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Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

1273rd OGM and open lecture

Kate Faase

   “This talk may cause side effects: 
     nocebo effects in medicine”

   Dr Kate Faasse
   School of Psychology
   UNSW

Wednesday 5 June 2019
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW

Almost everyone has experienced unpleasant side effects from a medical treatment. But what if I were to tell you that most of these side effects aren’t caused by the treatment itself, but by a powerful psychobiological phenomenon called the nocebo effect? The nocebo effect is sometimes seen as the ‘dark side’ of the better-known placebo effect where healing or health improvements are triggered by the treatment context rather than any therapeutic effects of the treatment itself. In contrast, nocebo effects are the unpleasant or adverse outcomes that can be triggered by the treatment context, including information about possible side effects, seeing or reading about someone else experience unpleasant side effects, and generic versus brand name labelling of the medication. This talk used case studies to illustrate the potential impact of nocebo effects in daily life, and discussed recent evidence on the development of nocebo effects, the different treatment context factors that can increase the experience of nocebo effects, the implications of nocebo effects for patients and public health, and evidence on strategies that might help to reduce nocebo effects.

Kate Faasse is an ARC DECRA Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology in the School of Psychology at the University of New South Wales. Originally from New Zealand, Kate completed her Bachelors, Masters, and PhD training in Psychology at the University of Auckland, specializing in Health Psychology. She moved to Sydney to take up a Lecturer position in the School of Psychology at UNSW in 2016. During this time Kate has produced over 35 publication and has received over $1million in competitive funding from sources such as the ARC (Australia), and the Auckland Medical Research Foundation (New Zealand). Highlighting the importance of her research into the nocebo effect, Kate’s work was also supported by the Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand (PHARMAC), and her research has informed healthcare policy in New Zealand. Kate’s research in Health Psychology focuses on aspects of medication use, including nocebo and placebo effects, treatment adherence, and perceptions of generic medicines. Ultimately, she hopes that her research will contribute to reducing the burden of nocebo-induced medication side effects in Australia through generating greater understanding of factors that influence the formation and maintenance of nocebo effects, and the development of interventions to reduce nocebo effects in clinical practice.

 

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 6.15, 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

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 6.15 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.

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

Thursday 2 May 2019
Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney

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.

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).

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.

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.

Great Australians you’ve never heard of

Brynn Hibbert  Lecture 3

  “Three great Australians and horse racing”

  Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert
  School of Chemistry
  University of NSW

Thursday 6 September 2018
Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

Professor Brynn Hibbert AM FRSN talked about three great Australians: two scientists and a sports person; or two men and a woman; or two of British descent and an indigenous person; or two law-abiding people and an embezzler; or a stalwart of the RSNSW and two who probably never heard of the Society.  These great Australians did not know each other but are connected by one of the oldest activities in the colony: horse racing.  The first horse race was in 1810, and Royal Randwick, where some of the story evolves, became the home of the Australian Jockey Club in 1860.

Brynn Hibbert AM FRSN occupied the Chair of Analytical Chemistry at the University of New South Wales from his arrival 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.  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.  He has published around 260 papers, 5 books and 3 patents.

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

22 June 2018 — Thomas Keneally AM DistFRSN “A Tasmanian convict who went from an Irish rebel to become a Governor”
23 July 2018 - Hon. Em. Professor Peter Baume AC DistFRSN “The man from Ballarat who injected himself with the myxoma virus”
6 September 2018 — Emeritus Professor D. Brynn Hibbert AM FRSN "Three great Australians and horse racing”
12 November 2018 — Professor Alison Bashford FRSN FAHA FBA, “Griffith Taylor: geology and geography from the Terra Nova to Seaforth”

1266th OGM and open lecture

Richard Kemp

   “The psychology of eyewitness memory”

   Professor Richard Kemp
   School of Psychology
   University of NSW

There was also a 3 Minutes Thesis Talk by  Hema Umapathy, University of Sydney, on  "Fat Knees: Inflammation of the Infrapatellar Fat Pad and Clinical Outcomes of the Knee" 

Wednesday 5 September 2018
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW, Sydney

In criminal investigations eyewitnesses often provide police with vital information leading to the identification of a suspect. However, a detailed examination of cases of wrongful conviction from the USA shows that, while providing compelling evidence, eyewitnesses can be mistaken. In this presentation Professor Parker described how psychological research into eyewitness memory can be used to inform policy change to reduce the risk of erroneous conviction. Using an interactive format he demonstrated the surprising fragility of human memory and described research he has undertaken with colleagues to identify procedures that increase the risk of memory distortions, and measures which can be employed to safeguard against these risks. He ended by describing some challenges and opportunities for the future, including the increased use of machine face recognition systems to monitor public spaces, and a new smart phone App developed in conjunction with police that is designed to help witnesses provide detailed, accurate accounts of events.

Professor Richard Kemp is a cognitive scientist and forensic psychologist who seeks to apply research in the fields of human memory and perception to aspects of the legal system. Richard obtained his PhD from London University and moved to UNSW Sydney in 2001. His current research interests include, identity verification and face perception, eyewitness memory, police interviewing and forensic science evidence. Richard has undertaken his research in collaboration with a variety of partner organisations, including State and Federal government agencies, Police and emergency service organisations and banks and financial service providers. He has provided expert evidence in a number of significant court cases in Australia and overseas, and is regularly asked to address conferences of judges, lawyers, police and other legal professionals. Current projects include work with the Australian Passport Office to detect identity fraud in passport applications, the development of a smart phone App to help people recall details of events they have witnessed, the impact of police body-worn cameras on officers’ recall of events, and the validation of forensic science techniques. He has about 100 peer-reviewed publications which have been cited more than 4500 times. He has been awarded over $3 million in competitive research funding from ARC and other bodies.

