Scientists on stage
We have had many scientists perform in our play The Poet’s Guide to Science. The play was devised with the help of three scientists – Dr Anne-Sophie Dielen, Associate Professor Nerilie Abram and PHD student Harry Sutton – who, as our first three guests, largely determined the direction
we would take. They were all very keen for us to help people understand that the scientific method is something they can have trust in. Their own disciplines, too, in the fields of genetic modification/plant ecology, climate change and immunisation, significantly informed the narrative and purpose of the play.
We would like to thank the following scientists, as well as our future guest scientists, for the immense contribution they have made to the success of The Poet’s Guide to Science.
Australian Capital Territory
Associate Professor Nerilie Abram – My research focuses on how the Earth’s climate has behaved over the last millennium, and what that tells us about the climate changes we are seeing now. The past climate records that I develop come from corals, caves and ice cores, and I combine these with climate model data to study climate changes.
My research is supported by ARC-funded projects through the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, and through an ARC Future Fellowship. I’m actively involved in a number of the international reconstruction teams for the Past Global Changes 2k projects, and a Coordinating Lead Author for the IPCC special report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.
Harry Sutton – I am a 3rd Year PhD student at the John Curtin School of Medical research, studying how your immune system responds to Plasmodium, the parasite that causes the disease Malaria. I was born and raised in Canberra and completed my undergrad at ANU. I rounded off my undergrad experience with my honours year, where I studied how B cells (an important type of immune cell) respond to malaria vaccines. I enjoyed the research I did in that year so much, I decided to stay on and complete a PhD in the same lab.
As well as scientific achievements such as journal publications and conference presentations, I have been actively involved in the local sci comm scene in Canberra. In my hopefully successful attempts to explain the importance of my research to the general Canberra community, I have presented at Pint of Science and spoken on the Fuzzy Logic podcast as well as writing an article of the Ask Fuzzy column in the Canberra times.
Dr Anne-Sophie Dielen is a scientist/feminist/enthusiastic baker/parent/fan of bad puns. She started her career as a plant scientist, trying to help farmers grow better crops. Why? Because her grandfather was a master storyteller when it came to sharing memories of growing up on a small farm in the north east of France… After ten years of research and moving to Australia, she realised that she could help farmers and local communities even more by working in science policy and communication. She has recently joined CropLife Australia as their Director of Crop Biotechnology Policy.
Professor Ross Thompson is Director and Chair of Water Science in the Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra. Ross is a freshwater ecologist with interests in the study of biodiversity and the restoration of landscapes. His fundamental research is in food web ecology; seeking the rules that determine how natural communities assemble and persist. His applied research addresses the ways in which food webs can be influenced by anthropogenic factors including urbanisation, land clearance, pharmaceutical contamination, river flow diversion and restoration, and invasion. He has an active research program on aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem function in urban and rural landscapes. Ross has published more than 90 papers, 10 book chapters and more than 200 scientific reports. He sits on the Australian Research Council College of Experts and has recently stepped down from the NZ Marsden Panel. His work has strong links to government and industry, and Ross sits on a number of senior technical advisory panels for local, state and federal research programs.
Dr Rebecca Colvin is a social scientist and knowledge exchange specialist with the Climate Change Institute at ANU. Bec’s research interest is in how groups of people interact with each other – especially in settings of social and political conflict – with regard to climate and environmental issues. Much of this work has a focus on the dynamics of formalised processes for including citizens and stakeholders in decision-making, and leverages on perspectives from social psychology to understand the complexities of people and process. Recent research projects have included the study of conflict about wind energy development, the psychological underpinnings of a constructive governance regime for negative emissions, the role of trust between climate researchers and policy-makers, and the relationship between aggregate public opinion and conflict in environmental messaging. At the Climate Change Institute, Bec’s role is to facilitate the strengthening of links between climate change researchers and end users of the research. Before joining the ANU Climate Change Institute in 2017, Bec undertook a PhD and lectured with The University of Queensland.
Anukriti Mathur currently works at the Immunology Department, Australian National University. Anukriti does research in innate immunity and infectious diseases. Her most recent publication is ‘Molecular mechanisms of inflammasome signaling’ in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.
Dr Tory Clarke is a plant molecular biologist and early career researcher at The Australian National University. Her research uses cutting edge technologies in molecular biology, proteomics and physiology to elucidate the fundamental properties of plants. Tory’s research focuses on genetically engineering more productive plants to feed a growing world population by delivering more food for our investment, while preserving our natural ecosystems.
