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ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE
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THE KEY TO YOUR FUTURE
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Tom Cresswell’s career in nuclear science is
HELPING PROTECT OUR AQUATIC ENVIRONMENTS 48
The presence of pollution in our lakes, rivers and marine environments is a well-known problem and one we have all seen for ourselves at some point. But pollution goes beyond the rubbish floating in and on water. Pollution includes tiny particles and dissolved forms of contaminants, invisible to the naked eye, that are present in waterways and being absorbed by animals whose habitats are near or in those waterways. Dr Tom Cresswell is an Aquatic Ecosystems Scientist at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) studying the impact minute contaminants are having on organisms living within aquatic systems.
“This knowledge will help us protect the environment into the future”
By using non-harmful nuclear research techniques to study aquatic animals like prawns, crabs and oysters, Tom is attempting to identify contaminants being absorbed by animals, determining how quickly they enter the animal and how and if that animal is able to remove it from their body. The research uses radioactive isotopes in an approach that is similar to nuclear medicine procedures such as a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. During a PET scan, a medical professional will inject a small amount of a radioactive material into a patient’s body and, using a PET scanner, see the location of the radioactive material, to understand how diseases such as cancer spread. In the case of Tom’s research, he adds an isotope of the metal pollutant (the radioactive form of that metal pollutant), such as cadmium, zinc or selenium, to the animal through its food or water. The living animal is then scanned using a gamma
spectrometer in real time to see how much of the contaminant was absorbed, how quickly it was absorbed, how the animal processes the contaminant and how quickly it is removed from the body. “By using radioisotopes to understand these subtle biological mechanisms, we are better able to understand the impact of contaminants on the environment and the animals living within the system,” said Tom. “This knowledge will help us protect the environment into the future”. Tom is passionate about helping to preserve our valuable water resources. It’s a dream come true for someone who lived by the ocean most of his life. Tom developed an interest in marine science after doing some of his schooling in Florida where he did a class in oceanography. “For one subject, I got to swim with manatees and from that day on I was hooked!” Having moved to Australia eight years ago, and having worked at ANSTO for the past four years, Tom gets to live out his dream every day. To learn more about the work undertaken by ANSTO’s researchers and just where a career in nuclear science can take you, visit www.ansto.gov.au
CONTENTS 5 NEWS & VIEWS Recent memorable moments from the world of STEM
INSPIRATION Meet Tim Jarvis: a man on a mission
10 FUTURE PROOF Career advice for the mid-millennium
What Australia's new obsession with innovation will mean to you
20 REALITY CHECK
Look around and experience the STEM revolution
24 STUDY ADVICE
What way of studying will suit you best
28 HOT CAREER OPTION There's a place for you in space: the new career frontier
32 THE BIG PICTURE 38 SUSTAINABILITY The powerful truth about our energy options
42 SUCCESS STORIES Age is no barrier to a stellar career COVER IMAGE: ISTOCK
TIM JARVIS RESTING ON THE ALEXANDRA SHACKLETON MAST. IMAGE BY JO STEWART
How you can get on-board to save the planet
CUSTOM PUBLISHED by The Tangello Group Pty Ltd on behalf of RiAus, Australia's Science Channel, The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide SA 5000. EDITOR Karen McGhee - email@example.com ART DIRECTOR Joe Ferrera DESIGNER Homaera Bilkis Laizu PHOTO EDITOR Darren Wilson WRITERS Myles Gough, Morris Miselowski, Kate Arneman, Cris Burne, Sarah Keenihan, Lauren Smith, Helen Hughes, George Aranda, Ken Eastwood, Carlie O’Connell NATIONAL ADVERTISING MANAGER Krissy Mander - firstname.lastname@example.org - ph 0410 511 150 PUBLISHER Lucinda Mitchell - email@example.com..au RIAUS EDITORIAL PANEL Steve Kern, Tania Meyer. To order print copies, view a digital edition or download a pdf version go to riaus.tv Ultimate Science Guide is a publication of RiAus. Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner or form without written permission.
4 I ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE
NEWS & VIEWS
MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM THE WORLD OF STEM
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WITH MYLES GOUGH
youtube.com/watch?v=d_yYC5r8xMI You’ll see from this video that peacock spiders look just like weird morphs of arachnids and birds. But these stunning little creatures are all spider. The group is found only in Australia and gets its common name from the fact that males boast brightly coloured abdomens and are well-known for their entertaining courtship dances. The man responsible for this video, which had been watched by more than 5 million people when we last checked, is Jürgen Otto – a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources entomologist who’s been obsessively documenting peacock spiders for fun since 2011 on Facebook, Flickr and YouTube. Two species recently found in Queensland were affectionately named Sparklemuffin (Maratus jactatus), for its jolting leg movements during courtship – and Skeletorus (Maratus sceletus), for its atypical blackand-white colouration, resembling a skeleton. Both were discovered in Wondul Range National Park, in southern Queensland. They bring the number of known peacock spider species up to 43 with Otto and collaborator David Hill, who’s just as passionate about these gorgeous arachnids, being involved in the naming of more than 20 of them. “These spiders are so incredible that some people think I make them up or photoshop them,” Jürgen told the Ultimate Science Guide (USG). “But they are real of course and I consider myself extremely lucky to be the person who made them famous.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY JURGEN OTTO
FROM THE TWITTERVERSE:
“YES, THERE ARE OTHER LIFE FORMS IN SPACE!” This message from beyond our atmosphere came from NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in January, along with photos of the first-ever flowers grown on the International Space Station (ISS): orange-bloomed zinnias. Astronauts on the ISS have been using an experimental veggie-growing facility to practise what will be essential for future deep space missions: autonomous gardening. Scott helped grow the first successful romaine lettuce crop on the ISS in mid-2015, before he tried his hand at zinnias – part of the daisy family. The flowers are more challenging to grow than lettuce, as they take longer and are more sensitive to light and environmental conditions. But they’re considered a good
precursor for growing tomato plants – something NASA plans to do on the ISS by 2018. Despite showing signs of stress – such as curling leaves, dying tissue and mould – two zinnia plants were kept alive by Scott who was guided by instructions from Earth-bound botanists. He kept the world up-to-date with his progress by documenting the entire process on social media. The zinnia trials were part of a series of ongoing experiments helping scientists understand how plants grow in microgravity. They’re also providing information about long-duration seed stow and germination, the potential impacts of pollen on astronauts, and whether plants can improve crew morale on long missions.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SCOTT KELLY, NASA
www.nasa.gov/content/veggie-plant-growth-system-activated-on-international-space-station ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 5
NEWS & VIEWS
STILL GRIEVING FOR PLUTO? US astronomers may have a replacement for you. They’ve found evidence of a new ninth planet. And it could fill the ‘void’ left in our Solar System by Pluto when it lost its official status as a planet. Pluto’s been known technically as a ‘dwarf planet’ since it failed to meet the International Astronomical Union’s 2006 definition of a planet. Its potential successor is a large planet that could be hiding in the far reaches of our solar system. Planet Nine – as it’s been nicknamed – could be 10 times more massive than Earth and would take an astonishing 10,000–20,000 years to complete a full orbit of our Sun. Ironically, the planet’s existence has been proposed by astronomer Mike Brown from the California Institute of Technology, who helped downgrade Pluto’s planetary status back in 2005. (Brown’s twitter handle is @plutokiller and he’s the author of How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming). Brown and his colleague, Konstantin Batygin, found the new planet when they were trying to figure out what was causing a mysterious orbital pattern demonstrated by several icy objects in
the Kuiper Belt – a vast region of the solar system beyond Neptune. The best explanation, according to their mathematical modelling and calculations, is the gravitational influence of a distant planet. And while Planet Nine hasn’t yet been observed, the pair is so confident it’s out there that they reported their findings in The Astronomical Journal. “For the first time in over 150 years, there is solid evidence that the solar system’s planetary census is incomplete,” an excited Batygin said.
PSYCHEDELIC PLUTO IMAGE: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
AMONG THE MOST INTRIGUING IN A RECENT SPATE OF DINOSAUR DISCOVERIES IS
IMAGE: M. SCHWEITZER/NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY
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a web of delicate blood-vessels found preserved inside a fossilised leg bone and that would have carried blood more than 80 million years ago through a nine-metrelong dinosaur. Palaeontologists in the US uncovered the remains, which belong to one of the duck-billed dinosaurs, Brachylophosaurus canadensis, back in 2007, near present-day Montana. And they found what they suspected were blood vessels after the bone was demineralised – a process that helps expose soft tissue. Now, after extensive testing, the team has finally confirmed that the specimens are indeed blood vessels from the original animal, and not the product of biofilms, or some other contaminant. “This study is the first direct analysis of blood vessels from an extinct organism,” said lead researcher Tim Cleland from the University of Texas at Austin. “It provides us with an opportunity to understand what kinds of proteins and tissues can persist and how they change during fossilisation.”
THE POWER OF POO
WHILE ON THE SUBJECT OF BODILY WASTES... Aussie scientists have come up with a smart pill that ‘sniffs’ out gut gases and that’s a potentially good thing for our health. As microbes break down food in our gut, a range of gases is produced, including some that have been linked to nasty conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer. We’d have a better chance of understanding how these gases affect our health if we could measure their production in the gut. But that’s been virtually impossible to do. . . until now. A team of Aussie engineers at Melbourne’s RMIT University have designed and manufactured a prototype of an electronic pill (above) that measures the concentrations of different gases in the gut and sends the data directly from inside the body to a mobile phone. The team has already carried out trials in pigs, which have similar digestive systems to humans.
A BACTERIA-KILLING ‘VIRUS’ BUILT FROM BREAST MILK
IMAGE: CRANFIELD UNIVERSITY
rotating odour barrier powered by closing the lid Archimedes screw
A cartoon representation of the new potential “weapon” against superbugs
detachable water tank
sealed holding chamber
And they’ve already had some interesting results: for example, a low-fibre diet produced four times more hydrogen in the small intestine than a high-fibre diet. “This was a complete surprise because hydrogen is produced through fermentation, so we naturally expected more fibre would equal more of this fermentation gas,” said lead developer Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, director of RMIT’s Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors. “The smart pills allow us to identify precisely where the gases are produced and help us understand the microbial activity in these areas. It’s the first step in demolishing the myths of food effects on our body and replacing those myths with hard facts.”
ILUSTRATION BY JAWAHAR SWAMINATHAN
is the next potential weapon in the war against superbugs. It’s been built by British engineers, who converted a protein in breast milk into an ‘artificial virus’ that can kill bacteria on contact. It’s hoped that it can be brought into the global fight against drugresistant microbes. Lactoferrin is an antimicrobial protein found in human breast milk that protects newborn babies from infectious diseases until their immune systems have had a chance to develop. It contains nanoscale fragments – 50,000 times thinner than a human hair and comprised of six amino acids – that are believed to cluster together to attack bacterial cells, punching holes through their membranes. Armed with this knowledge, researchers at the National Physical Laboratory and University College London, in the UK, modified the fragments so they self-assembled into virus-like capsules. These were then unleashed on bacteria and watched by the team using powerful microscopes. “The result was striking,” said researcher Hasan Alkassem. “The capsules acted as projectiles [breaking through] the membranes with bullet speed and efficiency.” Importantly, the capsules had no negative effects on the surrounding human cells. The team’s findings have been reported in the journal Chemical Science.
ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 7
SMART PILL COURTESY OF RMIT
An affordable, waterless toilet that can turn human waste into electricity and clean water for washing and gardening, will be trialled in Africa later this year. The Nano Membrane Toilet, which is being developed by Cranfield University researchers in the UK, doesn’t need running water, sewage infrastructure or an electricity supply. And all that makes it an ideal option for the 2.3 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to hygienic toilets. Here’s how it works: after flushing, the bottom of the toilet bowl rotates upside down, dumping the waste into a sealed chamber, which prevents nasty odours from escaping. A specially designed filter inside this chamber separates vaporised water molecules (extracted from urine) from harmful pathogens and solid excrement. This now-purified water vapour is transported to another chamber where it condenses, returns to liquid form and collects inside an accessible water tank. The leftover solid waste is carried by a mechanical screw into a small incinerator to be burned. The energy derived from this process, say the researchers, can power the toilet’s filtration system and potentially “charge mobile phones or other low voltage items”. The toilet was partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. www.gatesfoundation. org/What-We-Do/ Global-Development/ Reinvent-the-Toilet-Challenge
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NEWS & VIEWS NEW WORLD (WEATHER) RECORD:
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CONSTRUCTION HAS BEGUN ON THE WORLD’S LARGEST FLOATING SOLAR POWER STATION. IMAGE COURTESY OF KYOCERA TCL SOLAR
TRAVEL Want to flit down to Melbourne from Sydney in less than an hour, without boarding a plane? Then this one’s for you. A small team of aerospace engineering students from RMIT University in Melbourne have designed a driverless ‘hyperloop’ pod (see right), which could hit theoretical speeds faster than 1200 km/hr.
