the design and discovery of new materials for use in energy and health. In the health area this involves using new materials to develop biocommunications from the molecular to skeletal domains in order to improve human performance. In the energy area this involves use of new materials to transform and to store energy, including novel wearable and implantable energy systems for the use in medical technologies.

Professor Wallace was named NSW Scientist of the Year 2017 and was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2017. He received the Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science and Innovation in 2016 and was appointed to the Prime Minister’s Knowledge Nation 100 in 2015.

He has published more than 900 refereed publications that have attracted in excess of 35,000 citations, plus a monograph on Organic Bionics (published 2012), and he recently co-authored an eBook on 3D BioPrinting. He led the presentation of a MOOC on 3D Bioprinting on the FutureLearn platform (www.futurelearn.com/courses/bioprinting).

 

About the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition

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.

Mr Yingyod Lapwong, a PhD student from University of Technology Sydney, gave a 3MT on his research: “Know your alien”. It focuses on alien species, which are an important environmental problem in Australia. Every year, the government spends a lot of money and effort to try to control these unwanted species. His research is about better understanding such species in order to develop better management systems to control them.

Poggendorff Lecture 2018

Kaiser Poggendorff
   “Establishing a sustainable nitrogen diet to
    agricultural intensive cropping industries”

   Professor Brent Kaiser 
   School of Life and Environmental Sciences
   The University of Sydney

Wednesday 1 August 2018
Room 432, New Law Annexe, University of Sydney

The Poggendorf Lectureship is awarded periodically for research in plant biology and more broadly agriculture. Walter Poggendorff was recognised as one of the major figures in establishing the Australian rice industry, developing high-yield crops for Australian conditions and maintaining controls on imports to limit the introduction of serious diseases. When he died in 1981, he made a bequest to the Royal Society of NSW to fund a lecture.

The 2017 Poggendorff Lectureship was awarded to Professor Brent N. Kaiser of University of Sydney's School of Life and Environmental Sciences. Professor Kaiser is a molecular plant physiologist, whose research into the sustainable use of nitrogen in cereal and legume grain crops has not only advanced the field, but also achieved tangible improvements in agricultural production and environmental stewardship.

About the talk

Across the globe, approximately 120 million tonnes of nitrogen fertilisers are applied each year to grow crops that support the dietary and fibre requirements of humans (FAO 2017). The majority of nitrogen fertiliser expenditure (~60%) is dedicated to the production of common cereals (wheat, rice, barley and maize) of which only 30-40% is retained in the harvested product in the form of either protein or dietary nitrogen. Unused or underutilised nitrogen is often lost to the environment through soil leaching of nitrate into the ground water, atmospheric release of nitrous oxide (N2O) and the volatilisation of ammonia from both the soil and the plant canopy. Nitrogen release into the environment is a global concern due to its devastating impact on water qualities and its (N2O) potent capacity as a greenhouse gas.

Agricultural intensive countries around the world have increasingly invested in technologies to lessen the requirement of nitrogen fertilisers through improved agronomy and the selection of nitrogen use efficient plants. However, the high dependency of reduced nitrogen to maintain crop growth and achieve sufficient yields remains a challenge to modern farming systems where nitrogen-enhanced yields are now plateauing. Moreover, the rapid increase in global population is driving an independent need to deliver even further increases in productivity and quality that unfortunately is increasingly subject to the detrimental effects of climate change on farm systems.

Professor Brent N. Kaiser is the Professor of Legume Biology and Molecular Genetics in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at University of Sydney. He is the current Director of the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub – Legumes for Sustainable Agriculture and Theme Leader in Plant Breeding and Production in the Sydney Institute of Agriculture. Brent is originally Canadian, and migrated to Australia in 1994 to complete a PhD at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Prior to coming to Australia, he completed a BSc (Agriculture) and MSc at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario. He has worked as a postdoctoral fellow in France (Nice), Canada (UBC) and Australia (ANU). He arrived at The University of Sydney in 2015, and prior to that was a teaching/research academic at the University of Adelaide.

Professor Kaiser’s research focus is on the management of nitrogen nutrition in plants. His research group examines the genetic and biochemical mechanisms by which plants access, assimilate and redistribute nitrogen across their developmental life cycle. The research involves the use of two model systems that include symbiotic nitrogen-fixing legumes (chickpea, soybean, medicago) and cereals (maize and wheat). Across both programs, the research aims to deliver genetic-based traits which enhance nitrogen utilization and which contribute to improved plant health, productivity and sustainable nitrogen use qualities of Australian cropping plants.

