Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

1290th OGM including Open Lecture

Royal Society of NSW 2020 Student Award WinnersRoyal Society of NSW 2020 Student Award Presentations 

Matthew Donnelly, UNSW (Sydney)
Sajad Razavi Bazaz, UTS 
Daniel Fox, ANU 
Philippa Specker, UNSW (Sydney)


Date: Wednesday, 3 February 2021, 6.30pm
Venue: Zoom Webinar. Click here for help in getting started with Zoom
Enquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Entry: No charge
All are welcome.

The evening’s program comprises four short talks presented by PhD Candidates who have been awarded the Society's Jak Kelly Award and the Royal Society of NSW Scholarships for 2020.  Follow the links to read a summary of each presentation and a brief biography of the presenter. 

Mr Matthew Donnelly (Jak Kelly Award) — Controlling how electrons move in silicon at the atomic scale 

Mr Sajad Razavi Bazaz (Scholarship Winner) — 3D printed micro-engineered systems for life science research 

Mr Daniel Fox (Scholarship Winner) — Molecular Mechanisms of Inflammasome Activation by Enterotoxins of the Foodborne Pathogen Bacillus cereus 

Ms Philippa Specker (Scholarship Winner) — Improving the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in refugees: The important role of emotion regulation 

Presentation Summaries and Brief Biographies of the Presenters

Matthew DonnellyControlling how electrons move in silicon at the atomic scale
Mr Matthew Donnelly, PhD Student, UNSW (Sydney)

Silicon is one the most important materials in the modern world due to its use in the integrated circuits that make up the computers and phones we use every day. We use silicon to build computers because it is a semiconductor — a class of materials in which we can control how electrons move at the micro and nano scale.

Mr Donnelly’s work focusses on manipulating silicon at the ultimate limit — a single atom — and how we can use this control to fabricate quantum computers, machines that promise to solve a new generation of computational problems. In particular, he will demonstrate how controlling a phenomenon known as quantum tunnelling is critical in this process, and how novel fabrication techniques are bringing these machines one step closer to reality.

Matthew Donnelly is a PhD candidate in the group of Prof. Michelle Simmons within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation at UNSW (Sydney). His research investigates monolithic donor structures in silicon and their application in spin-based quantum computing. In particular, he is focussed on using 3D fabrication techniques to precisely control tunnel rates and other parameters critical to the operation of spin qubits.

Sajad Razavi Bazaz3D printed micro-engineered systems for life science research
Mr Sajad Razavi Bazaz, PhD Student, University of Technology Sydney

Scaling down high-cost and demanding facilities into tiny, multi-functionalised microchips has revolutionised research areas — a technology referred to as microfluidics. Microfluidics is a science that allows the manipulation of minuscule fluid samples, ordinarily in the range of microliters, within networks of channels ranging from tens to hundreds of micrometers. Microfluidic systems are promising tools for the advancement of chemical and biological research with evident benefits. Improvements such as reduced reagent consumption, higher sensitivity, modelling of in vivo microenvironments, rapid processing, detailed spatial resolution, process integration, and automation have been achieved over the past three decades. 

In recent years, additive manufacturing, particularly 3D printing, has gained significant traction, being named the third industrial revolution. Due to the expanding use of microfluidic systems in laboratories, 3D printing has emerged as an alternative method to the traditional, costly fabrication process. The ability to fabricate structures ranging from a few microns to several centimeters is a complex process that can only be accomplished by taking advantage of 3D printing methods. Rapid prototyping provides an opportunity to adopt a “fail fast and often” strategy, motivating the researchers to utilise 3D printers in the field of microfluidics. In this fabrication method, a physical object is fabricated from a virtual model by designing the object via computer-assisted design (CAD) software, converting the design into the 3D printer language, and printing with a 3D printer in a single process.

The modularisation of microfluidic devices using additive manufacturing enables researchers to fabricate integrated microfluidic devices for various applications. Among all these different applications, research in life science technologies has shown significant promise. Not long ago, microfluidics was a burgeoning technology on the fringe of practical applications; now, it is coming of age in the life sciences and being recognised its enormous potential.  This presentation will showcase the use of 3D printed micro-engineered systems in research in the life sciences.