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Don’t, however, pack your bags just yet. The hyperloop is a conceptual, high-speed ground-based transportation system in which passenger pods, accelerated by magnets, race
It’s being built by a Japanese company on a dam reservoir near Tokyo. The company, Kyocera TCL Solar, says the 13.7-megawatt power station will comprise 51,000 solar modules, cover an area of 180,000 square metres, and produce enough electricity to annually power 4970 homes. Floating solar power stations are an increasingly attractive option in countries that need to conserve agricultural land. They also serve the added benefit of helping to reduce water evaporation and slow the growth of algae. The new solar power station is scheduled to begin operating in mid-2018.
through low-pressure steel tubes on an air cushion. It was an idea that was first proposed in 2012 by visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of US automotive and energy storage company Tesla and space transport service
company SpaceX. The RMIT team, VicHyper, pitched their design at the SpaceX-sponsored Hyperloop Pod Design competition in Texas, in the US, early this year. They were one of just eight teams chosen from 124 worldwide to win overall best design. They’ll now get the opportunity to build and test their pods on the first hyperloop test track, in California later this year. www.spacex.com/hyperloop
IMAGES: VICHYPER COURTESY OF RMIT, LUT DESERT BY HADI KARIMI
It’s official – 2015 was a scorcher! Continued global warming and stronger-than-usual El Niño weather patterns both helped 2015 become the hottest calendar year, and 12-month period, on record. According to data from the NOAA (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), global surface temperatures in 2015 were up by 0.90°C on the 20th century average of 13.9°C. The previous record, set in 2014, was 0.74°C warmer than the average. This is the fourth time this millennium that a new annual temperature record has been set, and the 39th consecutive year that the annual temperature has been above the 20th century average.
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10 I ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE
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hatever your parents did, do the opposite! That’s my advice when it comes to career planning. Your Mum and Dad were told by their Mum and Dad that they had one chance at finding a career and the perfect job. But your choice is very different. You only have to find the right direction and best starting point. It’s likely that in your lifetime – which could be 100+ years – you will: have at least six careers and 14 jobs; work project-and-task and not 9-to-5; use all sorts of not-yet-seen tech, gadgets and devices; and, create your own jobs rather than get jobs. Looking for work in the near future is going to be all about having great transferable skills and identifying incredible opportunities to use them. Sixty per cent of all workplace tasks you’ll be doing in 10 years’ time haven’t been invented yet. And they’ll be in industries that don’t exist yet, with employers who are at school now and don’t even realise they’re going to be tomorrow’s next great thinkers, inventors and doers – maybe it’s you.
to roads, wearable devices talk to medical staff. But what else can you make it do? What else do you want it to do?
Or you might like to consider adding your brain to the growing sciences of big data and artificial intelligence to solve humanity’s problems. These are just-emerging but rapidly growing technologies that have the ability to gather, sort and make sense of the vast amounts of up-to-the-millisecond relevant information and turn it into best-scenario next steps. We’re already using this embryonic technology in hospitals to assist doctors with accurate patient diagnosis and prognosis and in financial markets to model future investments and possible returns. Satellites are sending a steady stream of information to tractor robots and drones using artificial intelligence to tell them when to plant, water and harvest. These are the sorts of things we’re doing with it now. What will you do with it when you get your hands on it?
Considering a career in aged care and health? Tomorrow’s careers are so Perhaps not, but you might want to. The different from past opportunities. Who, for opportunities are likely to be way beyond what example, would have thought you could make a you’re thinking. What about getting involved in career out of playing games? But lots of people building some of the many carer assist robots already do and more will. Gamification is that are springing up? Or, how about innovating the science of applying typical game-playing the existing robotic exoskeleton that already behaviours and attributes to other areas of life operates like a wearable suit to give nurses the and work. A career in this industry requires you powers of super strength and ability so they can to understand how and why humans think and effortlessly lift patients and move them around? act in certain ways. You’ll use the worlds of Why not build a humanoid carer robot that attends augmented and virtual reality along with a to patients 24/7? Or maybe you’d prefer to be tonne of other technologies to create digital involved in figuring out how we can live longer and near-real spaces in which to teach or and healthier lives? As our population continues modify people’s behaviour. And who will to age, the field of gerontology – which covers all you be creating these products for? Every aspects of aging from the social, psychological commercial pilot has spent countless hours and cognitive to the biological – is an absolute star career moving forward. training in a virtual cockpit. And today many surgeons already trial their operations first If Earth isn’t big enough for you, why not head on virtual patients; using virtual scalpels into space with one of the many government and and other instruments to make sure that private space exploration firms? The next few when they get to the real thing they’re ready decades will see space travel, tourism and mining and know what to do and when. Today some and planet colonisation coming back in a big way. teachers are even learning to control virtual To turn it from science fiction into science fact students (as if!) in virtual classrooms so they we’re going to need a whole lot of great minds know what to do in the real world. inventing incredible things (see p28). And some psychologists are already curing The trick to choosing a future career is not phobia patients by immersing them in virtual fear necessarily in knowing its job title, nor in knowing experiences so they can get used to and overcome everything about where you’re headed, because their anxieties in the real world. you can’t ... that future world hasn’t been created What about becoming an Internet of yet. It is instead in knowing the direction Things (IoT) puppeteer? This burgeoning you want to head, recognising that talent industry is just starting to digitally inside you that’s bursting to get out and, connect all our possessions, objects, rather than trying to squeeze yourself into one career title for life, thinking of devices and ‘things’. But within the next five to 10 years it will become the yourself as a Life Architect, constantly backbone of modern civilisation; linking searching out opportunities in which to PRESENTER AND up, in real time, our bodies, homes, BROADCASTER MORRIS use your skills and talents so you can transport and cities. At the moment it’s imagine and build the things of your MISELOWSKI IS A GLOBAL BUSINESS AND dreams and our future. helping fridges talk to toasters, cars talk
Who would have thought you could make a career out of playing games?
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ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 11
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ON THE INNOVATION STATEMENT
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WHAT’S AUSTRALIA’S NEW OBSESSION WITH INNOVATION ALL ABOUT? AND WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO YOU? GEORGE ARANDA EXPLAINS.
nnovation is about creating new solutions to problems and finding new ways of doing things. Without it there’d be no smartphones, solar power or internet. It’s part of how we change, succeed and grow. But innovation is risky – especially financially – because whenever something’s tried that’s never been done before, there’s always the possibility it might not work at first. As American inventor Thomas Edison once said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Failure is part of innovation. But the flip side is that great risks can also bring great rewards. On December 7, last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the National Innovation and Science Agenda. In it,
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SHAKEDOWN Thomas Edison was hugely important in shaping our modern technological world goo.gl/PG7ix9 he outlined a plan to make Australia more prosperous and internationally competitive by encouraging and supporting business, researchers and scientists to take the sort of risks that can bring big rewards. After all, Australians have historically had a pretty good track record with innovation – google penicillin, Wi-Fi, the Black Box, ultrasound and even Google Maps, and you’ll see what I mean!
Making Innovation & Collaboration easier There are ways to measure capabilities such as innovation. And according to the Global Innovation Index, Australia currently ranks relatively low on the world stage – although we’re comparable to other countries in the Asia Pacific region. In terms of collaboration between business and industry, Australia also doesn’t do so well. In fact, we’re the lowest ranked advanced country in the OECD. The purpose of the Innovation and Science Agenda is to do something about this – to stimulate innovation and collaboration in Australia. The agenda hopes to inspire innovation by: • creating tax incentives • reducing penalties and removing red-tape for companies whose innovations turn out to be unsuccessful (remember Thomas Edison: failure is part of the process!) • backing it up with funds: there’ll be a new $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund and a new Biomedical Translation Fund to co-invest a further $250million
The OECD (which stands for the Organisation for Economic Development) was founded in the early 1960s to stimulate world trade. The original members included mostly European nations and the United States. Australia joined in 1971 and is now one of 34 member countries.
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technologies and introducing youth prizes in the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science To increase collaboration between business and research organisations, there’ll be: • funding for research infrastructure such as the Square Kilometre Array (see page 28 for more on this exciting project) • an investment of $127 million for research grants that emphasise collaboration • an expansion and relaunch of programmes such as Innovation Connections that help connect small and medium businesses with researchers • help for Australian entrepreneurs to access international research hot-spots and funding for collaborations with industry research hubs • a new Cyber Security Growth Centre
Coding & STEM training
A new organisation - Innovation and Science Australia – is being created to oversee this plan for growth through innovation and collaboration.
“WE NEED A GREATER EMPHASIS ON CELEBRATING SUCCESS RATHER THAN PENALISING FAILURE.”
Innovation doesn’t just happen. It takes training, knowledge and skills. Right around the world there’s been a call for more computer-savvy workers. And that doesn’t - National Innovation and just mean more people who know how to use Science Agenda. Powerpoint or Word. It means more people who can understand how to create the software behind it – how to program, or code. The United Kingdom and parts of Europe have already incorporated coding into their primary and secondary school-level curriculums. The aim is not to necessarily The agenda is about trying to bring about a produce more programmers. It’s about cultural shift in Australia – to highlight the developing more people who are able to importance of innovation and risk-taking collect and use data and information – skills in developing new products and services. that will become increasingly important. And that means this should be a pretty good There has been a fall in the number of time to have ideas: officially there will be people enrolling in science, maths and more people who want to know about those computing in high schools and universities ideas, more places to help them grow into across Australia. In particular, fewer women reality and more money available to do it. are studying these subjects. And that’s The agenda should mean greater investment thought to be associated with a lack of female for start-up companies and incentives for role models and unpredictable industry and research to work together. career paths. Importantly, the agenda recognises To increase Australia’s number the significance of students in of computationally literate Australia’s future and that it is their people, there’ll be: innovation and creativity that will lead • $51 million to promote coding us into a brighter tomorrow. Australian DR GEORGE ARANDA IS and digital technologies schools have already begun to embrace A DEAKIN UNIVERSITY in schools, online, and in coding, robotics and 3D printing. And EDUCATION LECTURER partnerships with scientists there’ll be further government support LOOKING INTO PUTTING and ICT professionals to foster the ideas of students and 3D PRINTERS INTO • $13 million to support PRIMARY SCHOOLS. HE’S more reasons for entrepreneurs to ALSO DOING RESEARCH greater numbers of women think about developing their ideas in ON TECHNOLOGY AND in research, STEM and techAustralia. With government support SCIENCE EDUCATION startups and promote female hopefully more people will take the AND COMMUNICATION, role models risk, and reap the rewards. Maybe you’ll LOVES BOOKS, WRITES • $48 million invested in THE BLOG SCIENCE BOOK A be among them. teaching STEM throughout DAY AND MAKES HIS OWN ICE-CREAM. the entire school experience SCIENCEBOOKADAY. by developing new digital
What does all this mean to you?
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he Defence Science and Technology Group (DST) is part of the Department of Defence. Its role is to provide Government with scientific advice and innovative technology solutions to meet Australia’s Defence and national security needs.
Defence Science – a world of As the country’s second largest public-funded research opportunities organisation, DST employs 2100 scientists, engineers and
researchers with in-depth knowledge and experience in many science disciplines.
Whether it is improving personal protection armour and ration packs for the Army, designing missile decoys to protect Navy ships, putting wings on bombs to increase the Air Force’s missile range or building the world’s largest over-the-horizon radar network to keep a watch on our borders, DST scientists continually come up with clever science solutions that work. It was a defence scientist who invented the black box flight recorder in the 1950s. Among other innovations, today’s DST scientists are developing equipment to protect Australian soldiers from improvised explosive devices and extending the safe service life of fighter aircraft beyond their use-by date. A skilled and motivated workforce is an essential prerequisite for the organisation to continue delivering outstanding scientific support to Defence. So, DST is committed to attracting talented people and oﬀering a unique opportunity to pursue a rich and rewarding career in science while contributing to Australia’s national security. DST’s drive to recruit the country’s future top scientists and engineers is helped by the many and varied science career pathways on oﬀer. These include cadetships and scholarships for students, a summer vacation placement program, an industry experience placement program, and a graduate program. DST scientists also partner with teachers as part of the Science and Mathematics in Schools program, helping Australia develop a national science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) capability to underpin the search for future scientists. One only has to reflect on the amazing breadth and depth of scientific research undertaken by defence scientists to understand the great career opportunities DST can oﬀer to present and future generations of Australians.