1264th OGM and open lecture

Joanna Mendelssohn
 “Can art really make a difference?”

   Honorary Associate Professor
   Joanna Mendelssohn
   College of Fine Arts, UNSW

Wednesday 4 July 2018
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW, Sydney

Artists have long tackled global issues, throughout centuries of wars and humanitarian crises. Artists persist in challenging assumed knowledge in their attempts to awaken the conscience of the world. Artists can become witnesses for the prosecution of the crimes of our times, as well as enabling some viewers to see the world differently. Can we really expect it to truly make a difference in the real world? While Picasso's celebrated Guernica may not have stopped the Spanish Civil War (or any war), art still holds value, as witness and as truth teller.

Joanna Mendelssohn came to an academic career after an extensive curatorial background in art museums and as the award-winning art critic of The Bulletin.  She was for many years the coordinator of the Master of Art Administration at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW.  In 1980 she was a research assistant on the University of Sydney's Dictionary of Australian Artists project.  In 2003, after Professor Joan Kerr indicated problems in publishing her new research on Australian illustrators (black and white artists), she suggested that the ideal publishing future for Australian art historical scholarship lay in online publishing.  After Kerr was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Mendelssohn was instrumental in organising the national collaboration of universities and cultural institutions that ensured the future of Kerr's research in the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online.  She has been a CI on each of the successful ARC LIEF grants for this ongoing and expanding project, which has now evolved into Design and Art of Australia Online (https://www.daao.org.au/) and is currently Editor-in-Chief.  Her first book was the seminal study on Sydney Long (1979).  This was followed by a series of studies on Lionel Lindsay.  The research for her book, Lionel Lindsay: an artist and his family (Chatto & Windus, London 1988) was supported by a Literature Board Fellowship.  She later revisited the ways in which the mythology of the Lindsay family had been created in her PhD thesis, which was then reworked and published as Letters & Liars: Norman Lindsay and the Lindsay family (Angus & Robertson 1996).  She also wrote the catalogue for the 1990 Yellow House exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and was curator for the touring exhibition Larter Family Values (2006).

For the last five years she has been the lead researcher in an ARC Linkage Project in collaboration with the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia and Museums Australia.  The principal results of this research is about to be published by Thames and Hudson as Australian Art Exhibitions: Opening our Eyes, co-written with her fellow researchers, Catherine De Lorenzo, Alison Inglis and Catherine Speck.

Great Australians you’ve never heard of

Keneally small
   Lecture 1

   “A Tasmanian convict who went from
     an Irish rebel to become a Governor”

   given by Thomas Keneally AO DistFRSN

Friday 22 June 2018
Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

The Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts — the two oldest institutions in NSW dedicated to education — are proud to present a collaborative lecture program, Great Australians You’ve Never Heard Of.

Following the success of the Enlightenment series, ‘Great Australians You’ve Never Heard Of' follows the underpinning Enlightenment idea that “the freedom to use your own intelligence” enabled remarkable people to create the extraordinary society we live in. Yet few of those special people are recognized today, nor is the context of their contributions understood by the beneficiaries of their initiatives. Over the course of four lectures, this series sets about identifying some of those people.

Other lectures in the series:

23 July 2018 — Peter Baume DistFRSN
6 September 2018 — Emeritus Professor D. Brynn Hibbert AM FRSN
12 November 2018 — Alison Bashford FRSN

Combined AIP and RSNSW event

Richard Garrett  “Big science - exploring the future of the world’s
  most exciting STEM challenges and developments”

  Professor Richard Garrett
  Manager, Industry and External Engagement
  Australian Nuclear Science and Technology
  Organisation

Tuesday 26 June 2018
ANSTO Discovery Centre, New Illawarra Road Lucas Heights

Presented by the Australian Institute of Physics, NSW Branch, the Royal Society of NSW, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

1263rd OGM and open lecture

BenOldroyd.crp   “No sex please, we’re Cape bees”

   Professor Ben Oldroyd
   School of Life and Environmental Sciences 
   University of Sydney

Wednesday 6 June 2018
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

This was the first OGM and Open Lecture held at the Society's new home venue, the State Library of NSW.

