Australian Academy of Science: Upcoming Events

Polymers in a Material World

Take a journey with the Australian Academy of Science and see how science has twisted and warped what was once the stuff of make-believe to give us the polymers and plastics that now shape our world.

The first in our two part series is all about polymers. This talk explores the use of plastics and polymer materials to build everyday products, engineer innovative solutions, and create emerging technologies. From solar cells to shatter proof mirrors, to water purification or inherently conducting polymers equivalent to metal, plastic is propelling us into the future at an astounding pace.

Our scholars will begin at the beginning, to tell you the tale of how polymers were developed, how they’ve helped us in the past, and what’s yet in store.

Tuesday 28th February 2017 — Melbourne — Click here for tickets
Time: 6:00 to 7:45pm
Venue: Melbourne Museum
Promotional Code: NYSF_MELB — for a free ticket!

Thursday 2nd March 2017 — Sydney — Click here for tickets
Time: 6:00 to 7:45pm
Venue: Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Promotional Code: NYSF_SYD — for a free ticket!

Further events will be held in Wollongong, Brisbane and Adelaide later in the year.

NYSF 2017 Session A: Welcome lecture

What better way to kick off the NYSF 2017 than with a visit to the Australian Academy of Science – in particular, the iconic Shine Dome itself. Students were off to an early start for the annual photoshoot outside of the Dome. We then ventured inside to be welcomed by the CEO of the Australian Academy of Science, Ms Anna-Maria Arabia.

Ms Arabia outlined the role of the Academy, its philosophy towards science, and learning in general, at the AAS:

“Here [at the Academy of Science] we raise science, we nurture it, from primary schools all the way through to research.”

“Being a scientist has very little to do with what you think, but everything to do with how you think.”

Being a scientist has very little to do with what you think, but everything to do with how you think.

That second thought in particular really struck a chord with the students. It’s good to be reminded that it isn’t which degree you choose or which courses you take that matters, but ultimately how you grow your skills as a thinker and a scientist.

To wrap up Ms Arabia left the students with some sound career advice, as well as an insight regarding the motivation for pushing scientific research:

“I encourage you to think about your passion for science and technology in the broadest of terms, and to be open to the many career paths that may be open to you.”

“There are endless discoveries to be made that can improve our health and bring about a better understanding of the world around us.”

Following Ms Arabia’s introduction we were given a presentation by Professor Linda Richards, Deputy Director of the Queensland Brain Institute.

Professor Richards graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Science and First Class Honours, then later went on to complete her PhD at The University of Melbourne. Her story seems uncommon, and is also quite powerful:

“When I was your age I didn’t think I would finish school. I left halfway through year 11 due to circumstances out of my control. But I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world, and so I needed to continue my education.”

Professor Richards acted on that thought, and now leads a lab group  of 14 people at the Queensland Brain Institute, and spends her time researching how the brain is wired during development. Through her words she displayed a burning passion for her work:

“Being a scientist is one of the most amazing career paths you could possibly aspire to. It is the ultimate way of intellectual curiosity. It isn’t just a job. It is a way of looking at the world. And of solving the big problems that face humanity.”

It isn’t just a job. It is a way of looking at the world. And of solving the big problems that face humanity.

Professor Richards also placed a huge emphasis on legacy, and encouraged the students to think early on about the mark they want to leave on the world:

Scientists around the world are building a pyramid of knowledge. If you can leave a legacy, which is what drives me, then you can make a difference in the world.”

It’s not every day that you come across scientists so passionate and engaged in their work, and so today was a real pleasure. I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself when I say I left feeling energized and inspired to go and do some hardcore science.

By Jackson Nexhip, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2013 Alumnus

Launch for NYSF 2017

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) launched its 2017 January programs earlier this month at the Australian National University (ANU).

Andrew Metcalfe, AO, Chair of the NYSF Board said the January program would be better than ever due to the ongoing support of our funding partners and organisations that facilitated the program.  Mr Metcalfe made special mention of the recent funding announcement by Minister Greg Hunt of funding for the NYSF’s activities through the National Innovation Science Agenda (NISA).

NYSF Chair Andrew Metcalfe speaking at the NYSF 2017 launch

NYSF Chair Andrew Metcalfe speaking at the NYSF 2017 launch

Mr Metcalfe also welcomed our newest Funding Partner, IP Australia, who’s Deputy Director General, Ms Deb Anton, also addressed the group underlining the value of supporting the NYSF as a program that attracts Australia’s next generation of leading innovators. “This aligns with IP Australia’s position,“ she said, “as we are at the forefront of innovation in Australia.”