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USG: You’ve had a range of roles and job descriptions throughout your career – environmental scientist, public speaker, writer, adventurer. How would you define yourself today? TIM: I would call myself a communicator. I use stories to convey messages, and underpin that with science. USG: Not many scientists have had as much success as you at communicating their work to a wider audience. Did your skills in this area come from training or did you simply develop them over time? TIM: I did a marketing course after I got my first degree [in geomorphology, which explores landforms and the processes that create them]. It taught me the importance of pitching messages, so people will respond favourably. It doesn’t mean you lie to them…it means you understand what’s important
IMAGES COURTESY OF TIM JARVIS
THROUGH HIS 25ZERO PROJECT TIM JARVIS HAS BROUGHT THE WORLD’S ATTENTION TO GLACIERS THAT HAVE SURVIVED HIGH ON EQUATORIAL MOUNTAINS SINCE THE LAST ICE AGE BUT, DUE TO HUMAN-INDUCED CLIMATE CHANGE, WILL HAVE DISAPPEARED BY 2040. USG’S HELEN HUGHES CHATS WITH THE ACCLAIMED EXPLORER AND WRITER ABOUT HIS USE OF SCIENCE TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE…AND THE MASSIVE ADVENTURES HE’S HAD DOING IT.
A MAN ON A MISSION to them and capture it in a way that will make them act upon it. I think it’s a personal thing, too: my expedition experience taught me that. If you want a group of people to pull together for a common goal, you have to go to each of them with a slightly different version of your story.
USG: What challenges did you face planning for 25zero? TIM: We tried to pick up on the Zeitgeist. With glaciers at the equator, you’ve got a good historical record and you can show pictures. People respond
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SCIENCE IS THE AREA IN WHICH WE NEED TO FOCUS OUR ENERGY. THERE’S PLENTY OF ROOM FOR EVERYBODY, SO IT’S A GREAT THING TO GO INTO. WE NEED YOUR ENTHUSIASM AND EXPERTISE AND WE NEED IT NOW!”
ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 17
RiAus - Australia’s Science Channel
but I got there in the end so that’s the important thing.
LOVE BRINGING PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT WALKS OF LIFE TOGETHER INTO A PROJECT AND SEEING WHAT MAGIC COMES FROM THAT.”
to that. We like to see tangible evidence, and it doesn’t have to be complicated science. 25zero took two years to plan. Logistically, it was a little easier than the Shackleton Epic because you can fly to Uganda on a commercial airline. But you still have similar problems – you have to get up to the remote mountains and Ebola is not too far away – you have to be careful.
Tim was part of a 2013 team that recreated Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1916 Southern Ocean crossing. You then have to have good science to back up what you’re saying because you want to show visuals, but you want to be able to say that what you’re seeing is a result of climate change.
USG: What was the response you saw? TIM: I think we had some impact. We picked one of the noisiest media environments in which to try and operate without a very big budget, so we knew what we were up against. We did have a press conference sponsored by African governments, though. Private operations like expeditions never get press conferences sponsored by governments so that’s a really big deal. USG: Are you optimistic about the potential for these kinds of programs to change minds? TIM: I’m trying to start a movement, really, and I think people are interested in the subject matter. They are naturally drawn to the fact
that there’s ice at the equator and then you tell them it’ll be gone. I’m hopeful for the social media campaign, which is really conducted outside the noise of COP21.
The 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) was held in France last year. USG: What do you love most about your career and is there anything you would change? TIM: I love bringing people from different walks of life together into a project and seeing what magic comes from that. I love it in an expedition context and I like it personally – I get excited by ideas coming together and I think that’s what we need to get environmental outcomes. Would I do anything differently? Study harder. I wish I had science communicated to me in a more imaginative way when I was a kid. It was always communicated to me as just an abstract subject
USG: Is there any one thing that you’re most proud of? TIM: Reaching the South Pole was a big deal for me. I never really knew whether I was going to make it, and making it has changed everything. You’ve got two options when you do something like that. You can either say, “okay, if it was achievable by me it can’t have been that hard”, or you can give yourself credit for it and that elevates your game. You start to think what else is possible.
In 1999, Tim was part of (what was at the time) the fastest unsupported expedition to the South Pole and longest unsupported Antarctic trek. USG: What advice would you give anyone looking to start their own career in environmental science? TIM: I’d say we need you! Environmental science is the area in which we need to focus our energy. There’s plenty of room for everybody, so it’s a great thing to go into. We need your enthusiasm and expertise and we need it now! But there’s no single path. I think the one I followed was an obscure one. I saw the value in applying things that I wanted to learn as skills to get the job done. I saw science as a means to achieve the outcome that I believed in.
riaus.tv/tags/25zero 18 I ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE
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REAL-WORLD REVOLUTION STEM-BASED TECHNOLOGIES ALREADY INFLUENCE MOST ASPECTS OF OUR WORLD. SO IT’S EASY TO ENVISAGE A FUTURE, WRITES KATE ARNEMAN, WHERE PERSONAL ROBOTS AND THE PRINTING OF HUMAN BODY PARTS ARE COMMONPLACE.
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RiAus - Australia’s Science Channel
“IF YOUR IDEA OF AN ENGINEER IS A GUY IN MUDDY BOOTS AND A HARD HAT, ZOOM OUT FOR A BIGGER PICTURE.”
Living in Fiji for three years gave John McIntosh a new perspective on the value of engineering to society. As National President of Engineers Australia, he already had a pretty good idea, of course. But witnessing the grassroots work of the organisation Engineers Without Borders in one of our less wealthy neighbours was both inspiring and humbling. “When a group like Engineers Without Borders go into a place like that – a developing country – you can see the impact: running water in the villages and things like that,” John explains. “In Australia it’s not so obvious and we just take it for granted but it’s still being done and it’s still part of what we need as a country to be a functioning society.” He lists a few examples: clean water, sewage, drainage, houses that don’t leak, roads, footpaths and traffic lights. “I think we’re social workers,” he says. “We create communities that are happy, healthy and prosperous.”
BREAKING STEREOTYPES But if your idea of an engineer is a guy in muddy boots and a hard hat, zoom out for a bigger picture. “Construction site engineering would be a small part of the engineering profession,” John says, explaining that the profession covers a wide range of diverse specialties, from robotics and biomechanical engineering to design engineering.
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REALITY CHECK Twenty-seven-year-old Marita Cheng decided she wanted to be part of the robotics revolution when she was a teenager and has worked hard to make that a reality, recruiting an army of girls along the way. Robogals, the organisation she founded in 2008, now runs robotics workshops in schools in nine countries, including Australia, to introduce teenage girls to engineering. [Marita’s become such an Aussie poster girl for the capabilities of engineering that the USG has singled her out as one of our young innovators to watch – see p42.] After being named the 2012 Young Australian of the Year, she set up her own robotics company, 2Mar, with the motto ‘Making lives easier, one robot at a time’. 2Mar has so far launched two products, both designed to assist people in their day-today lives. Jeva is a robotic arm that can be used by people with limited upper body mobility to move and grip objects in a sophisticated way. Mounted on a wheelchair, table or bench, the arm is controlled by touch via smartphone or tablet, or by head movements via a headset. Jeva performs a range of everyday functions for users. It allows them, for example, to feed themselves, turn light switches on and off, pick up things, push buttons to cross at traffic lights and reach products on higher supermarket shelves. This all adds up to greater independence and self-sufficiency. When she embarked on the project, Marita was equipped with technical and business skills. A critical stage early in the project was contacting the
MARITA WITH TELEROO BY 2MAR
Spinal Cord Injuries Association and individuals with disabilities and their carers, to talk about her ideas and get input from the experts. “Tell us what your life is like, tell us what [technology] you currently use. I want to make something that’s useful,” she said to them. “So I met with them, they gave me a lot of feedback about my product and I just kept building it to their specifications.” 2Mar’s second project, Teleroo, has the potential to be used by all kinds of people in all kinds of settings. Described as ‘Skype on wheels’, it consists of a tablet attached to a pole on a base with
ACCORDING TO THE MOST RECENT DATA FROM THE AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS: 2.1 million Australians – 18% of the workforce – have qualifications in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics. Of these, 15% have two or more STEM qualifications. Qualifications in engineering and related fields make up close to two-thirds (63%) of the total, followed by natural and physical sciences (17%), information technology (15%) and agriculture, environmental and related studies (10%). The number of jobs in STEM occupations has grown at one-and-a-half times more than other job sectors: between 2006 and 2011, the average growth rate of non-STEM occupations was 9%, compared with 14% for the 10 most common STEM occupations. 22 I ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE
MAIN MARITA IMAGE COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
THE WORLD WITHIN
wheels. The user’s face appears on the screen and the pole can be adjusted to the height of the user. Imagine you were in a serious car accident and ended While STEM underpins the up in hospital for weeks. You world around us, it’s also could control Teleroo remotely being put to work inside us from your hospital bed to take with devices ranging part in school – locating it in from cochlear implants to classrooms and playgrounds pacemakers. Now, the field to not only see and hear what’s of regenerative medicine is happening but also take part in rapidly harnessing technology conversations. You could hang to encourage the body to repair out with friends on the weekend its own tissues and organs. and even send Teleroo Associate Professor to your Year 12 formal! Mia Woodruff and Marita has many her team from more ideas about how Queensland University Teleroo could be used to of Technology’s interact with others and Institute of Health and BEING A JOURNALIST take part in situations Biomedical Innovation LETS KATE ARNEMAN when you can’t be (IHBI) are experts in BEHAVE LIKE A THREEYEAR- OLD; BAILING physically present. It biofabrication – creating UP INTERVIEWEES would allow people body tissue using 3D AND DEMANDING who live a long way printing. EXPLANATIONS from their workplace to Mia is confident that, ABOUT EVERYTHING work from home more in the future, every FROM CREATIVE effectively; for relatives hospital will have a 3D CLIMATE ACTIVISM TO BILINGUALISM AND who live a long way printer in the operating FLUID DYNAMICS. apart to ‘attend’ special theatre, just as every SHE’S WRITTEN FOR occasions like weddings office today has regular A RANGE OF SCIENCE and birthdays; and for paper printers. She MAGS FROM COSMOS company executives and her team have TO GREEN LIFESTYLE to have face time with developed a new way MAGAZINE AND IS A GRANDDAUGHTER OF far-flung employees, to repair bone damage AUSSIE COUNTRY MUSIC in patients who have, without needing to LEGEND SLIM DUSTY. travel to them. for example, suffered
Blending art and science in game design: riaus.tv/videos/ future-innovators-episode-2 Bending natural laws to create digital special effects: riaus.tv/videos/ future-innovators-episode-1
RiAus - Australia’s Science Channel
Researchers around the world are experimenting with similar techniques to regenerate muscle, nerves and skin. The IHBI is a bit like the United Nations of STEM. Materials chemists, biologists, physicists, engineers, mathematicians, mechatronics experts and medical doctors have all contributed to the project: from designing the 3D printer, to formulating the plastic scaffold material and bio-inks and monitoring the bone tissue regeneration, to ensuring that the models can be translated into real life. “Passionate collaborative research,” is how Mia describes it as she points out that having team members skilled in more than one area is invaluable. One of her students has an IT background and is now, under her supervision, doing research in biology; another is studying medicine while also researching teeth and jawbone reconstruction.
Our reliance on STEM in our daily lives is only going to increase in the years ahead. And that, says Nobel Prizewinning astrophysicist Professor Brian Schmidt, is why it’s so important for today’s teenagers to equip themselves with skills in these areas. “STEM is going to be at the core of a huge number of jobs that are not replaced by robots,” explains Brian, who earlier this year took on the role of Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Some of those jobs may not be what you expect. “If you’re going to be an artist in the future, you’re going to probably be a digital artist, so you’re going to have to understand how computers and things work, the mathematics of it, at a fundamental level, to be competitive,” Brian says. “If you’re an electrician, the whole subject area is going to be sufficiently complicated that you’re going to really need to be
MIA BY ERIKA FISH/QUT MARKETING & COMMUNICATION
Mia Woodruff is confident that, in the future, every hospital will have a 3D printer in the operating theatre, just as every office today has regular paper printers.
a blow to the head in a sporting accident or who were born with a birth defect, such as a cleft palate – where the roof of the mouth doesn’t develop properly. Layer-by-layer, custom-built 3D printers create a type of implant, a scaffold from a special – biologically compatible – type of plastic. This is tailored to each patient in two ways: the shape of the structure is based on 3D modelling of the damaged area from medical imaging and laser scanning; and the scaffold is layered with bio-ink, which contains the patient’s own cells. Once the scaffold is implanted, the cells start to regenerate the natural bone tissue and, over time, the plastic scaffold gradually biodegrades.