Ant and bee colonies have often served as allegorical models for ideal human societies. This view is nicely illustrated by Shakespeare’s King Henry V, in which a bee colony is depicted as a benevolent dictatorship with the workers carrying out coordinated tasks and living in harmonious obedience to a caring monarch, much like Elizabethan England should have been.
Professor Ben Oldroyd has spent a career trying to prove that this idea is wrong. In particular, Ben bred a line of ‘anarchistic’ honey bees, in which the workers laid eggs all the time. Such worker misbehaviour has devastating colony-level effects, because the worker-laid eggs develop into useless male drones. Ben’s work uncovered the gene network that regulates worker sterility in normal bees, showing that in normal workers with a queen and her pheromone, egg development is aborted by programmed cell death in the ovaries of workers. This solved a 50-year-old puzzle as to how a gene that causes sterility could operate. Think about it: if a gene makes you sterile, how could it spread?

But that’s not what this lecture was about. Rather, Ben described a remarkable honey bee subspecies from South Africa, Apis mellifera capensis. Capensis is unique because when an unmated Capensis worker lays an egg it develops not as a male, but as a female – a clone of the worker. This gives a Capensis worker the opportunity to be reincarnated as a queen, much like a pawn in chess. And this completely disrupts their societies because Capensis workers are always plotting revolutions. Ben explained the biological basis of their behaviour and described the march of the clones across the commercial industry, triploid queens, gassed virgins, fusion nuclei, social parasitism, social cancers and more besides.

Ben Oldroyd is Professor of Behavioural Genetics at the University of Sydney. He completed a BSc(Agr) at Sydney in 1980 and a PhD on bee breeding in 1984. Ben’s research focuses on the genetics of honey bees, the evolution of social behavior and evolution more broadly. In 2001 Ben was awarded a Doctor of Science for his contributions to the understanding of the evolution of honey bee societies, and he is past-President of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects. Ben is heavily involved with the Australian beekeeping industry, including helping beekeepers breed better, healthier strains. In recognition of this, Ben was awarded the NSW Science and Engineering award in Biology in 2014. Ben has made important contributions to our understanding of the biology of Asian honey bees. His book Asian Honey Bees: Biology, Conservation and Human Interactions (Harvard University Press) is the authoritative text on the subject. Ben has authored nearly 300 scientific papers on honey bees and stingless bees.

RSNSW Annual Dinner 2018

Hurley cropped 2   Guests of honour:

   His Excellency General The Honourable David
   Hurley AC DSC (ret’d.), Governor of New South
   Wales and Patron of the Royal Society of New
   South Wales, and Mrs Hurley


Keneally   Distinguished Fellow’s Lecture

   Thomas Keneally AO DistFRSN

   “Mungo Man imagined:
    writing the ultimate historical novel”

Friday 18 May 2018
Mitchell Galleries, State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney

Award of Medals:

Clarke Medal for the natural sciences: 
   Professor David Keith

Edgeworth David Medal for distinguished research by a young scientist:
   Associate Professor  Angela Nickerson

James Cook Medal for contributions to science and human welfare:
   Professor Gordon Parker

History & Philosophy of Science Medal: 
   Professor Peter Godfrey-Smith

Pollock Memorial Lectureship:
   Professor Andrea Morello

Poggendorff Award for plant biology and agriculture:
   Associate Professor Brent Kaiser

Royal Society of NSW Medal:
   Dr Donald Hector

Pollock Memorial Lecture 2018

morello small   “Engineering for understanding:
   how building quantum devices unveils
   the meaning of quantum mechanics”
   
   Professor Andrea Morello
   Professor of Quantum Engineering
   UNSW Sydney

Wednesday 2 May 2018
Club Bar, Roundhouse, UNSW Sydney, Kensington

The Pollock Memorial Lectureship is awarded for research in physics.  It is jointly sponsored by the University of Sydney and the Royal Society of NSW in memory of Professor J.A. Pollock, Professor of Physics at the University of Sydney (1899-1922) and a member of the Royal Society of NSW for 35 years.

Over a century after the establishment of quantum mechanics, the popular – and sometimes even the professional – literature is still permeated by the myth that quantum mechanics is weird and no one understands it. Yet the 21st century will probably go into history as the era of quantum engineering, when the peculiar effects allowed by quantum physics were first harnessed to create unprecedented functionalities.  In this lecture, Professor Morello explanied and illustrated how the ambitious project of building a quantum computer can help us gain intimacy with the quantum world and, with it, deepen our conceptual and practical understanding of it.