Three Miniute Thesis 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. 

Abstract: Obesity-linked Osteoarthritis (OA) in non-weight bearing joints has implicated a biological role of adipose inflammation. The infrapatellar fat pad (IFP) is a local adipose depot in the knee associated with OA. However, the relationship between IFP inflammation and clinical outcomes of knee OA has not been well-defined. This research aims to investigate the relationship between IFP inflammation and clinical outcomes in end-stage knee OA in an observational study with a study visit (to assess pain, and function) before surgery. During knee replacement surgery, all joint tissues including IFP and a piece of subcutaneous-fat will be removed for inflammation analysis.

 

1265th OGM and open lecture

Muireann Irish small   “The final frontier –
   on the complexity and
   frailty of human memory”

   Associate Professor Muireann Irish
   Brain & Mind Centre
   University of Sydney

Wednesday 8 August 2018
Gallery Room, State Library of NSW, Sydney

Human memory remains one of the great scientific enigmas and one which continues to perplex neuroscientists, philosophers, and psychologists alike. Our memories are our most prized possessions, enabling us to revisit defining events from the past and guiding us towards adaptive behaviours in the future. The relative ease with which we mentally navigate back and forth through subjective time, however, belies the incredible complexity of these processes. With the advent of high-resolution neuroimaging techniques, it is now possible to map the regions of the brain that activate when we recollect the past; however, it is only when memory begins to fail that we can truly appreciate its intricacies. In this lecture Associate Professor Muireann Irish gave an overview of work from her group exploring different facets of memory dysfunction across a range of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, semantic dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. Using a combination of novel experimental tools and advanced neuroimaging techniques, we are moving towards a refined understanding of how progressive atrophy to distributed brain networks impacts the capacity not only to remember the past but also to envisage the future. In doing so, she highlighted the neurocognitive mechanisms that must be functional to support a range of memory processes as well as considering the devastating effects of losing these uniquely human functions.

Muireann Irish is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Associate Professor of Psychology at the Brain & Mind Centre, University of Sydney. Originally from Ireland, Muireann completed a Bachelor degree in Psychology at Trinity College Dublin (1st Class Honours), then a PhD in Cognitive Neuropsychology before relocating to Australia in 2010. Since then, she has produced over 80 publications and has received over $2.5million in competitive funding from such sources as the ARC, NHMRC, Brain Foundation, and Alzheimer’s Australia. Muireann’s research focus is the cognitive neuroscience of memory and how pathological insult to large-scale brain networks compromises sophisticated expressions of memory. Ultimately, she hopes her research will inform the early and accurate detection of dementia as well as the development of interventions to improve quality of life and wellbeing for those affected.

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.

Great Australians you’ve never heard of

Peter Baume   Lecture 2

   “The man from Ballarat
     who injected himself
     with the myxoma virus”

   The Honourable Em Prof Peter Baume AC

Monday 23 July 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.

The Great Australian featured in this lecture was born in Ballarat, and then grew up in South Australia. During WWII, he helped Australia to win the War in the Pacific. After the war, when there was public concern about myxomatosis, he and two other scientists injected themselves with myxoma virus to prove that it did not affect humans. He also chaired the group that eliminated an infectious disease from the world—the first and only time this has been done. In recognition of this he received many international awards, and much international recognition. As an old man he was a beloved figure in academe, and is still held high regard by those in his trade.

Peter Baume was Professor of Community Medicine and Head of the School of Community Medicine at University of New South Wales from 1991 to 2000. He was a Senator for New South Wales between 1974 and 1991, and was successively Government Whip, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister Assisting the Minister for National Development and Energy, Minister for Health, Minister for Education, and a Minister in Cabinet. He was Chancellor of the Australian National University from 1994-2006, was Foundation Chair of the Australian Sports Drug Agency, a Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission, Deputy-Chair of the Australian National Council on AIDS, President of the Public Health Association (NSW Branch), Patron of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of NSW and of its successor body Dying with Dignity NSW. He was the Chairman of the Alzheimer’s Association in NSW (he remains a Director) and was Chairman of the Kolling Institute for Medical Research. He has been an Official Visitor to psychiatric hospitals and a member of the Official Visitors’ Advisory Committee. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales. He is a physician who holds a doctorate, two honorary doctorates, and several fellowships and is a Companion in the Order of Australia (having previously been an Officer of the same Order). He has published extensively, reviews for a number of journals and has received a number of competitive grants.

About the Great Australians You’ve Never Heard Of lecture series

Over the course of four lectures, we will share the fascinating stories of some remarkable Australians who have helped create the extraordinary society we live in, but have not received the recognition they deserve. Neither is the context of their contributions understood by the beneficiaries of their initiatives. This series sets about identifying some of those people.

Other lectures in the series

22 June 2018 — Thomas Keneally DistFRSN
6 September 2018 — Emeritus Professor D. Brynn Hibbert AM FRSN
12 November 2018 — Alison Bashford FRSN

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 or May 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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