IMAGE: COURTESY ATLASSIAN
Find out what else 3D printers are making: riaus.tv/videos/ future-innovators-episode-3
IDEAS YOU CAN BANK ON W
earing hoodies, baseball caps and sneakers and sporting facial hair to a degree that’s usually frowned upon in boardrooms, Scott Farquhar and Mike CannonBrookes look more like gamers than billionaire CEOs. But these two are poster boys for thinking big and backing yourself. Whichever way you measure it, there’s no mistaking the spectacular success of Atlassian, the tech company they co-founded in Sydney in 2002. The pair met as students at the University of NSW and, after graduating – Scott with a Bachelor of Science in Business Information Technology and Mike with a Bachelor of Commerce in Information Systems – wasted no time getting their enterprise software company off the ground. Their first product, JIRA began as a bug-tracking tool for programmers and has since developed into a tool for tracking work projects – pretty much any kind of project. Confluence is a tool for creating, organising and discussing work within a team and HipChat provides group chat rooms, messaging and file-sharing for businesses. Today, these and other Atlassian products are used in 160-plus countries, on two planets. Space agency NASA is one of more than 50,000 companies and organisations who rely on Atlassian software for their day-to-day business operations, which, in their case, involves exploring the surface of Mars. Other noteworthy customers include Spotify, Twitter, electric-car manufacturer Tesla and Australia’s own Cochlear, which designs and manufactures bionic ears. Atlassian now has 1300 employees and was voted ‘Australia’s Best Place to Work’ in 2014 and 2015. And, just quietly, you might be interested to know they hired 75 Australian and New Zealand graduates last year.
across the mathematics and the science of what it means to be an electrician.”’ At the IHBI, visiting high school students are given a tour of the labs and get to see 3D printing of bone tissue scaffolds in action. “[It’s] one of the most fun parts of the job,” Mia says, hoping that what they see will give them options beyond traditional STEM career paths
such as medicine. Her advice? “It’s okay not to do medicine. It’s okay to decide you want to become a coder, and to be working in medical physics or to be working in any other area,” she says. “Do what you love, not what’s expected of you.”
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ONLINE VS ON CAMPUS WHATâ€™S THE BEST WAY TO STUDY? KEN EASTWOOD EXPLORES THE OPTIONS.
Imagine never having to turn up to a lecture; fitting online tutorials and study around your own social schedule; and never having to even be in the same state or country as the institution where your course is offered.
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elcome to the world of online education, where it’s now possible to complete subjects and even whole courses without ever having to step into a classroom or even onto a campus. And we’re not talking about dodgy internet degrees that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed out on, but good-quality qualifications that employers want.
HOW POPULAR IS STUDYING ONLINE? In some tertiary institutions, online study has completely overtaken the on-campus version. At the University of New England (UNE) in NSW, for example, of last year’s 23,363 enrolled students, about 18,681 were studying off campus. At Curtin University in WA, 25,000 out of 61,000 students are now studying online and the number is growing. There are 89 courses you can study end-to-end, completely online at that institution alone. The degree you end up with is the same, and the cost is usually the same, as an on-campus course. Online education initially developed out of distance-education courses, set up as early as the 1950s to service far-flung populations in Australia’s most remote areas. Programs were initially serviced using material posted by snail mail. But as computers became more proficient and ubiquitous, course materials gradually became available online. It’s not surprising then that the institutions that were strong in distance education have been among the pioneers in online education, including UNE, Curtin, Deakin University in Victoria and Charles Sturt University in NSW. During the past 15 years, online learning has grown exponentially and now all of Australia’s tertiary institutions offer at least some or parts of courses completely online – from mathematics to music and engineering to fine arts. The first online courses were very textbased. But they’re now more video-centric, with lectures, tutorials and laboratory simulations online. “We had something like 2.5 million downloads of our i-lectures last year,” says Professor Jill Downie, Curtin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic). “Students are looking for flexibility and versatility – they want to fit study around the other busy things in their life. They might want to watch [a lecture] at 1 o’clock in the morning or 7 o’clock at night. “Rather than long, lengthy lectures though, they’re generally getting more, smaller bite-sized information through blogs and podcasts etc. And if you ‘gamify’ what you are teaching you will get even better learning outcomes, so we also having challenging,
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game-based platforms.” In many courses the lectures are both streamed live and recorded. Online students are given opportunities to collaborate on or discuss the material via the institution’s own portal, or other software such as Skype or Google Hangouts.
WHAT’S NOT POSSIBLE ONLINE? Some courses, where clinical or laboratory work needs to be assessed, do not suit complete online learning. Examples include chemistry, pharmacy or nursing. But even then, courses can be constructed where most of the learning is online, and then students attend short, intensive on-campus programs to complete their requirements. Professor Catherine MacKenzie, Pro ViceChancellor (Academic) at UNE says the uni hopes in the future, through virtual reality and other technology, to offer some courses online that previously weren’t possible. “We’re currently looking at an archaeology degree online, using 3D printers to recreate archaeological artefacts,” she explains. “A student will be able to download and print out the bone, the vase, whatever it is, so every student will have in front of them the actual item.”
WHO’S DOING IT ONLINE? Students choosing to study online tend to be older – perhaps holding down a fulltime job, or caring for children – and are more likely to live further from campus. For example, 70% of UNE’s on-campus students are under 25 years old, but less than 30% of external students are that young. Dr Mandy Lupton, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology, says older students generally do better than younger students online. “One hundred per cent online works really well for people who already have a degree and are coming back for another qualification or to re-train. They already understand what learning at uni is about,” she says. “For undergraduates though, it’s quite risky for them to do 100% online. They need to be [adapted to] learning at uni, and it’s quite difficult to do that online. The attrition rate is a lot higher with undergraduates.” Mandy says many courses are now blended, offering students a mix of on-campus and online experiences, and students are advised to try it all. “Some students actively look for an online course,” she says. “Others enrol in an on-campus course and some of their units are offered dual mode. And some then say “oh, this will
ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 25
be good – I won’t have to come to uni on that day and I’ll have some flexibility”.” North American research has shown that the best approach, in terms of both academic outcome and enjoyment, is from the blended approach. Students might spend some time on-campus, and then revise lectures online, catch up on ones they missed, or engage with the material that’s available around the clock at times that suit them. “Intuitively as a teacher you can see that’s the case as well,” Mandy says.
SO, WHAT’S IT LIKE STUDYING ONLINE?
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WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU NEED?
The downside is that you can feel isolated and miss real-world (as opposed to digital) social interaction with other students. Some find it frustrating that they might ask a question of a lecturer and it can take several days to receive an answer. “I hated online,” admits Dan Bowles, who’s based in the NSW city of Newcastle, north of Sydney, and tried studying a Graduate Diploma in Geographic Information Science online at Curtin. “It lacked that kind of social side – not partying and having fun, but the interacting with other students and getting to know them, was not there at all.” His previous uni study had been a marine science degree at the University of Newcastle, which he’d really enjoyed.
“There was lots of field work, lots of going to going to be harder.” the beach and really enjoyable stuff – doing Dean says that he previously found having lots of field work in small groups in nature,” to attend classes on campus wasn’t the best Dan recalls. “It was very collaborative and use of his time, whereas now he can choose cooperative. For me that was just a hugely how to spend his available time. “All the positive, enjoyable experience.” resources are there and it’s all on demand,” There are, however, plenty of people who he says. “Some [of us] ask other students love learning online. Take, for example, questions, others pull out of the forums and Bachelor of Science student Dean Marchiori, just work on their own. You can ignore the of Wollongong. He’s in his final year things that don’t work for you and of a mathematics major at Charles pick things that do.” Sturt University and studying about 20 hours a week online while working full-time. “When I KEN EASTWOOD RECKONS wanted to go back to study, I didn’t HE’S BEEN A JOURNALIST want to give up full-time work,” AND PHOTOGRAPHER he says. “It’s not that bad – it’s just Online students need a basic SINCE THE LATE DEVONIAN about putting in a consistent effort. – WRITING, EDITING AND computer and an internet connection You’ve just got to do something with a decent data plan. “What I tell PHOTOGRAPHING FOR BOOKS AND MAGAZINES my students is that they need an every day. You can’t let it get off the THROUGHOUT AUSTRALIA up-to-date computer with reasonable boil for a few days because it gets AND THE WORLD. out of control.” broadband,” Mandy Lupton says. “Just A SELF-CONFESSED To stay on top, he always doubles a phone plan wouldn’t do it. I reckon ADVENTURE JUNKY, his efforts before a trip away: “If you’d need at least 10 gig a month. HE’S TRAVELLED WITH you’ve got a good work ethic, and SCIENTIFIC EXPEDITIONS Course materials are very videoINTO REMOTE AREAS, are accountable and self-driven, heavy now, so they use a lot of data. FROM THE ARCTIC TO it’s not that hard. If you’re lazy, it’s One student said watching one little ANTARCTICA, TO TELL YouTube lecture chewed up their THEIR STORIES. KENSBIGBACKYARD. whole phone plan for the month.” Some universities, such as Deakin, COM.AU
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“University is about the uni life – being part of societies, doing sports, I enjoy when I do uni for the day, just being able to sit on the grass when they play live music.”
CAN I STUDY AUSTRALIAN COURSES, IF I’M NOT BASED HERE? have arranged for students to access special broadband plans. Online students should have the ability to create documents and emails, and access video and audio files. In addition, each course may have its own software requirements. For example, an online architecture or design student may need AutoCAD software, whereas on-campus students studying the same degree would be able to use facilities at the institution if they didn’t want to pay for the software. Each university has a vast online platform for students, lecturers and tutors to interact digitally. It provides opportunities to chat and hang out, review each other’s work, cooperate on projects, view lectures and tutorials, complete assignments, ask questions, and undertake challenges, quizzes, games and tasks as required.
WHAT’S THE ADVANTAGE OF BEING ON CAMPUS? Ruby O’Driscoll is a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Wollongong. She says she couldn’t imagine studying some engineering concepts purely online. “I think in any of the STEM subjects, having contact with your lecturers and your peers, you communicate better if it’s face-toface,” she says. “There are lab experiences
and experiments – chemistry, solids, forces, the way [things are] measured; watching how fluids move at different velocities.” Ruby is also holding down a job and so doesn’t get much time for extra-curricular activities. But she still says the on-campus lifestyle is attractive. “University is about the uni life – being part of societies, doing sports,” she explains. “I enjoy when I do uni for the day, just being able to sit on the grass when they play live music.” Destiny Paris, who is on-staff at Wollongong University and trying to attract more young women into STEM subjects, has a personal preference for on-campus learning. She did a double degree in engineering and business management on campus in South Australia. “Everyone has their different learning style, and we’re trying to do everything to entice people into STEM, particularly women,” she says. “For me personally, I like the interaction – I like to talk through ideas rather than read the ideas. I like to go through the actions – if I see something in practice and can see it in context, I’m more inclined to take in the lessons.”
Yes, and there are several universities supporting overseas students to study. For example, UNE has students – some of whom are in the armed forces – in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, Antarctica and South Africa. Curtin has several affiliated campuses in other parts of the world, with thousands of students in Singapore and throughout Asia. Sometimes students here in Australia work together with students at the other campuses. For example, journalism students at Curtin work with students in Shanghai, writing scripts together. At other times, on-campus students will share a lecture or tutorial with students overseas, via online connections. For example, the other students may be together in a classroom in Sri Lanka or Malaysia, or joining in the discussion individually. “We can in real time and in synchronous mode link with a cohort in another location,” explains Curtin’s Jill Downie . “The students all sit in the same classroom, so in a sense they’re all together. The technology is so good now that whether it’s the lecturer that speaks or the student, the microphone follows them and picks them up… You’re really delivering a global classroom and they’re getting that real global experience, learning from people overseas.” Jill says that overseas learning is growing at Curtin, and that the university occasionally has guest lecturers presenting from across the world. “We’re certainly developing it more and more.”
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HOT CAREER OPTION
IT’S NOT ALL RO DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE THE BEST IN THE GALAXY? ARE YOU SMART AND IMAGINATIVE AND LIKE A CHALLENGE? THEN, CRIS BURNE SUGGESTS, YOU SHOULD TAKE A LOOK AT THE UNIVERSE.