Tory has a diverse plant science research background, researching in areas such as plant hormone biosynthesis, legume nodulation and nitrogen allocation in plant leaf cells. She obtained her B.Biotech (Hon) at the University of Tasmania in 2008 and her PhD in Plant Molecular Biology at the University of Sydney in 2014. She completed a short post-doc at Macquarie University where she used proteomics to determine absolute quantification of cellular protein components in native Australian plant leaves.
Tory joined the ANU in 2017 where she has worked as part of the Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis and the International Wheat Yield Partnership. She is a member of the Bill and Melinda Gates-funded Realising Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) consortium, an international collaboration that is engineering plants to photosynthesize more efficiently and address global food security challenges.
Tory is passionate about communicating science and being a STEM role model through her outreach work.
Matthew Witney is a 2nd year Immunology PhD student at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU, studying how the human body recognises viral infection. In particular, he studies the vaccine that was used to help eradicate smallpox (although he doesn’t use the smallpox virus!) to try to understand why this vaccine worked so well. This vaccine was so effective that even 80 years after some people were vaccinated, the effects of the vaccine likely still protected against infection! In 2015, Matthew competed in the international Genetically Modified Machine (iGEM) competition in Boston, where his team was awarded a Bronze Medal. In his spare time, he plays violin with ensembles such as Canberra Symphony Orchestra.
Dr Miguel Hernandez-Prieto conducts research on Photosynthesis at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.
Researchers at the centre work together to guarantee a future without global famine.
His work focuses specifically on the role of photosynthetic pigments in the adaptation to different environments.
During his career, he has worked at Universities in the USA, Sweden, and Portugal. His accent gives away his Spanish origin.
Professor Robert Booy is a medical graduate of the University of Queensland (1984) and trained in Paediatrics at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane. He held a range of positions in the UK including Professor of Child Health with the University of London; Lecturer in Paediatric Infections at St Marys Hospital, London; Research Fellow with the University of Oxford; and was the recipient of a Wellcome training fellowship in epidemiology focusing on genetic factors important in meningococcal disease.
Professor Booy’s research interests extend from understanding the genetic basis of susceptibility to, and severity of, infectious diseases especially influenza, RSV and invasive disease caused by encapsulated organisms; the clinical, public-health and social burden of these diseases; and means by which to prevent or control serious infections through vaccines, drugs and non-pharmaceutical measures in both children and adults.
Over the past 15 years, Professor Booy has been increasingly recognised as an expert in the respiratory virus field, supervising many studies addressing the burden and prevention of influenza disease in children and adults in the UK, Australia and among Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. In addition he has led intervention studies with new vaccines, new vaccine delivery methods and alternate methods for preventing disease and transmission such as antivirals and personal protective equipment.
Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick is a senior research associate, 2014 DECRA, 2018 Future Fellow awardee in the Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW. Sarah has undertaken two postdocs at the CSIRO division of Marine and Atmospheric Research, as well as the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. Due to her research activities and communication profile, Sarah was named a 2013 NSW Young Tall Poppy. Her research interests reside in temperature extremes, namely heatwaves. Sarah has investigated trends in heatwaves both globally and over Australia, as well as exploring the role of human activity behind such changes. Her research program includes understanding future changes in heatwaves, and how they may be driven by humans, as well as meteorological systems and natural climate phenomena.
Professor Matthew England is currently a Scientia Professor of Climate Dynamics at the University of New South Wales. He has previously held an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship and was one of the founding Directors of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC)(2006 – 2012). He was the Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science during 2017-2018. In 2014 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and in 2016 a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.
Professor England obtained his PhD in physical oceanography and climate modelling from the University of Sydney in 1992 after being awarded the University Medal and 1st Class Honours from the same University in 1987. After completing an EU Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France during 1992-1994, he worked as a Research Scientist at CSIRO within the Climate Change Research Program during 1994-1995. Since 1995 he has lectured in the physics of the ocean and climate system at the University of New South Wales, where he was awarded an ARC Federation Fellowship in 2005 and an ARC Laureate Fellowship in 2010. In 2006 he established the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre together with Professor Andy Pitman. The CCRC became the host institution for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science in 2011.
He held a Fulbright Scholarship at Princeton University during 1990 and a CSIRO Flagship Fellowship in 2005. He coordinated and led the 2007 Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists; a major international statement by the scientific community that specifies the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required to minimise the risk of dangerous human-induced climate change. He was the convening lead author of the 2009 Copenhagen Diagnosis. He is a former Co-Chair of the CLIVAR Southern Ocean regional panel, and was a contributing author and reviewer of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Second and Third Assessment Reports.
