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Australian SCIENTIST

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Australian SCIENTIST

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Australian SCIENTIST

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Australian SCIENTIST

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Australian SCIENTIST

Abandoned designs

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Australian SCIENTIST

Conference

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Australian SCIENTIST

Justifying Junkets Over the past 20 years, Australian scientific output has become increasingly international as the problems being tackled by our researchers become larger in scale, scope and complexity. This trend will only accelerate, which means that

a conference decide to share insights and data and

Australian scientists will need increasing support to

ultimately publish a joint paper on their findings and

build and maintain the relationships required to make

arrange to spend time in each other’s laboratory.

this happen. International collaboration is the major driver of Australia’s increased scientific output

Further down the track these researchers may formalise their collaboration with a joint proposal for funding. A prior relationship and development of trust

FEAST’s bibliometric analysis of scientific journal

is a necessary pre-requisite for minimising the risks

publications involving Australian authors clearly

and maximising the success of this more rigorous

shows that the increase in publications is being driven

engagement.

almost entirely by internationally co-authored papers,

When it comes to international funding programs,

predominately with Europe and the USA (see FEAST

the importance of trust is further accentuated as

Discussion Paper 1/09, http://www.feast.org/index/

researchers are often engaging with foreign programs

document/1).

that have vastly different Further down the track these

One of the major factors contributing to this statistic

researchers may formalise their collaboration with a

is the rise of increasingly complex global issues being

joint proposal for funding. A prior relationship and

tackled by researchers (population health, climate

development of trust is a necessary pre-requisite for

change, biodiversity, etc.) that by their nature require

minimising the risks and maximising the success of this

international cooperation.

more rigorous engagement.

Trust: the key to international collaboration

When it comes to international funding programs,

Most scientific collaboration occurs on an ad-hoc

the importance of trust is further accentuated as

basis. For example, two researchers who have met at

researchers are often engaging with foreign programs

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YOUNG Australian SCIENTISTS

Professor David Tissue Centre for Plants and the Environment University of Western Sydney Professor Tissue is an international

and desert environments around the

Professor Tissue’s goal is

expert on the effects of climate

world. He operates a precipitation

to determine the mechanisms

change on ecosystems. His current

manipulation experiment in the

that regulate and integrate the

research on plant response to

desert at Big Bend National Park

developmental and physiological

changes in global climate primarily

in Texas and is a close collaborator

processes that influence leaf level

considers the interactive effect

with the USDA working on water

carbon balance and plant growth

of elevated CO2 and associated

stress response in crops including

from the cell to the ecosystem level.

e n v i ro n m e n t a l f a c t o r s ( e . g .

peanut. In addition, Professor

This information will determine the

temperature, nutrients and water)

Tissue was a founding member

impact of climate factors on carbon

on leaf level physiology and its

of PrecipNet, an international

and water flux and ultimately,

implications for plant growth.

consortium of scientists studying

on growth and in natural and

He has worked at Free Air CO2

the impact of variable rainfall on

agricultural ecosystems.

Exchange (FACE) sites in forest

native and agricultural ecosystems.

Professor David Tissue Centre for Plants and the Environment University of Western Sydney

Professor Tissue is an international

and desert environments around the

Professor Tissue’s goal is

expert on the effects of climate

world. He operates a precipitation

to determine the mechanisms

change on ecosystems. His current

manipulation experiment in the

that regulate and integrate the

research on plant response to

desert at Big Bend National Park

developmental and physiological

changes in global climate primarily

in Texas and is a close collaborator

processes that influence leaf level

considers the interactive effect

with the USDA working on water

carbon balance and plant growth

of elevated CO2 and associated

stress response in crops including

from the cell to the ecosystem level.

e n v i ro n m e n t a l f a c t o r s ( e . g .

peanut. In addition, Professor

This information will determine the

temperature, nutrients and water)

Tissue was a founding member

impact of climate factors on carbon

on leaf level physiology and its

of PrecipNet, an international

and water flux and ultimately,

implications for plant growth.

consortium of scientists studying

on growth and in natural and

He has worked at Free Air CO2

the impact of variable rainfall on

agricultural ecosystems.

Exchange (FACE) sites in forest

native and agricultural ecosystems.

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Australian SCIENTIST

Climate Change and Energy Research at the University of Western Sydney

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Over the past 20 years, Australian scientific output has become increasingly international as the problems being tackled by our researchers become larger in scale, scope and complexity.