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OCKET SCIENCE ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 29
HOT CAREER OPTION Working ‘in’ space doesn’t mean you have to be locked into astronomy, although that’s certainly a hot option. You can study pretty much any type of science or engineering and find you’re way into a working life with a connection to space – optics, chemistry, atomic physics, computer science, mechanical and electrical engineering, biology, and fluid dynamics are just a few. (Read what our futurist predicts about space-related employment on p10) .
What’s out there?
From the Big Bang to the search for extra-terrestrials, there’s 13.7 billion years of space and a truck-load of stars to fire your imagination. And did I mention mystery? Take dark energy, for example. All that talk about everything being made from atoms isn’t exactly true. Something like 73% of the universe is made from dark energy, and despite the brightest minds working on this, we still have no real clue what dark energy actually is. And then there’s dark matter. That’s around 23% of the universe.
THE (REAL) MARTIAN
ow much of the movie The Martian could actually happen? Check out riaus.tv/videos/mars-horizon to see how the movie’s visual effects were created, hear from Andy Wier about writing the book, and check astronaut Chris Hadfield’s thoughts on if (and how) we’ll be going to Mars.
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And yes, you guessed it: no real clue what that’s about either. See: goo.gl/FKt8Tk Not interested in weird stuff you can’t see? Then what about life? Searching for creatures – ok, let’s call them aliens – beyond Earth is a serious professional pursuit. See: seti.org/node/647 And then of course, there’s the chance to become an astronaut. Because seriously: someone gets to be an astronaut. Why not you?
ET phone Australia
If you’re even a tiny bit interested in the universe, check out the Square Kilometre Array (SKA): it’s a super-complicated, incredibly ambitious radio telescope. It’ll be built in Australia and South Africa and it’s only just getting started. See : ska.gov.au/About/Pages/ default.aspx “When fully operational, SKA will need the most powerful supercomputer of its time to process the data that will flow from the telescope,” says CSIRO’s Dr Jill Rathborne. “It will run on renewable energy, and be located in the remote Western Australian outback. Building, maintaining, and supporting a multi-billion-dollar telescope like this needs a huge network of experts across Australia – from the astronomers who will use the telescope…to the engineers who will build and look after it, the possibilities to get involved in SKA in the future are immense.” Jill works with CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science division, and says studying astronomy has opened all sorts of doors in her life. She didn’t always have a clear long-term career plan, but during her PhD spent three weeks working in the South Pole at one of Australia’s Antarctic bases. Since then she’s spent nine months living and working at a telescope on a high mountain in the Chilean Andes and has worked at Boston and Harvard Universities. “And now I work for CSIRO, Australia’s premier science organisation,” Jill says proudly.
Why do we need a bigger telescope?
“The SKA in its early phase will be more than 100 times better at measuring the faint signatures from the distant universe compared to the radio telescopes we’re using today,” Jill explains. “It’s being built to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the universe; from understanding the formation of the first galaxies, to probing the conditions in the universe moments after it began, to testing Einstein’s theories of gravity, to searching for planets and extra-terrestrial intelligence.”
WHO REALLY WORKS IN SPACE SCIENCE? Think about what you love doing… chances are, there’s a spacey job doing it. Design a better spacesuit. Build a superior satellite. Develop a revolutionary space rover. Invent new medicines. Test-fly the latest gadgets. Teach a robot new tricks. Work out how to process terabytes of data on a super-strict deadline. Whatever launches your rocket could get you there.
HOUSTON, WE’VE SOLVED A PROBLEM All this stargazing is hugely important to life on Earth. Technologies originally developed to drive space exploration and research are now vital to ordinary people. Think Wi-Fi and CAT scans through to advanced solar cells and GPS (not to mention invisible braces, digital selfies and scratch-resistant sunnies).
Countdown to SKA
CSIRO’s Mary D’Souza is the senior mechanical engineer at ASKAP – the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder. ASKAP is like SKA’s little sister; its role is to demonstrate new Fancy making history? Be technologies that will be used part of the next-generation when SKA goes live. of space scientists working to “ASKAP enables astronomers land someone (maybe you?) on to make new discoveries by planet Mars. improving sensitivity, increasing Australian geologist Dr Abby bandwidth…and increasing the Allwood is a principal scientist field of view,” Mary says. for NASA’s 2020 rover mission With all these new-andto Mars. Abby’s a field geologist improved features to play with, who caught NASA’s eye with ASKAP astronomers hope to technology she developed for reveal more about the evolution her work on WA’s 3.43 billionof the universe, how galaxies year-old stromatolites: microbial are formed, and the role of evidence of some of the oldest magnetic fields in galaxies life on Earth. (including our own). Passionate about How did Mary get planetary science since to work on ASKAP? “I she was a kid, Abby was studied mechanical able to link her search and space engineering for ancient life on Earth and have gone on CRIS BURNE STUDIED to the search for life on to work in heavy BIOTECHNOLOGY AT UNI Mars. “This was one of industry, minerals AND NOW TRAVELS THE those rare life moments exploration, mining WORLD AS A SCIENCE and now observatory WRITER. HER FAVOURITE when you see a pathway to something that is engineering JOBS SO FAR HAVE BEEN AS A SCIENCE your heart’s desire, so operations,” she says. CIRCUS PERFORMER, I jumped at it,” she told GARBAGE ANALYST, ABC News online. WASABI TESTER AND Abby’s team is in ATOM-SMASHING REPORTER, BUT SHE HAS charge of designing, A PARTICULAR PASSION building and operating
Mission to Mars
FOR CHEESE. CRISTYBURNE.COM
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ustralian astronaut Dr Andy Thomas grew up in the 60s: “For a young kid growing up in Australia at that time, the prospects of becoming an astronaut were remote, to say the least. But I’ve always believed that the pathway to many interesting experiences can be opened if you have the right kind of education.” Andy started out with a First Class Honours degree in Mechanical Engineering, then did a PhD in aerodynamics engineering. These “fairly unique skills” scored him a job in the United States, working for the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company on solutions for aircraft drag and propulsion systems. Later Andy moved to micro-gravity research at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and from there, to NASA’s astronaut training program. “I looked very closely at the people that were being selected to become astronauts. I looked at the kind of credentials they had, because I knew that I had to compete on that arena,” he says. He went into space four times, spent more than 160 days in orbit and did a 6.5-hour spacewalk.
a new gadget, called PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry). PIXL’s job is to search tiny Martian rocks for even tinier signs of microbial life; it’ll be one of just seven instruments the 2020 Rover will carry.
So who’s hiring?
If you’re working like crazy to follow your dream, you want to make sure there’s a job at the end of the rainbow. Get an
idea of how often space science jobs come up by checking out websites like nasajobs.nasa. gov/ and space-careers.com And remember: the job you want may not even be invented yet.
I’m an Australian… Get me out of here!
Australia doesn’t train its own astronauts, but there are space agencies in Brazil, Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the
United States. Most countries require you to be a citizen, and dual-citizenship is also an option. NASA hires more astronauts than any other space agency. Want to be one? You’ll need: • a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics • at least three years of experience, either studying, working or teaching • to fit in the space suit: only those between 148 and 193 cm tall need apply.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield grew up on a corn farm. As a nine-year-old, he remembers watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon. “I started getting ready that night,” Chris says. He mapped out what he’d need to do to be an astronaut, and started doing it. “I need[ed] to learn to fly and to scuba dive and to stay in shape and other languages and study in university and all of those things. To become an engineer, a fighter pilot, a test pilot and all of that, which was fun and fascinating… Amazingly enough it worked.” Chris was one of four astronauts selected from a field of 5330 applicants. His first mission spanned eight days, 5.5 million km, and a whole lot of headspace. “You wake up one day, knowing that by the time you go to bed, you’re going to be floating, weightless, with a view out the window that is new,” he says. “To achieve excellence, you need a definition of success, and what happens between you and your long-term dream is your life… You absolutely need to have a relentless hunger for being better at what you do.” riaus.tv/tags/chris-hadfield
WILSON DA SILVA IS NOT AN ASTRONAUT OR EVEN A SCIENTIST; JUST AN ORDINARY BLOKE WITH A SEAT BOOKED ON A FLIGHT INTO SPACE.
hen I was 10, I’d lie on the lawn, look at the stars and dream of being in space. It was magical, inspiring and an unlikely dream. But soon it will come true. More than 10 years ago, I signed up to fly with Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, almost as soon as they began offering tickets for a three-hour flight into space and back. My seat’s paid for and I’m guaranteed to be in the first 100 to fly. Officially, the start to outer space is beyond an altitude of 100km – just above the ozone layer and the region where meteors burn up as they hurtle towards our atmosphere. That’s where we’re headed; probably no higher than 120km. Inside an eight-passenger winged rocket strapped to the belly of a jumbo-sized carrier plane, we will be flown to an altitude of 17km – then dropped. That’s when the fun will begin: the rocket engines will ignite, we’ll feel an almighty kick and shoot straight into space at three times the speed of sound. About three hours later we’ll land like a plane back on Earth. But for 15 minutes or so, we’ll float inside the spacecraft, looking down on the blue orb that’s home to our species: where everyone we’ve ever known lives and all the history we’ve ever read took place. I think it will be even more magical and inspiring than my 10-year-old self could have ever imagined. My bag’s packed and I’m waiting for the call telling me when our countdown is due to start.
ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 31
THE BIG PICTURE
32 I ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE
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RACE AGAINST TIME TO SAVE THE PLANET
IF YOU THINK THE PROBLEMS FACING OUR PLANET ARE TOO IMMENSE FOR YOU TO DO MUCH ABOUT THEM, THINK AGAIN! LAUREN SMITH EXPLORES WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE TO OUR FUTURE.
tatistically – if you’re around your final year of high school or have just started uni or entered the workforce you’ve got about 65 years left ahead of you. That’s more than most people in our planet’s history. Unfortunately, personal biological longevity – that’s a long life – is not much good when the entire planet now seems to be racing
against the clock. A 2014 study, partly funded by NASA, suggested there’s a reasonable chance civilisation could collapse globally in the coming decades due to our unsustainable exploitation of Earth’s resources and the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and resources. This study, see goo.gl/ Em99bt, which attracted worldwide media attention, delved into the core factors most likely to contribute to the collapse: population, climate, water, agriculture, and energy. And you’ll find a lot of scientists agree that these interrelated factors are at the heart of some of the biggest threats presently facing the world. The global population is growing
GAME OF LIFE
unsustainably, the climate is changing, we’re overly reliant on non-renewable fuel sources, and a massive proportion of the world’s population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water and enough food for healthy survival. It’s tempting, thinking of all that, to not want to think about it: to shrug your shoulders, throw your hands in the air and hope someone else does something before it all goes horribly wrong. But these problems – large, complex and looming – need solutions, and it’s today’s graduates, not someone else, who’ll be the ones solving tomorrow’s crises. So to help get you started, we’ve compiled a short how-to guide to ensure humankind’s survival.
Play it smart with the right qualifications and you really could turn a passion for gaming into a career.
Sarah Hibbard has perhaps the best job any gamer could hope for. As part of her work with software engineering company Consilium Technology Pty Ltd, she gets to play with simulations of combat scenarios to evaluate the effectiveness of virtual reality for training purposes within the Australian Army. “I’ve ended up in my dream job,” she agrees. Growing up in the Adelaide Hills, Sarah knew she was “a science person at heart” but couldn’t decide between a career as a science teacher or barrister. From 2008, she progressively completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Psychology, Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and Master of Psychology
at the University of Adelaide. “I found it difficult to choose a career that incorporated all of my interests,” she explains. Sarah then discovered, however, that psychologists could specialise in organisational psychology and human factors. “I’ve always been fascinated by the way that people think and how those thoughts translate into action,” she says. Whilst completing her masters qualification, Sarah undertook virtual reality research for the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST Group) through a Graduate Industry Placement. She now continues to evaluate virtual reality through DST Group’s industry partnership with Consilium. “To be honest, I think I hit the jackpot,” she says.
THE BIG PICTURE
Get on the climate change bandwagon. Often described as the greatest challenge facing the planet, the present change in Earth’s climate is unprecedented in both scale and rate. And it’s due, scientists agree, largely to human activities such as burning fossil fuels, increased agriculture and land clearing.