“Supporting new talent will result in a strong, positive impact in securing Australia’s future as a global leader in science and technology.”

Attendees at the launch included representatives from NYSF funding partners, ANU academics and researchers who assist with the delivery of the NYSF program in the form of the lab visits and guest lectures; other facility lab visit and site tour providers; alumni of the NYSF Program, many of whom are students or graduates of the ANU; NYSF Board and Council members; and the NYSF corporate team.


Dr. Chris Hatherly, Anne MacKay, Daniel Lawson, Emily Rose Rees, Ellen Lynch


Prof. Jenny Graves, Deb Anton, Dr. Alison Shield


Alumni Sam Backwell, Laura Wey,                Mitchell de Vries


Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton


Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton


Mitchell de Vries, Natalie Williams,                Merryn Fraser


Rowley Tompsett, Madeline Cooper,             Melanie Tacey


Ken Maxwell, Dr. Damien Pearce, Jo Hart


Tony Trumble, Prof. Jenny Graves, Deb Anton, Adrian Hearne, Brody Hannan

All images:  Emma Robertson

Event: The Science of Life + Death: Life in Perth – By the Australian Academy of Science


On the Thursday 10 November 2016 (6:00pm start) the Australian Academy of Science will be running an event in Perth as part of their series, “The Science of Life + Death”.

The evening’s discussion will cover some of the key research in the field of epigenetics and the social and ethical considerations around this.

“The instructions for life are written in our DNA, but what if you could help the next generation to be stronger, taller, smarter, slimmer, free of birth defects and generally healthier later in life – would you use that power? Should you?”

“LIFE in Perth aims to discuss this rapid evolution of genes, the origins of life and if altering developing cells is really the right thing to do.”

The host for the evening’s epigenetics discussion will be science broadcaster Bernie Hobbs. Guest Speakers to include:

  • Dr Hayley Dickinson, Embriology and Placental Biology, Hudson Institute for Medical Research
  • Professor Ryan Lister, Lister Lab, University of Western Australia
  • Dr Brenda McGivern, Law School, University of Western Australia

Tickets for the event can be purchased here – $20 for general admission or $15 student concession.


“NYSF was a turning point for me” – NYSF Alumnus Chris Hatherly

Chris Hatherly is the Director of Science Policy and Projects at the Australian Academy of Science. His journey into science began in 1996 at the National Youth Science Forum.

“Full immersion into the National Youth Science Forum began in January 1996. Student accommodation with several hundred like-minded friends by night, and lab-tours, lectures and mind-expanding science by day.

NYSF was a turning point for me, but perhaps not in the same way as it was for others

Almost 20 years on, the specific memories are hazy, but the overall impression is still clear: what an opportunity, what a privilege and what a monumental couple of weeks developing lasting friendships and shaping a future.

NYSF was a turning point for me, but perhaps not in the same way as it was for others. Like everyone, I’d come to NYSF with interest and aptitude for science, and like most, I wasn’t entirely sure how these interests might pan out into further study and eventually a career.

But rather than narrowing my focus, the range of science on show during NYSF left me less certain than ever about what I wanted to do. What had become clear though is that whatever further study I might do, ANU was the place I wanted to do it.

So with that in mind, I finished year 12, deferred a Science/Arts degree, and headed off on a gap year: in my case, pedalling a bike around Australia.

I returned to the ANU in 1998 and experienced all the delights of first year, but the travel bug had got me, and a year later I deferred again for more travel: first with a friend on an 18-month bike trek across Russia and Mongolia, then a few years later with my wife along the Silk Road from Istanbul to Hong Kong.

Chris riding through Siberia 1999

Chris riding through Siberia 1999

These were great experiences cementing life-long friendships, learning new languages, seeing places un-visited by westerners for decades, and landing travel awards, a successful book and a documentary along the way.

But the fascination with science was still there, and over time (and with a number of detours along the way), this coalesced into a degree with honours in psychology, and eventually a PhD in cognitive science. All of this at the ANU which I’d first fallen for during NYSF some 14 years earlier.

And then the real world!

My first job took me out of academia to management of a research-funding program at Alzheimer’s Australia. Over the course of five years my responsibilities expanded to include a high profile ‘knowledge translation’ program, and involvement in a targeted and strategic program of research advocacy. These roles gave me the opportunity to work closely with leading health and medical researchers on cutting-edge research projects, and also at the interface between science, public awareness and government policy.

And finally, back to science proper, commencing a job in 2015 as Director of Science Policy and Projects at the Australian Academy of Science (a supporting organisation of NYSF).