Professor England’s expertise covers the dynamics of the oceans and their role in climate variability and climate change on time-scales of seasons to millennia.
Professor Nicholas Wood is a staff specialist general paediatrician and Associate Professor and Academic Lead (Higher Degree Research) in the Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health at The University of Sydney. He holds an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship. He leads the NSW Immunisation Specialist Service and coordinates the Immunisation Adverse Events Clinic at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. He is interested in maternal and neonatal immunisation, as well as research into vaccine safety, including genetics and long-term outcomes of adverse events following immunisation.
Dr Michael Leach – Adjunct Research Associate, School of Rural Health, Monash University
Dr Michael Leach is a Bendigo-based statistician, researcher, and freelance writer and poet. He works across hospital, university, and government settings at the Loddon Mallee Integrated Cancer Service within Bendigo Health, the Monash University School of Rural Health, and Cancer Australia. He holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy, a Graduate Certificate of Science (Applied Statistics), a Master of Biostatistics, and a PhD in Pharmacy. Michael is also a Certified Health Informatician Australasia (CHIA) with the Health Informatics Society of Australia (HISA). His research interests encompass the sciences and the humanities, from pharmacoepidemiology to science poetry. Michael has published research papers in scientific journals, such as Drugs – Real World Outcomes and Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, as well as poetry in both scientific and literary journals, including the Medical Journal of Australia and Cordite Poetry Review. His website is Images of Health: http://imagesofhealth.wordpress.com
Associate Professor Paul Willis’ career in science communications has seen him on television across the country with the ABC and acting as Director at the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus). His Directorship of RiAus spanned 6 years during which he established Australia’s Science Channel. Paul spent fourteen years with the ABC as a dedicated science reporter mostly on the TV science program Catalyst.
Paul has spent time as a museum curator in natural history and a live presenter of science to early-aged school children. He’s acted as an expert guide for tour companies operating in Antarctica and western USA and has authored several books on geology, palaeontology and natural history themes.
Paul’s PhD looked at Australian fossil crocodiles after a double major in geology and zoology.
Paul currently owns and runs his own research media company, Media Engagement Services.
Professor Paul Ward is Professor and Head of Public Health and Coordinator of the PhD Program at the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University. He is a sociologist with a PhD from the University of Manchester in the UK. Of relevance to this show, he conducts lots of research about public trust in different healthcare services across the Asia Pacific, and has a large ongoing national study on parental trust in childhood vaccinations.
Professor Helen Marshall MBBS DCH MPH MD is a medical researcher and NHMRC Practitioner Fellow with specialist training in child health, public health and vaccinology having completed a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, Doctorate of Medicine, Master of Public Health and Diploma in Child Health and the Advanced Vaccinology Course at the Pasteur Merieux Institute, France. She is Professor in Vaccinology in the Adelaide Medical School and is the Deputy Director of the Robinson Research Institute at the University of Adelaide, Senior Medical Practitioner and Director of the research unit, VIRTU, at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
She is a member of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, which makes recommendations to the Health Minister on immunisation. Her main interest is in meningococcal disease and vaccines. In recognition of her research excellence she was awarded NHMRC’s “10 of the Best” research projects in 2016 and the South Australia Science Award for Excellence in Research for the Public Good. Her greatest inspiration comes from her 3 beautiful children and from the opportunity to improve child health through evidence based research.
Dr Pallave Dasari is a senior postdoctoral fellow in the Breast Biology & Cancer Unit at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital and University of Adelaide. Her research focuses on the immunological underpinnings of breast cancer risk, specifically how the immune system in the breast switches off so it can’t destroy any lurking pre-cancerous cells. She is also a science communicator, convening the Science in the Pub Adelaide series and was named as one of 30 “Superstars of STEM” in a new initiative of Science and Technology Australia in 2017. Pallave has also recently completed a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University.
Professor Rachel Burton is based at the Waite Campus, University of Adelaide where she is the Head of the Plant Science Department. She is a molecular biologist, passionate about plant cell walls, dietary fibre, weird crops and biofuels. She was one of the inaugural Superstars of STEM and loves communicating her science to the public.
We would like to thank all the experts who have taken part in this show for donating their time to this production, thereby inspiring our audiences in all things scientific and poetic.