Ice is melting on our glaciers, polar caps and even the equator (see p16). Temperatures are rising and we’ve seen shifts in destructive weather patterns
– such as the heatwave that preceded the fires that devastated the pristine rainforests of north-western Tasmania in January this year. Of course there’s lots we can and are doing globally to tackle these issues. The world’s leaders have already committed to stopping the global temperature rising more than 2° this century, with a goal to eventually limit it to 1.5°. When they agreed to that goal, at COP21, the UN climate
A FLAIR FOR PHYSICS
If you’ve got a strong creative side, physics could be the right career choice for you. Brendan Langfield packed a lot of varied experiences into his life before deciding on physics as a career choice. He finished high school in 2004 and began a Bachelor of Science (Physics) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) last year. In between, he toured with Brisbane-based pop/rock band Finabah; appeared as a contestant on television cooking show Masterchef; and cofounded a boutique mobile market stall. So why now turn to physics? Brendan explains that he’s always had a fascination with space and was motivated to study physics by the books of scientists like Carl Sagan and Neil Degrasse Tyson. At QUT, he has already been introduced to some of the latest Earth-bound applications of physics. Through the university’s Vacation Research Experience Scheme he joined a team of researchers working on the 3D printing of human tissue, and has continued work with them as a research assistant. New 3D printing techniques can produce nanofibres 10 times thinner than a human hair. Brendan is helping improve the way they do this by applying his knowledge of, for example, how electrical and magnetic fields interact. “There are a lot of different ways to solve a problem,” Brendan says. “Science involves and invokes an awful lot of creativity in how you get to a solution. I find that to be really exciting and really rewarding.” Featured Partner
Start working on solving the energy problem … fast. Worldwide, the average household consumes 3500 kilowatt hours every year. The figure is skewed upwards by wealthy, energy hungry developed nations – including Australia, which is right near the top of the list of global energy consumers. As the world population keeps growing, how we generate, store and consume energy is going to become a bigger and bigger problem. We’re already overly reliant on fossil fuels – a limited and dwindling resource that’s also contributing massively to climate change. There’s a whole wealth of renewable energy sources (see p38), although there aren’t yet effective solutions for harnessing that energy, saving it or spreading it around the world. Australia’s energy consumption has been falling since 2011-12, but the bad news is that we’re more dependent on coal than any other developed nation,
except for Denmark and Greece. With our abundant access to clean, renewable energy sources – such as the sun, wind and waves – our potential for renewable energy generation is 500 times our current capacity, meaning there’s a lot of room for problem-solving. Kylie Catchpole has a physics background, is a Research Fellow at the Australian National University Research School of Engineering and is one person trying to find an answer. She’s working towards better, cheaper solar power by trying to perfect the placement of silver nanoparticles on top of solar cells. These will help the cells produce up to double the electrical current by improving their ability to capture light. There’s plenty of other ways to make energy cheaper, more sustainable, efficient and accessible, especially to meet the growing demand for energy in developing countries. So, if you’re looking for somewhere to start, there are plenty of good areas in this space to consider.
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“We have to solve the food shortage and provide access to clean drinking water for everybody.” conference in Paris, last year, they identified the crucial areas that need to work. These included: mitigation, by reducing the rate of greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to stop the temperature rising beyond 2°; adaptation, through strengthening the ability of countries to handle climate changes; and minimising loss and damage, by helping countries recover from climate impacts. Two degrees is still a concern. Dr Paul Willis, Director of Australia’s Science Channel
wrote: “It’s not a pretty sight. The human cost will be tens of millions of starving people moving around the world as climate refugees. This destabilising influence will lead to regional wars, some possibly nuclear, and other effects such as the breakdown of international trade and finance. It will be the end of the world as we know it.” Australia’s Science Channel followed environmental scientist and adventurer Tim Jarvis on his 25zero expedition
to raise awareness of the effects of climate change by climbing glacial peaks at the equator – glaciers that will have disappeared within 25 years at the current rate of warming (see our Q&A with Tim on page16). When Tim was asked about solving the climate change problem before he had commenced that expedition, he said: “One always has to try and remain optimistic. I have to admit to having my concerns… the question is whether we’ll get there quickly enough.” Some solutions engineers and scientists have come up with as a response to global warming sound crazy. We’re talking:
chasing a sea dream
There’s a lot more to marine science than dolphins and fishes. Ashley Parker likes to point out that she is a qualified marine scientist, not only a marine biologist. For her recently completed Bachelor of Marine Science at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville, Ashley studied oceanic physics and chemistry, as well as biology. “We look at large-scale oceanographic processes rather than just individual species, but we can do that too,” Ashley explains. “You might research waves and currents and tides, or you can go into looking at marine plastics pollution and things like that. It’s a more comprehensive understanding of the whole marine environment.” It’s made her, she says, more qualified for a wider variety of jobs.
The three-year course at JCU has a small number of students, lots of field trips and a tropical focus – all factors that encouraged Ashley to transfer from another university. “I’ve been on the university’s research boat collecting samples . . . and gathered data from fringing reefs, foreshores, and mangrove forests,” she says. “It’s very hands-on, which is something I enjoy. I don’t want a desk job.” Ashley became hooked on marine science when she studied coastal systems on the Gold Coast as part of her school studies. “It’s all thanks to my high school biology teacher,” she says. Featured Partner
building an artificial ring of particles around the Earth to shade the tropics; spreading the equivalent of sunscreen across the upper levels of the atmosphere; or building windpowered ships that would patrol the oceans, producing low-flying clouds that boost the Earth’s reflectivity. But the subject is complex, and researchers have to take a multi-faceted approach. At the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University, different interdisciplinary groups are tackling topics such as the atmosphere, built environments, carbon cycle, energy, biodiversity, fire, health,
THE BIG PICTURE questions. Where Peter asked why we couldn’t make use of our wastewater, you could ask how we can make desalination more carbon-neutral, or less harmful to the environment. Or maybe you could engineer a way to make irrigation more efficient? Just saying..
security, law and the ocean. These and many other aspects of the climate change conundrum need far more research and innovation, so you’ll definitely have a lot of options here.
If you’ve followed through on all the previous steps, we will have fixed the climate and ensured everybody has fair and sustainable access to energy, food and water. The next, vital step is keeping people alive and that means meeting the challenge of diseases we haven’t experienced before or thought we’d dealt with long ago. New and emerging viruses are now appearing at an alarming rate – think Ebola, bird flu and, here in Australia, Hendra. Infectious bacterial diseases are also continuing to spread easily
Next up, we have to solve the food shortage and provide access to clean drinking water for everybody. The global population is forecast to reach 9 billion by 2050, and we’ll need to produce 50% more food than we currently do to feed them. That’s already a tall order, but ongoing climate change could cut our capacity by more than 25%, according to the World Bank. Unless we find new, more efficient and effective food production systems, many people – particularly the world’s poorest – are at risk. On top of that, one in 10 people currently lacks access to safe drinking water. It’s not something most of us personally experience in Australia but we certainly have engineers and scientists looking into solving these problems. Engineer Peter Scales, Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Research at the University of Melbourne, stays
up nights thinking about water. “The fact that people haven’t got the ability to take dirty water and turn it into clean water is a real problem,” he says. Peter has been developing a system for transforming wastewater, including sewage, into clean, drinking water. It was tested at a plant in Hobart throughout 2015, with a view that it will be useful within two decades in countries such as China and India, where water supplies are falling. We’ll keep you posted. At the Australian Centre of
Field Robotics, based at the University of Sydney, Professor Salah Sukkarieh has developed a solar-powered robot capable of driving up and down paddocks; helping farmers collect data, detect pests and eventually even assist in weeding and harvesting. Known as the ‘Ladybird’, this small robot is a sure step towards more efficient agricultural practices. These ideas – innovative, practical and sustainable – are great examples of the tangible outcomes of asking good
This is one mighty way to help change the world around you. When Bec Pierotti goes to an event at the Adelaide Oval, she feels a huge sense of pride. One of her first big projects after graduating from a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Civil and Project Management) at the University of South Australia, was as a civil engineer working on the oval’s $350 million redevelopment. “It wasn’t the easiest project and the sense of achievement you get going back there kind of makes it all worth it,” Bec says.
She completed the four-year degree in an accelerated three-year program, with the support of a scholarship from SA Water. In her final year she started part-time work at construction company Baulderstone (later bought by Lend Lease). Last year Bec won the 2015 National Association of Women in Construction SA Young Achiever Award. “I love it,” she says about engineering. “It’s never repetitive – every day is a different challenge. It’s a very rewarding career.” unisa.edu.au
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...in 2050 Students graduating high school this year will be around
50 YEARS OLD
The global population will have reached more than
9 BILLION You’ll have used
By now, you’ll have used the energy equivalent of
of crude oil just by yourself There’ll be more frequent and harsher fires, the sea level might be up to
than it is today, and the ocean itself will be
WARMER & MORE ACIDIC
You’ll have eaten more than
5000 KG of meat and another
5,201,250 litres of water – the equivalent of more than
FIVE OLYMPIC SIZED POOLS – and that’s just your personal use. It doesn’t include the water used by industry and businesses.
Generally, your days will be
HOTTER, WITH MORE SOLAR RADIATION, AND LESS RAINFALL You’ll have spent
7500 DAYS Make them count!
of whack-a-mole: we find a through the global population. working treatment for one type In the case of some older of bacteria, and then another bacterial diseases, such as one appears. But Iain isn’t tuberculosis, treatments that worried: “These problems are were once effective now have complex, and will take time, a diminished effect, as the the dedication of scientists and bacteria responsible have public support – but they can adapted to overcome the definitely be solved.” antibiotics we’ve relied on in the past. There’s lots of work to be done here – from developing systems that identify outbreaks sooner, to designing more effective, affordable treatments and methods of prevention. You don’t need to solve these Iain Berry is a postgraduate problems sequentially, as research student at the there isn’t really any order University of Technology to them. The conundrums Sydney’s ithree institute, where facing humankind today, they study infectious diseases as they’ve always been, in humans and animals. Iain are complex, interlinked pursued a science degree and aren’t going to be fixed because he’s interested in with a single brainstorming solving problems that face the session. But we do need you wider community, and now he’s to start solving them. Popular studying the virulence proteins science communicator Dr Karl of infectious diseases. He says Kruszelnicki, when asked he chose that field because he whether he was optimistic about is particularly passionate about your generations’ ability to solve combating the resurgence of these problems said absolutely infectious bacterial yes – not least because diseases and the you’re all, on average, diminishing pool of nine IQ points smarter effective treatments, by than your parents. better understanding So you’re nine points how bacteria up, have 65 years to go AS AUSTRALIAN work. Studying the and more than a few GEOGRAPHIC’S mechanisms employed problems to solve You’ll EDUCATION EDITOR, LAUREN SMITH IS DOING find a huge range of by bacteria during HER BIT TO SAVE THE infection is one of ideas about how in the WORLD BY WRITING the first stages in form of videos and blogs ABOUT IT. SHE SPENDS developing important about science, climate ALL HER FREE TIME IN new treatments. change, mathematics, THE SEA. This may seem evolution and much like a giant game more at riaus.tv
A FINAL NOTE
Locating a career This spatial scientist doesn’t wait for things to come his way: he uses all the tools he can to seek them out. Nikolaas Kostraby was a year 10 student in Watsonia, Melbourne, when he first became interested in the spatial sciences, which cover areas such as surveying, mapping and geographic information systems. He attended an RMIT open day, asked to go on a field day with the university to try it out and has been hooked ever since. In 2012, less than two years into his fouryear Bachelor of Science (Geospatial Science) at RMIT, Nikolaas asked a lecturer to help him gain work experience where she worked at Parks Victoria, which protects and manages more than 4 million hectares. He soon had a short-term
contract there, mapping and analysing the distribution of the weed English broom in Alpine National Park and training rangers to use GPS. Meanwhile he completed his honours thesis on making Melbourne a smart city. Nikolaas now works with service company GHD as a consultant spatial scientist, working on projects such as helping a rural community find a suitable airport site and get rid of a dangerous railway crossing. “Though spatial science sounds really niche, there are so many aspects you can do,” he says. “They even strap GPS devices to AFL players to see how far they’ve run in a game.”