Sajad Razavi Bazaz is a PhD candidate in the a School of Biomedical Engineering of the University of Technology Sydney. His main research focus is to develop functional 3D-printed micro-engineered microfluidic devices for life science research. During his PhD journey, he has been able to develop a new functional 3D printing method for the fabrication of microfluidic devices. Toward his goals, Sajad and his colleagues have established a start-up company to develop 3D printed microfluidic devices for selective sperm selection in the IVF market.

Daniel FoxMolecular mechanisms of inflammasome activation by enterotoxins of the foodborne pathogen Bacillus cereus
Mr Daniel Fox, PhD Student, Australian National University

Bacillus cereus is a clinically important and neglected human foodborne pathogen. This Gram-positive and rod-shaped bacterium is found ubiquitously in the environment and in undercooked and processed food products. Ingestion of B. cereus endospores often leads to germination and propagation of viable vegetative cells in the human gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to emetic and diarrheal syndromes largely depending on the production of enterotoxins. Of concern is the potential for B. cereus to cause often-fatal extra-gastrointestinal disease in immune-compromised patients, including systemic bacterial septicemia, ocular infections, anthrax-like pneumonia, cutaneous gas-gangrene-like infections, and infections of the central nervous system. 

B. cereus secretes multiple toxins, including the tripartite toxins haemolysin BL (HBL) and non-haemolytic enterotoxin (NHE). Our lab has previously made the important observation that HBL induces activation of the cytosolic inflammasome sensor NLRP3, which subsequently promotes the production of inflammation and host cell death. However, of particular interest is that B. cereus isolates which lack HBL can cause inflammation and disease in humans, suggesting that other non-redundant virulence factors are critical in the pathogenesis of this pathogen. My work has identified that NHE of B. cereus is also able to induce activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome and cell death via a mechanism targeting the plasma membrane of host cells. I found that the subunits of this toxin assemble to form a functional pore, which drive the efflux of cytosolic potassium from the host cell. This toxin kills cell types from multiple lineages and host origin, highlighting its functional repertoire in different host species. Moreover, my findings suggest that both NHE and HBL operate synergistically to induce inflammation in the host. Overall, my results highlight that multiple virulence factors from the same pathogen exhibiting conserved function and mechanism of action can be exploited for sensing by a single inflammasome, ultimately leading to increased capacity of the host to detect and defend against naturally-occurring genetic variants. 

Daniel Fox first started his research career as an undergraduate summer research student in the laboratory of Prof. Si Ming Man, in late 2017. Daniel went on to pursue and complete a first-class Honours degree in Medical Science in Prof. Man’s lab in 2018, where he published work in the Journal of Molecular Biology and Nature Microbiology, both as a co-first, and co-author. He began his PhD in 2019, continuing in Prof. Man’s lab, where he continued to characterise the innate immune response to clinically important, and neglected human foodborne pathogens. Since starting his PhD, Daniel has been selected to present his work at conferences both in China and the USA, has published first-author work in Nature Communications, and Cell Research, and has won two grants from the Gretel and Gordon Bootes Medical Research Foundation, totalling $23,500 AUD. He hopes to continue to advance his work in innate immunity as a medical researcher in the future.

Phillipa SpeckerImproving the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in refugees: The important role of emotion regulation
Ms Phillipa Specker, PhD Student, UNSW (Sydney)

The psychological presentation of traumatised refugees is complex and presents a global challenge to public health. There are currently an estimated 80 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people worldwide and this number is steadily growing. Refugees encounter multiple and severe forms of trauma, such as war exposure, torture, imprisonment, and witnessing the murder of loved ones. Then, after fleeing danger, refugees also experience ongoing stress due to family separation, visa insecurity and socio-economic difficulties. Owing to these experiences of persecution and displacement, refugees experience greatly elevated rates of psychological disorders. In particular, as many as 1 in 3 refugees suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Although psychological treatments for PTSD exist, they were not designed to address the psychological complexities of refugee experiences. In particular, many refugees have difficulties managing intense and unresolved emotions including fear, grief, anger, disgust, sadness, and guilt. While emotion regulation difficulties have been linked to psychopathology among other populations, very little research has investigated whether emotion regulation difficulties may be implicated in the development of mental illness among refugees. Such research may be crucial in facilitating the improvement of psychological treatment for refugees. 