UWS has established one of Australia’s largest and most comprehensive research facilities, following the awarding of a $40 million grant in 2009. This project is an initiative of the Australian Government, being conducted as part of the Nation-Building Economic Stimulus Package. It supports Australia’s response to climate change – assisting the nation to adapt to a carbon-constrained economy and driving innovation in developing energy alternatives. The new national Climate Change and Energy Research Facility (CCERF) at UWS will act as a beacon for the best and brightest climate change and energy researchers from around Australia and the world. The integrity of excellent teaching and research, the initiative to explore new horizons and the responsibility to create an environment where innovation thrives are key drivers in advancing the University’s mission. If you have any enquiries about the Climate Change and Energy Research Facility – perhaps you 159 are interested in joining or collaborating with UWS – please email cpeinfo@lists.uws.edu.au for further information. 04/08/2010 CHS2061


YOUNG Australian SCIENTISTS

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Young Australian Scientists Age is not a prerequisite for world-class scientific achievement. On the basis of their significant achievements to date, the following young Australian scientists have been nominated by the Australian Academy of Science as those likely to make significant contributions to world scientific knowledge in the near future.

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YOUNG Australian SCIENTISTS

Stephen Blanksby Mass Spectrometry

Blood, sweat, tears… and roofing iron

A good tool has many uses, says Stephen

“We have been trying to understand the molecular

Blanksby, and researchers from a diverse range of

structure of tears,” says Dr Blanksby. “The familiar

disciplines are requesting that the mass spectrometry

‘dry eye’ sensation that some contact lens wearers feel

unit at the University of Wollongong becomes a part

may be associated with the lipids in tears. It’s exciting

of their projects.

research.”

“Mass spectrometry (MS) means being able to

The challenge for the future, according to Dr

identify molecules by their weight,” says Dr Blanksby.

Blanksby, is using MS to the greatest advantage,

“This helps us to understand the molecular structure,

applying techniques that are faster, more accurate and

and can be applied to medical research, where we

more selective than ‘traditional’ MS in order to derive

can observe very subtle changes in cell membranes

more detailed information about molecular structure

associated with diet, exercise, illness or age.

with ever less sample to analyse.

“Using a related technology, we’ve been able to help

Dr Blanksby completed his PhD at the University

Australian industry by identifying anti-oxidants in the

of Adelaide in 1999 where he undertook mass

polymer coating of roofing iron and fences,” he says,

spectrometry-based studies of highly unsaturated

“and improving these traditional products to cope with

cumulenes of interest in the interstellar medium.

the harsh conditions found on a typical Australian

He then took up a postdoctoral appointment at the

roof!”

University of Colorado, Boulder, where he worked on

Dr Blanksby looks forward to a continuing increase

using ion-chemistry and spectroscopy to investigate

in MS as a research technique, and is proud to find that

the reactivity and thermochemistry of peroxyl radicals.

researchers trained in Australia find a ready welcome

Since his appointment to the University of

in MS chemical and biological laboratories around

Wollongong in 2002, he has made significant

the world, while the Wollongong team is hopeful of

contributions to the fields of ion-molecule chemistry

exporting ‘home-grown’ technologies.

and lipid mass spectrometry. He has published over

Dr Blanksby and his team have also been

70 papers and was awarded the 2007 Rennie Medal

collaborating with an Australian visual research

from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the

institute, which has a particular interest in problems

2009 LeFévre Prize from the Australian Academy

associated with contact lenses.

of Sciences.

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Marnie Blewitt Epigenetics Researcher

What makes the genes go round

As well as being a young mother, Dr Marnie

Dr Blewitt is enthusiastic about the daily tasks of the

Blewitt leads a research team in epigenetics. Highlights

laboratory researcher. “Lab work is really exciting,”

of her career include journal articles, conference

she says. “It’s fun. It’s one of the reasons why I went

presentations, and a number of awards and prizes.

into science in the first place. It’s a pleasure not to have

In 2009 she was awarded the l’Oreal Australia For

to sit at a computer all day, but to go into a lab and

Women in Science Fellowship.

perform physical experiments. That part of science is

“The Human Genome Project identified 30,000

really enjoyable.”

genes making up a human. But how do the genes

Biology is the basis of Marnie Blewitt’s enthusiasm.

know which human characteristic they cause? If

People, she says, are wired differently, and her interests

similar or identical genes produce quite different

and talents lie in the biological sciences. She hopes

results, then the reason must be something outside

her research will lead to some fundamental insights

the gene sequence,” she says. “This is the exciting

into how epigenetics controls the expression of the

field of epigenetics.”

genes. It may also have some important application

Dr Blewitt took her degree at Sydney University, and

to disease.

studied in Paris and Oxford before gaining her PhD

“When epigenetics goes wrong it can cause cancer,”

in 2004. She is currently a Peter Doherty Postdoctoral

she says. “If we can understand the molecular

Fellow at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in

mechanisms, then perhaps we can design targeted

Melbourne.

therapies to treat these tumours in the most effective

She is confident that Australian science is very

ways possible.”

highly regarded overseas. “Even though researchers in Europe or the United States may have access to a far larger pool of money, Australian researchers are seen as being very resourceful,” she says. “They are regarded as being a real asset in any lab. They think about things from different angles to try to get to the answer. It’s not difficult for an Australian scientist to find jobs in science overseas.”

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Australian Scientist : global leaders