Powering a Renewable World
38 I ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE
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WE DON’T HAVE TO BE TIED TO DIRTY COAL-FIRED POWER STATIONS FOR OUR ENERGY NEEDS. WE HAVE REAL OPTIONS, EXPLAINS SARAH KEENIHAN. t’s so easy that we take it for granted: flick a switch and night seemingly turns to day, the washing machine cleans your clothes and the computer screen lights up. For most of us in Australia this simple act brings electricity flowing through wires that link our houses to more wires and transmission lines that come from power stations where coal is burned to release energy. You’d have to have been living under a rock not to know that it’s a dirty and inefficient process, creating gases that pollute and alter our atmosphere, contributing on a large scale to human-induced climate change. riaus.tv/tags/ climate-change
We have some very real alternatives. According to Clean Energy Australia, about 14% of our electricity comes from other sources such as hydro, wind, solar and bioenergy (see table p41). What’s exciting is that these avoid coal-fired power stations completely. Even better, they are renewable. “Renewable energy is energy that is replenished at the same rate as you use it,” Dr Jonathan Whale, Academic Chair of Energy Studies at WA’s Murdoch University explains simply. “Conventional fuels like coal
ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 39
Making and storing your own electricity
took millions of years to form, and we have used up a large proportion of them within just 150 years. With renewable energy, as soon as you convert some sunlight or some wind energy into electricity there is more energy waiting to be used.” Sounds perfect, right? So why aren’t we generating all of our electricity from renewable sources right now? It boils down to the existing set-up of our towns and cities, and the challenge of distributing power to a lot of people spread over a large country such as Australia. “To provide every consumer with electricity, an interconnected network is required. This consists of many power stations, transmission lines that carry the power from distant stations to specific areas and then distribution lines that carry the power to each individual consumer,” Jonathan explains. “This network is often referred to as ‘the grid’.” Designed to work with constantly burning coal, the grid does not cope well with less consistent, fluctuating energy sources, such as wind or solar. Wind, of course, varies on a daily basis and the sun disappears completely every night and can be blocked by clouds during the day. Murdoch is one of several Australian universities carrying out research aimed at improving the reliability of power generated from fluctuating power sources. Predicting cloud movement is one way of ADELAIDE-BASED overcoming some of the issues. And storing energy, in FREELANCE SCIENCE batteries for example, is another. “Energy storage can WRITER SARAH KEENIHAN be used to smooth the output from fluctuating power BEGAN HER CAREER stations,” Jonathan says. AS A BIOMEDICAL Compared to wind and solar, hydro-electric power RESEARCHER. offers a better degree of consistency because available SHE LOVES THAT SHE’S NOW “WORKING AT THE water can be stored and released to match electricity generation with peak use. Biomass energy – from plant CUTTING EDGE OF SCIENCE ACROSS MANY DIFFERENT material – is another relatively constant renewable SPECIALTY FIELDS AND source of energy, although it is relatively inefficient THAT EVERY WEEK IS and so not a typical source of power. It also releases DIFFERENT”. carbon dioxide as a waste product.
o maybe we’re a few years off having renewable sources of energy power all of Australia’s electricity needs. But what if you took things into your own hands? Meet inner-city Sydney resident Michael Mobbs, who has jumped the queue and set up his own home using 100% renewable power for electricity. In March 2015 he disconnected his house from the main electrical supply grid. “When the wires were cut down, I was like a little boy whose Christmases all came at once!” Michael ustralia’s Chief Scientist, says. “This house makes me feel like I’m contributing Dr Alan Finkel, buys 100% to a solution for our climate.” renewable energy for his As far as his technology set-up goes, Michael relies household and drives a renewableon 40 solar panels, batteries to store power and an powered electric car. He believes inverter. The batteries allow him to keep operating wind, solar and storage could power normally at night, when panel exposure to light all of Australia. energy is reduced during winter and on overcast reneweconomy.com. days. “The inverter manages fluctuations in the au/2015/australias-newpower supply,” Michael explains. “It also translates chief-scientist-renewablesthe sun’s energy into a form that the house can use.” loving-ev-driving-nuclearMichaels’s house now has a daily fan-82005 energy capture capacity of just over 3.5 kiloWatts. (KiloWatts are a measure of electrical energy.) “The house uses about 3 kiloWatts of electricity per day, and my batteries can store about three days worth,” he explains. For more about As well as installing his own renewable Michael’s home and power system – which was easily rigged other projects see up by a qualified electrician – Michael has sustainablehouse. been careful to choose very efficient com.au/ household appliances. “When I first put my solar panels up, my old fridge used up all the power!” he says. “Now I have a very efficient fridge, and other appliances, plus all LED lighting.” Michael recommends energyrating.gov.au/ as a great resource for choosing low-energy household appliances. Michael knows that thinking about kiloWatts, inverters, batteries and appliances can be a little overwhelming for many people. To aid fellow Australians in overcoming this hurdle, he now offers coaching in designing and building sustainability projects. One person already relying on his expertise is Kylie Ahern. While planning a renovation of her magine 24 hours with no electricity. Education, earning money and reading a book happen only inner-city terrace, Kylie decided to set up the house during daylight hours, or in a smoky room dimly lit by a fuel lamp. There’s no TV. You can’t charge a for her own renewable energy generation. “I’m phone. Cooking takes place over an open flame. This is life in the slums of India. Every day. aiming for 100% off-grid by mid-2016,” she But change is coming. Social business Pollinate Energy, set up by a group of young Australians, is says. “Michael is project-managing my set-up breaking the cycle of poverty by helping Indians access electricity. And they’re doing it using sustainable technology. “We’ve set up an and renovation.” entrepreneur network that allows poor people to access renewable electricity in an affordable way,” explains Alexie Seller, Chief Operations Kylie could have done a fairly straightforward Officer at Pollinate Energy. “At its most basic level, it provides families with a light, a solar panel and a battery. The panel is installed on the roof, update to her home. So why did she move beyond just and a full day’s charge of the battery can provide up to 36 hours of light and charge a phone.” installing a fancy new kitchen and shiny bright Just this small setup can make an enormous difference to daily lives in India. “Our customers tell us that the biggest impact is that it gives them bathroom and decide to go as renewable as possible? quality, family time together,” Alexie says. “It means kids can play at home, and stay in school. It also has an economic impact, as it allows women It boiled down to a sense of personal responsibility, to be out of the home working all day, and then have enough light in the evenings to do home chores, like cooking and cleaning.” Women still do the she says. “I don’t think voting is enough. We can all vast majority of housework in India. take action to make our lives more sustainable.” There are also positive effects on health and the climate. Providing a sustainable source of light means that families no longer have to rely on the Motivations aside, Kylie says that setting up the fossil fuel kerosene, which they would otherwise burn inside their homes to generate a flame. “Burning kerosene inside a tent home causes indoor technology to capture and store her own electricity air pollution and respiratory illness,” Alexie explains. “Kerosene is also very inefficient, so for every litre of kerosene burnt, around 2.5kg of was not that difficult. “Once you decide to do it, you carbon dioxide is produced.” This contributes to climate change. can actually make it happen within a couple of Pollinate Energy says that so far they’ve installed more than 11,000 renewable systems in India, reaching more than 50,000 people. They’ve weeks,” she explains. “This is what I’m hoping my reduced kerosene use by more than a million litres, and saved 2.5 million kg of carbon dioxide emissions. And they’re only just getting started. “We house can demonstrate – that anybody can do this.” hope to reach all the major cities in India, and help people climb the energy ladder,” Alexie says. “We can see no reason why everyone can’t be set up with renewable electricity like this.”
Did you know?
Climbing the renewable energy ladder
40 I ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE
RiAus - Australia’s Science Channel
Australia’s main sources of renewable energy. Together these contribute about 14% to Australia’s total electrical energy use.
Applying multiple technologies together is another approach. “Using different renewable energy resources over a geographically large area of the grid would also average out fluctuations, because there would always be somewhere where the wind is blowing or sun is shining,” Jonathan says. He believes it is possible to power Australia entirely on renewable energy. “But it would mean a complete change from our existing grid structure and operating methods,” he says. However Jonathan is optimistic. “If we have the right political will and business community support we could achieve this by 2050,” he says. Alicia Webb agrees. As policy manager at the Clean Energy Council, she is used to walking the fine line between what is technically possible, and what human societies want to achieve. “Can we power the world on renewable energy? Unequivocally, yes!” she says. “But right now we’re in a transitional phase.
Energy source Hydro
Uses flowing water to spin a turbine connected to an electrical generator
Captures wind energy within an area, which sweeps by blades connected to an electrical generator
Solar panels convert energy from the sun into electrical energy for immediate use
Energy captured by photosynthesis in plants released by burning/gasifying, and collected via an electrical generator
Water pumped deep into naturally hot underground sites and then pushed to the surface to drive a turbine connected to an electrical generator
*Figures from 2014
We’ve come up with better answers to an old question, but it’s taking time to change.” Not only do we need to make renewables work in a technical sense, but the cost equation also needs to be right. Australia is a country that can mine its own coal, and traditional generators
The 2016 Australian Museum Science Festival (AMSF) offers over 300 interactive workshops, talks and shows to school students, community visitors and industry professionals to celebrate National Science Week. Come and talk to a huge range of science innovators, and discover the future of science!
% Renewable energy from this source*
How does it work?
are run by private companies with financial targets. “It’s hard to compete with existing technologies such as coal,” Alicia explains. “But as the price of renewables keeps dropping, they’ll increasingly make financial sense.” Of all the renewable energy
options available right now, wind and solar are the cheapest and most viable. But the future might be different. “I can’t tell you what fabulous new machine humans are going to invent next,” Alicia says. “The next 30-50 years will be an exciting time for Australian energy.”
SCIENCE ON THE ROAD
13 AUGUST Super Science Saturday 16–19 AUGUST Primary School Week 23–26 AUGUST High School Week
The Australian Museum Science Festival tours throughout NSW, connecting regional communities across the state. We help create and support educational networks to share local expertise and knowledge with students and the community.
FOLLOW THE ACTION @amscifest
amsciencefestival.net T (02) 9320 6389 or firstname.lastname@example.org Major partner
20 SUCCESS STORIES
SOMETHINGS TO WATCH
MEET 20 INSPIRATIONAL YOUNG AUSSIE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS ALREADY MAKING THEIR MARK ON THE WORLD . . . AND SOME ARE BARELY OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL.
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MARITA CHENG AGE 26 ENGINEER AND TECHNOLOGY ENTREPRENEUR
“You can literally create anything in the real world that you can imagine in your head. It’s like magic,” Marita Cheng says about her job. Every day at work she gets to build robots with a team of fellow engineers. It’s a career she describes as extremely rewarding, challenging and ultimately – fun. “It’s not always easy, but you also don’t always have to do everything by yourself,” Marita says. “Building a robot, there are electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and software engineers.” Teleroo – a video phone on wheels designed for people who have mobility challenges or are in remote locations – is the first ‘offspring’ of her company 2Mar Robotics and the pre-production model will be coming to market during the next few months. When Marita began her company she got in touch with various spinal cord injury associations around Australia, before starting to build Teleroo based on the responses she received. (For more on Marita, see p22.) Marita is also working on an artificial intelligence company, Aipoly. It has already released an app that enables blind people to navigate the world with more confidence and ease. By using a smart phone’s camera to scan a room and identify where objects and furniture are positioned it then speaks the information to the user. This means that people who are visually impaired do not have to use their hands or a cane to navigate unfamiliar spaces. Robogals is the company that Marita is perhaps most well-known for founding seven years ago and she is still a board member today. As for the future, she is simply excited to progress her companies and build more robots!
Follow these 20 on Australia’s Science Channel:
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YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED AGE 24
MECHANICAL ENGINEER & FOUNDER OF YOUTH WITHOUT BORDERS When she was 13 years old, Abdel-Magied watched Catch That Kid, a movie about three kids and some go-karts, with at least one high-speed chase. Instantly she became obsessed with cars and it developed into a passion that led to a career in engineering. Now Yassmin works as a mechanical engineer on oil and gas rigs. Her current role involves the whole lifecycles of wells: from designing them in the office, doing all the engineering calculations and working out costs, to going on the rig and working with contractors to ensure all operations are done safely. She also works with Youth Without Borders (YWB), a company she founded at 16. YWB runs a variety of projects, but among the biggest is the Spark Engineering Camps, run annually out of Brisbane and Melbourne. “It’s a camp for people who face certain barriers to go to university and we fully sponsor them to attend this camp,” Yassmin explains. “It’s a youth-led camp for a week, all about what engineering is, what university is and what opportunities they all have access to.” As well as all of this, her memoir, Yassmin’s Story: who do you think I am? – “the thoughts and musings of a young Aussie Muslim woman asking questions and doing her thang”, recently hit the book shelves.