Andrea Morello is a Professor of Quantum Engineering at UNSW Sydney and a Program Manager in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He grew up near Torino and graduated from the Politecnico di Torino in 1998. He then completed his PhD in the birthplace of low-temperature physics, the Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratorium in Leiden, Netherlands, followed by a postdoc at UBC in Vancouver. He joined UNSW in late 2006. He and his team were the first in the world to demonstrate the operation of a single-electron and a single-nucleus quantum bit in silicon. They still hold the record for quantum memory time, and the most accurate demonstration of quantum entanglement in the solid state. For these achievements, Andrea was awarded a Eureka Prize (2011), the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year (2013), the David Syme Research Prize (2013), and the NSW Science & Engineering Award (2014), and he was the inaugural winner of the R. Landauer & C.H. Bennett Award for Quantum Computing (2017).

The lecture recording is now available to watch on YouTube, whilst a news story and gallery is available on the UNSW Engineering website.

Is the Enlightenment dead? Lecture 5: sophistry

Paxinos

  “The Enlightenment has failed”

  Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO
  School of Medical Sciences, UNSW

This event’s unique format featured an optional buffet dinner followed by the sophistry and live music.

Thursday 5 April 2018

Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO led an interactive sophistry that discussed the statement “the Enlightenment has failed” and the extent to which Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz is correct in his view that “global deflation is reversing international progress through rejection of the principles of the Enlightenment”. Attendees were encouraged to participate in the discussion.

Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO completed his BA at The University of California at Berkeley, his PhD at McGill University, and spent a postdoctoral year at Yale University. He and Charles Watson are the authors of The Rat Brain in Stereotaxic Coordinates. With over 50,000 citations across its 7 Editions (March 2014), it is the third most cited book in science after Molecular Cloning and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Prof Paxinos has also published another 45 books on the structure of the brain of humans and experimental animals, his most recent being MRI/DTI Atlas of the Rat Brain. His work was recognised by an AO, Ramaciotti Medal, Humboldt Prize, a $4 million NHMRC Australia Fellowship and the NSW Premier’s Prize for Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences in 2015. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and a corresponding member of the Academy of Athens. His novel In His Image was published in Greek in 2015 (English version pending).

This was the fifth and final in a series of lectures on the theme "Is the Enlightenment dead?" co-hosted by the Royal Society of NSW and the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Other lectures in the series:
Lecture 1“Samuel Pepys, his library and the Enlightenment” Susannah Fullerton OAM FRSN, Author, lecturer and literary tour leader, 4 September 2017
Lecture 2: “The freedom to use your own intelligence: The Enlightenment and the growth of the Australian nation” Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN, 6 November 2017
Lecture 3: "Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the museum” Kim Mckay AO, Director and CEO, Australian Museum, 5 February 2018
Lecture 4: “Learning, adaptation and the Enlightenment: the library” by Paul Brunton OAM FAHA, Emeritus Curator, New South Wales State Library, 1 March 2018

AGM and 1262nd OGM and open lecture

Paul Fennell

  “The decarbonisation of industry”

  Professor Paul Fennell
  Professor of Clean Energy
  Imperial College London

The evening began with the AGM, at which there was an election of Council members

Wednesday 4 April 2018
Union, University & Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

In order to meet the IPCC recommendation for an 80% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050, industries will be required to drastically reduce their emissions. To meet these targets, technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) must be part of the economic set of decarbonisation options for industry. Options for decarbonising four of the largest industrial sectors (the iron and steel industry, the cement industry, the petroleum refining industry and the pulp and paper industry) as well as selected high-purity sources of CO2 were discussed. The factors found to have the greatest overall impact were the initial cost of CCS at the start of deployment and the start date at which large scale deployment is started.  The talk then moved on to the applications of high temperature solid looping cycles (Calcium and Chemical Looping) and their integration with different industries, including research conducted at IC investigating the applications of pressurized calcium looping.  The presentation also included an update on research conducted as part of the EU ASCENT and LEILAC projects.

Paul Fennell talking

  Paul Fennell giving his talk

Paul Fennell is a Professor of Clean Energy at Imperial College London. He obtained his degree in Chemical Engineering and PhD from the University of Cambridge. He is a Chartered Chemical Engineer and Scientist and Fellow of the IChemE. He also has Chaired the Institution of Chemical Engineers Clean Energy SIG, was a previous member of the International Energy Authority High-Temperature Solid Looping Cycles Network Executive, and has written reports for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on future technologies for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and carbon capture readiness. He has been director of Imperial College’s Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage and is the deputy director (CO2 capture) of the recently re-funded UKCCSRC. He has published 100 + papers since 2005 and is the 2015 winner of the Institution of Chemical Engineers’ Ambassador prize. His interests are broad, encompassing waste utilisation, cement production and phytoremediation, as well as carbon capture and storage.