This talk will discuss emerging research on the role of emotion regulation in the development and maintenance of PTSD among refugees. Philippa will discuss findings from her PhD research, including quantitative and experimental studies with refugees, to highlight how emotion regulation skills training may aid in the resolution of PTSD symptoms.

Phillipa Specker is a PhD candidate enrolled in the combined PhD/Master of Psychology (Clinical) Program at UNSW. Philippa’s research is in the area of emotion regulation and refugee mental health, and seeks to understand how exposure to traumatic events impact on an individual’s capacity to utilize emotion regulation strategies to manage psychological distress. Her research aims to advance knowledge regarding mechanisms underpinning trauma-related psychopathology, and inform the development of effective and tailored interventions for survivors of persecution and displacement. Philippa has published three peer-reviewed papers in leading journals including the European Journal of Psychotraumatology and Clinical Psychology Review, and has presented her research at three national and five international conferences. In recognition of her contribution to the field of traumatic stress through research, clinical work and community advocacy, Philippa received the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies’ Outstanding Student Achievement Award (2020) and was shortlisted for the Australian-American Postgraduate Fulbright Award (2020). Philippa is also a Clinical Psychology Registrar at the Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program, where she delivers evidence-based treatment for refugees suffering from PTSD.


1291st OGM and Open Lecture

Professor Ian Hickie AM FRSM FASSA FAHMS“What are the best options for growing Australia’s mental health through the COVID-19 recovery?”

Professor Ian Hickie AM FRSN FASSA FAHMS
Co-Director, Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney

Date: Wednesday, 3 March, 6.30pm AEDT
Venue: Zoom webinar. Click here for help in getting started with Zoom
Enquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Entry: No charge
All are welcome. 

Summary: To follow.

Professor Ian Hickie is Co-Director, Health and Policy, at The University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre. He is a NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow (2013-2017 and 2018-22), having previously been one of the inaugural NHMRC Australian Fellows (2008-12). He was an inaugural Commissioner on Australia’s National Mental Health Commission (2012-18) overseeing enhanced accountability for mental health reform and suicide prevention. He is an internationally renowned researcher in clinical psychiatry, with particular reference to medical aspects of common mood disorders, depression and bipolar disorder. He is now focused on the development of real-time personalized and measurement-based care systems for use in partnership with young people and their families. These systems promote early intervention, use of new and emerging technologies and suicide prevention. In his role with the National Mental Health Commission, and his independent research, health system and advocacy roles, Professor Hickie has been at the forefront of the move to have mental health and suicide prevention integrated with other aspects of health care (notably chronic disease and ambulatory care management).




Calendar of Meetings 2021

RSNSW SealThis page lists the Calandar of Meetings for the Royal Society of NSW in 2021.

Please check this page regularly since the program is under ongoing development.

Follow the links below for meetings held by the Society in Sydney, in Newcastle by the Hunter Branch, and in Mittagong by the Southern Highlands Branch.


Sydney Meetings 2021

Please note that the program in the table below lists events that are scheduled as monthly Ordinary General Meetings and the Annual Forum of the Royal Society and Four Academies. In addition to these events, there are three named lectures, associated with the Society’s 2020 Awards, that remain to be scheduled:

  • Clarke Lecture — Distinguished Professor Michelle Leishman (Macquarie University)
  • Liversidge Lecture — Professor Richard Payne FRSN (University of Sydney)
  • Poggendorf Lecture — Professor Angela Moles FRSN (UNSW Sydney)

together with another lecture in the [email protected] series, and the Society’s contributions to Science Week 2021 in the latter half of the year.