NOBY LEONG AGE 25 CHEMIST Noby is just finishing up his PhD, a lot of which has to do with finding new ways to dissolve drugs in the body. Many potential drugs found in nature have exceptional healing powers but don’t dissolve in the bloodstream and so are unable to access the organ or part of the body they need to. And for Noby, the answer to that problem is nanotechnology. He has also researched nanotechnology for the development of molecular machines; an area of study that is hoped will one day lead to a whole new era of computing. Simultaneous to his research, Noby co-founded the blog The Other Side of Science, born out of his love for talking about science. “As I wanted to have some fun, The Other Side of Science was aimed at talking about stories that appealed to people’s already established interests,” Noby explains. “This would be my gateway to engage the disengaged.” Articles on the site range from Will I ever evolve powers like the X-Men? to Going grey at 21 – why me?. As for the future, Noby says, “That’s the luxury of studying science; the choices are broad and near limitless.”
NATHANIEL WAKELAM AGE 20 CODER AND IT SECURITY SPECIALIST Throughout his time as a penetration tester, Nathaniel has found hundreds of bugs in a variety of applications from the most popular companies on the internet. “When you can start looking at companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, PayPal and even some of the online games, it’s a surreal feeling when you realise you’re able to compromise a billion dollar organisation,” he says. “It’s kind of like going up against them and winning.” Nathaniel assesses the systems of companies, such as the big multinationals he’s already mentioned, with the intention of finding vulnerabilities before cyber criminals are able to. He then communicates these flaws to the companies, usually in the form of a report. Having dropped out of school at 13 or 14, Nathaniel navigated this career path in a fairly untraditional way. To anyone wanting to follow a similar career, he says he wouldn’t advise anyone to drop out of high school, but being partially self-taught and passionate beyond what you learn at university is a must. Nathaniel’s days are filled with both developing and breaking various applications, as well as a lot of non-technical work such as managing client relationships and expectations.
ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 43
VHAIRI MACKINTOSH AGE: 24
EAMON TAAFFE AGE: 24 SOFTWARE ENGINEER
Career: Eamon’s Android app The Schedule was recently released, promising to be Melbourne’s best public transport app yet.
Career: The Zimbabwe Craton in southern Africa is an area of ancient continental crust,
RENEE NOBLE AGE: 23
ALY ROSS AGE: 23
Career: Aly is working with bridled nailtail wallabies both in her university research and in the field with WildMob, which is currently building its first nailtail nursery. Future aspirations: Aly intends to continue her conservation work, with nailtails and other vulnerable species.
and Vhairi is mapping its evolution using thermochronology methods. Future aspirations: To work in an academic position that satisfies her love for earth sciences and teaching.
HARSHANI JAYASINGHE AGE: 25
MEDICAL RESEARCH SCIENTIST
ANNA GARDINER AGE: 22 BIOLOGY BLOGGER
Career: A self-described David Attenborough groupie, Anna writes a blog, Odd Organisms, that explores the animal kingdom’s most weird and wonderful. Future aspirations: After she finishes her studies, Anna wants to continue working on wildlife documentaries and helping endangered species.
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Career: Harshani is the coordinating investigator of the two biggest studies in the Respiratory Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide. She is also evaluating smoking prevention interventions for youth. Future aspirations: To be a leader in tobacco-related research and for the program she’s developing to be incorporated into schools across Australia.
Career: Renee runs the Girls’ Programming Network and works at Data61 where she is about to launch an open data platform for local governments to use and share information with the public. Future aspirations: To use computers and data to improve sustainability and support the use of renewable energy.
Future aspirations: Build a successful company from the ground up.
NICHOLAS COURTNEY HOLLIS KIRKWOOD AGE: 29 AGE: 27 MEDICINAL CHEMIST
Career: Courtney is in the lab helping to design a drug that will have reduced side effects for patients with chronic and neuropathic pain. Future aspirations: Work with a team that follows through the entire drug discovery process – from initial research to getting it on the shelves.
Career: Nicholas is completing his PhD and working with ‘quantum dots’, which are nanometre-sized (one billionth of a metre) materials that emit light very efficiently.
Future aspirations: Use his understanding of quantum dots to help solve the energy problems that our planet will face in the future.
RiAus - Australia’s Science Channel
LUKE ANDERSON AGE: 27
TIM DAWBORN AGE: 27
CYBER AND IT SPECIALIST
COMPUTER SCIENTIST AND CO-FOUNDER OF GROK LEARNING
Career: Luke lectures at the University of Sydney, where he has helped pioneer a new university computer security course. He also coached USYD
Career: Inspired by the National Computer Science School, Tim and three other young scientists formed Grok Learning – a team of educators and engineers dedicated to teaching the next generation about computer science.
JACK EVANS AGE: 26
LEO STEVENS AGE: 27
Future aspirations: Grow Grok Learning into a large and successful education platform, and teach the world to code!
SOPHIA FRENTZ AGE: 23
Career: Using mouse models and cell lines, Sophia is investigating potential treatments for Leigh Syndrome – an early onset neurological disorder that causes death in 80% of people who have it before they’re 20. Future aspirations: To be working on something that challenges her.
Career: Along with a fellow PhD student, Leo developed a handheld bioprinting tool that mimics the layered structure of brain tissue. It can be used to test new drugs without using animals and improve our understanding of brain disorders. Future aspirations: Have a career that combines science and entrepreneurship.
and UTS teams at the Cyber Security Challenge Australia. Future aspirations: Dramatically expand the reach of education around computer and network security.
DURKIN RORY SAN MIGUEL NIKKI AGE: 24 AGE: 24 ENGINEER AND COFOUNDER OF PROPELLER AEROBOTICS
Career: Rory and friend Francis Veirboom founded Propeller Aerobotics, a drone start-up targeting the industrial sector. The drones acquire data and then use software (created by the founders) that process it into easy-to-use 3D maps and models.
FOUNDER OF 99DRESSES
Career: At 18 Nikki created 99dresses, a startup that was a clothes-swap service. When launched in the US, the app grew from 0 to 1000 transactions per week within a couple of months.
Career: Jack is based in Paris where he uses supercomputers to investigate the properties and structures of crystals, some of which could one day be used in body armour. Future aspirations: For now – to learn French. But in the future Jack hopes to start-up his own research group.
HELEN GREEN AGE: 27 EARTH SCIENTIST
Career: Helen is working with a team analysing and attempting to date Aboriginal rock art in WA’s Kimberley region. It could be some of the oldest in the world!
Future aspirations: She’s already living out her dream. Future aspirations: Although 99dresses is no longer operating, Nikki’s entrepreneur days are far from over. Future aspirations: To continually improve and evolve his company.
ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 45
IF IT HAPPENS IN SCIENCE YOU’LL FIND IT HERE join up, it’s free – riaus.tv
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WHERE TO STUDY WHAT IN AUSTRALIA
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
Australian National Uni
Uni of Canberra
National Australian Catholic Uni
Open Uni Australia
Uni of Notre Dame
NEW SOUTH WALES
Charles Sturt Uni
Southern Cross Uni
Uni of Newcastle
Uni of New England
Uni of Sydney
Uni of Western Sydney
Uni of Wollongong
Charles Darwin Uni
James Cook Uni
Uni of Queensland
Uni of Southern Queensland Uni of the Sunshine Coast
ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 47
Uni of Adelaide
Uni of South Australia
Uni of Tasmania
La Trobe Uni
Uni of Melbourne
Uni of WA ZOOLOGY/ANIMAL SCIENCES
ELECTRICAL AND TELECOMS ENGINEERING
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INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE OPPORTUNITIES ABOUT ANSTO
As the home of nuclear science and technology in Australia, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) offers a unique and exciting opportunity to work alongside some of Australia’s leading researchers. ANSTO is one of Australia’s largest public research organisations and custodian of much of our country’s landmark and national science infrastructure, including the OPAL nuclear research reactor. ANSTO’s researchers work to answer the most important questions society faces today; whether in the area of human health, the environment, the nuclear fuel cycle or providing innovation for industry.
ABOUT DST GROUP
The Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group is part of Australia’s Department of Defence. It is the second largest publicfunded R&D organisation in Australia. DST is a national leader in safeguarding Australia by delivering valued scientific advice and innovative solutions for Defence and national security. DST runs scholarship and placement programs to provide industry experience to students looking for a career in science and technology.
YEAR IN INDUSTRY INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
ANSTO offers university students entering their final year studying science, engineering, information technology or business disciplines the opportunity to participate in a Year in Industry Internship Program. The 12 month full-time program is open to students where practical experience is a requirement of their studies or an elective subject. ANSTO assists participants reach their study and career goals, with hands on experience and mentoring from industry experts. Opportunities are advertised in July/August each year.
DST INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE PLACEMENT PROGRAM
The Industry Experience Placement (IEP) Program provides students who are required to complete a compulsory industry placement component as part of their degree the opportunity to achieve this at DST Group. Placements are paid and students are supervised by DST staff who work closely with the university to ensure that the academic requirements are met.
DST SUMMER VACATION PLACEMENT PROGRAM
The Summer Vacation Placement (SVP) Program is a 12-week paid program for high-performing undergraduate STEM students. SVP students are supervised by DST staff and use their skills learnt at University to work on a real Defence project. The program commences in November of each year to match the university summer break. For more information call ANSTO’s Early Career Talent and Development Team on 02 9717 3094 or visit www.ansto.gov.au
For more information and to apply online: www.dsto.defence.gov.au/careers/scholarships-and-placements ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE I 49
PASSIONATE ABOUT CHEMISTRY Identifying the right career path can lead to extraordinary opportunities
www.ansto.gov.au essica VeliscekCarolan wasn’t always sure she wanted to be a chemist, but she’s wound up in one of the most exciting jobs anyone in that profession can have – working at Australia’s only nuclear reactor, in southern Sydney. And in less than a decade after completing her undergraduate degree, she has become an international expert in the treatment of nuclear waste, speaking at conferences and liaising with scientists worldwide. Back in her laboratory at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), which operates Australia’s research reactor, you might find Jessica with her hands in a special nitrogen atmosphere “glove box” carefully mixing chemicals that could have adverse reactions to the
50 I ULTIMATE SCIENCE GUIDE
oxygen or moisture in the air. Or she could be using equipment such as X-ray scatterers that take up whole rooms. But then you’re just as likely to find her in the clichéd chemist pose wearing a white coat and safety glasses while mixing drops of chemicals with a pipette. “I get really excited when things change colour or when they fizz,” Jessica says. “It kind of makes me do a happy dance inside.” When she was a schoolgirl in Sydney, Jessica liked science and was good at it but didn’t really know what career to aim for. “I sort of wanted to be a marine biologist, but I think that’s because I liked dolphins,” she says. She followed the advice of a careers advisor who encouraged her to do the University of Sydney’s three-year general science degree because it wouldn’t restrict her options and was very “employable”. While there, Jessica realised she clicked with chemistry
subjects best and did a fourthyear honours organic chemistry project before securing one of 15 places in ANSTO’s 2008 Graduate Development Program. “I did environmental research, collecting seaweed from sewage outfalls, and then fed pasta made out of dried up worms to yabbies. Then I worked at ANSTO Minerals, looking at processing ore out of mines,” she recalls. “At the end of that I felt more confident that this chemistry thing is what I really like.” After securing a permanent job in chemistry at ANSTO, Jessica did a PhD part-time through the University of Sydney during the next five years, handing in her thesis – on making new materials to treat nuclear waste – at the end of 2015. “There are a lot of things Featured Partner
in nuclear waste that are still really useful,” she explains. “For example, 96% of nuclear waste is still uranium.” Jessica loves her work and is not at all nervous about working alongside a nuclear reactor. “The more you learn about radiation, the less frightening it is,” she says. “The exposure I get here is less than I would get if I went and had a CT scan of my chest.” Jessica looks back now and realizes what a great start she got with a general Bachelor of Science degree. “It worked out pretty well for me. A lot of people who I did my science degree with have ended up in finance and business and teaching. “If you do well in science you learn to think critically and solve problems, giving you the skills to work in any field”.
Rock star. Leading a NASA mission to Mars makes QUT alumnus Dr Abigail Allwood a very big name on the world scientific stage. Her journey began with studying Earth Sciences, which led to a PhD and the discovery of some of the oldest evidence of life on earth in Western Australia. Now based in California, Abigail’s in charge of the ‘Planetary Instrument X-ray Lithochemistry’, or PIXL, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This instrument will use X-rays to study the chemistry of rock samples collected on the Mars 2020 mission. When you study science, technology, engineering or maths at QUT, the sky’s not the limit, it’s just the beginning. bcm:qust0108 CRICOS No. 00213J
A SCIENCE DEGREE WITH ALL THE ANSWERS
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Robotics, big data, gaming, augmented and virtual reality - tomorrow's careers are so different from past opportunities. Not sure where to s...
Published on Apr 28, 2016
Robotics, big data, gaming, augmented and virtual reality - tomorrow's careers are so different from past opportunities. Not sure where to s...