Annual Meeting of the Four Societies

 

Robin Grimes   “Exciting materials for energy
    applications in 2050”
 
  Professor Robin Grimes
  Professor of Materials Physics,
  Imperial College London,
  and Chief Scientific Advisor,
  UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Wednesday 14 March 2018
UNSW Colombo Theatre

Professor Grimes’ talk focused on exciting developments in materials for energy applications and how they will improve the reliability, safety and economics of future energy systems.

Professor Grimes is Professor of Materials Physics at University College London. He has been Director of the Imperial Centre for Nuclear Engineering at Imperial College, London, since 2008 and became Director of the Imperial College Rolls Royce University Technology Centre in Nuclear Engineering in 2010. His research is focused on the use of high performance computing techniques to understand the behaviour of materials for energy applications including nuclear fission and fusion, fuel cells, batteries and solar cells. He is also Principal Investigator of the Research Council’s UK Nuclear Fission consortium project. In 2013 he was appointed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Chief Scientific Advisor responsible for providing advice to the Foreign Secretary, Ministers and officials on science, technology and innovation.

Four societies logos

1261st OGM and open lecture

“Precision healthcare – the coming revolution in medicine”

Leslie Burnett

  Professor Leslie Burnett
  Chief Medical Officer of Genome One
  Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Wednesday 7 March 2018
Union, University & Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney

Medicine has entered a period of major transformation. Advances in DNA sequencing have led to an explosion in data, information and knowledge about how the genes in our genome work. In turn, this is opening new avenues for diagnosis and treatment of both rare and common disorders. Leslie gave a brief refresher overview of genetics and genomics, including the range of genetic tests available culminating in whole genome analysis. This analysis is now available in Australia, and Australia is at the forefront of the world. Examples were given of the application of genomic techniques to “precision medicine”, where a person’s genetic makeup is used to target treatments based on their specific needs. The era of preventative medicine and precision healthcare has arrived, but it will be accompanied with the need to recognise and responsibly address some complex ethical and societal issues.

Professor Leslie Burnett is Chief Medical Officer of Genome.One, in the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, Garvan Institute of Medical Research. Leslie has pioneered the development of many pathology and genetics initiatives, including being a Medical Director for the accreditation of Australasia’s first Whole Genome Sequencing laboratory and founding Australia’s first Community Genetics program.

He is a clinical pathologist with experience in both the public and private health sectors, and is a recipient of many awards for business and technical excellence, service excellence and community service. He has served as ministerial appointee, chairman, or president of a number of national and international bodies in pathology and genetics.

Professor Burnett is Conjoint Professor at the St Vincent’s Clinical School, UNSW Australia, Honorary Professor in Pathology and Genetic Medicine in the Sydney Medical School, and has been an Honorary Associate of the School of Information Technologies, at the University of Sydney. His current interests are in the areas of genomic pathology, genetic screening, bioinformatic modelling of population genetics and cell biology processes, and quality assurance. He is a passionate teacher and communicator about the genetics and genomics revolution.

Royal Society events

The Royal Society of NSW organizes a number of events in Sydney throughout the year.  These include Ordinary General Meetings (OGMs) held on the first Wednesday of the month (there is no meeting in January).  Society business is conducted, new Fellows and Members are inducted, and reports from Council are given to the membership.  This is followed by a talk and optional dinner.  Drinks are served before the meeting.  There is a small charge to attend the meeting and talk, and to cover refreshments.  The dinner is a separate charge, and must be booked in advance.  All OGMs are open to members of the public.

The first OGM in February has speakers drawn from the Royal Society Scholarship winners, and the December OGM hears from the winner of the Jak Kelly award, before an informal Christmas party.  The April event is our black-tie Annual Dinner and Distinguished Fellow lecture.

Other events are held in collaboration with other groups, including:

  • The Four Societies lecture (with the Australian Institute of Energy, the Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia [Sydney Division] and the Australian Nuclear Association)
  • The Forum (with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia)
  • The Dirac lecture (with UNSW Australia and the Australian Institute of Physics)
  • The Liversidge Medal lecture (with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute)
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