3 February 

6.30pm AEDT

1290th Ordinary General Meeting and Open Lecture:
2020 Jak Kelly Award and RSNSW Scholarship Winner Presentations

Venue: Zoom Webinar

Controlling how electrons move in silicon at the atomic scale
Mr Matthew Donnelly — Jak Kelly Award Winner
PhD Student, Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, UNSW (Sydney)

3D Printing for Microfluidics (TBC)
Mr Sajad Razavi Bazaz — RSNSW Scholarship Winner
PhD Student, School of Biomedical Engineering, University of Technology Sydney

Molecular mechanisms of inflammasome activation by enterotoxins of the foodborne pathogen Bacillus cereus
Mr Daniel Fox — RSNSW Scholarship Winner
PhD Student, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University

Improving the treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in refugees: The important role of emotion regulation
Ms Phillipa Specker — RSNSW Scholarship Winner
PhD Student, School of Psychology, UNSW (Sydney)

3 March 

6.30pm AEDT

1291st Ordinary General Meeting and Open Lecture

Venue: Zoom Webinar

What are the best options for growing Australia’s mental health through the COVID-19 recovery?
Professor Ian Hickie AM FRSN FASSA FAHMS
Co-Director (Health and Policy), Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney

7 April

6.00pm AEDT

154th Annual General Meeting (6.00pm)
1292nd Ordinary General Meeting and Open Lecture (immediately following)

Venue: Zoom Webinar

Antarctica, this ain’t no mirage: The value of art in disseminating scientific information
Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger
Artist, exploring connections between science and art practice

5 May

6.30pm AEST

1293rd Ordinary General Meeting and Open Lecture

Venue: Zoom Webinar (TBC)

Big, bad fires in NSW
Emerita Professor Mary O’Kane AC FRSN FTSE HonFIEAust
Chair, Independent Planning Commission of NSW and former Chief Scientist and Engineer of NSW

2 June

6.30pm AEDT

1294th Ordinary General Meeting and Open Lecture

Venue: Zoom Webinar (TBC)

Murray-Darling Basin turmoil: past, present and future
Professor Richard Kingsford FRSN
Director, Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW (Sydney)

7 July

6.30pm AEST

1295th Ordinary General Meeting and Open Lecture

Venue: To be advised

Society as an information-processing system, and the influence of the media
Dr Erik Aslaksen FRSN
Director, Systems Engineer, and Author

4 August 

6.30pm AEST

1296th Ordinary General Meeeting and Open Lecture

Venue: To be advised

Towards a modern history of Gondwanaland
Professor Alison Bashford FRSN FAHA FBA FRHistS
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW (Sydney)

1 September

6.30pm AEST

1297th Ordinary General Meeeting and Open Lecture

Venue: To be advised

Taking humour and laughter seriously: Exploring the multi-disciplinary field of humour studies 
Dr Jessica Millner-Davis FRSN
Honorary Associate, School of Literature, Art and Media, University of Sydney

6 October

6.30pm AEDT

1298th Ordinary General Meeeting and Open Lecture

Venue: To be advised

Topic: To be advised 
Scientia Professor Toby Walsh
School of Computer Science and Engineering, UNSW (Sydney)

Date TBA

9.00am - 4.30pm AEDT

Royal Society of NSW and Four Academies Annual Forum

Venue: Government House, Sydney, Live Streaming and subsequent availability on YouTube

Topic: To be advised

10 November

6.30pm AEDT

1299th Ordinary General Meeting and Open Lecture

Venue: To be advised

Topic: To be announced
Speaker: To be announced

1 December

6.30pm AEDT

1300th Ordinary General Meeting and Open Lecture

Venue: To be advised

Managing psychological distress in times of stress: handling the stress of COVID-19
Scientia Professor Richard Bryant AC FASSA FAA FAHMS — James Cook Medal Winner 2020
School of Psychology, UNSW (Sydney)

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Hunter Branch Meetings

The Hunter Branch Event Program for 2021 is still under development.

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