The breadth of issues I now deal with is much larger than at Alzheimer’s Australia, and the calibre of scientists I have the opportunity to work with couldn’t be higher. But the overall challenges remain the same: ensuring science informs government policy making on the one hand, and working through a variety of channels to try and persuade governments to do more science on the other.

It’s not where I imagined I’d end up during my January at NYSF nearly 20 years ago, and it’s not how I imagined I’d get there. But for someone with a broad and lifelong interest in science, I couldn’t be happier.”

Humans in space and dark stuff: are you curious?

What happens to the human body in space? How small is a nanoparticle? And just what is dark matter? Nova, the Australian Academy of Science’s website for curious minds, has been answering these questions since its launch just four months ago.

Nova’s most popular topics include the enhanced greenhouse effect, the chemistry of cosmetics, and bio-plastics. With all things ‘space’ hitting the headlines, Nova has added topics exploring what happens to the human body in space, the realities of colonising Mars, the possibilities of life beyond Earth, and the dark stuff of our universe. Other new topics include nanoscience and noise pollution.

AAS cosmetics-interactive

New content is added weekly, so there’s always something different to explore. And Nova is proud to announce that its engaging and intuitive design has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Australian Graphic Design Association awards.

With the success of our first two collaborative videos on bees and dark matter, the Nova team, backed by some of Australia’s brightest scientists, is working with German animators Kurzgesagt on another video which will explain quantum computing. Watch this space!

Indulge your curiosity at, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Got an idea for a possible topic? Then tell us about it…you never know, it might make the cut!

Viral videos and e-books: Nova launched at Australian Academy of Science

The Australian Academy of Science’s beautiful new science engagement website, Nova, was officially launched during National Science Week.

Nova also celebrated National Science Week by launching its first e-book, ‘The Greenhouse Effect’, which is available free now on iTunes.

Nova was one of the first science education websites to be created when it was first established in 1997. Now, with support from Telstra, Nova has been given a major face-lift for its coming of age.

It was launched at a VIP event at the Australian Museum in Sydney by Nova champion Professor Emma Johnston, the Voice of Nova Sharon Bulkeley, Academy President Professor Andrew Holmes, and Telstra Chairman Catherine Livingstone.


Professor Emma Johnston launches Nova


Guests at Australian Academy of Science Nova launch in August 2015

Nova features a range of science topics presented in an accessible way to suit a range of learning styles. Topics are created by specialist science communicators and digital producers and reviewed by top Australian scientists, and cover everything from dark energy to cosmetics, car crashes to climate change.

Two videos created especially for Nova have already gone viral, with more than 1.7 million views: watch them to learn more about the disappearance of bees, and about dark energy and dark matter.

New Nova website set to ignite interest in science

The Australian Academy of Science’s flagship science information website for adults and older students, Nova: science for curious minds, is undergoing an exciting transformation that is set to ignite interest in science.

Due to be launched in late June, the new Nova will be beautiful to look at, engaging, user-friendly and accessible to people of all abilities. Above all it will remain topical and accurate, with visitors to the site knowing that the content has been reviewed by Fellows of the Academy.

Nova began in 1997 with funding from Telstra, and at the time was at the forefront of science communication. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of people, teachers in particular, have come to Nova for accessible scientific information, finding understandable answers to complex questions. Fast-forward 18 years and many things have changed—the internet is now a louder, brighter and more competitive space, and the ways in which we find and consume information has evolved. Nova needed to change too.

Image: Stuart Rankin

Image: Stuart Rankin

The website will be launching with around 30 topics, and the Academy aims to have more than 100 up by the end of the year. The range of topics is broad—think speeding cars, bioplastics, quantum computers, life on Mars, the chemistry of cosmetics and the maths of voting as just a few examples.

Telstra continues to see the benefit of good science content online and has provided funds for this exciting new phase of the Nova website.

A video about the new site can be viewed here.

Register at to find out when the new website goes live. The Academy will welcome feedback on the new site, including ideas for new topics.


Still the clever country?

Professionals Australia launched the Still the Clever Country? campaign at the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome with Professor Ian Chubb delivering the keynote address.

The campaign presents two significant reports and a series of fact sheets on the issues that face the future of science in Australia.

Still the Clever Country is the result of a survey conducted of over 500 of its scientist members to tackle the barriers to productivity improvements and innovation through science and R&D. It provides valuable insights from those experienced in their fields.

Sister publication, Realising Innovation through Science and R&D provides a blueprint for dealing with workplace and structural issues in science with recommendations for government and industry.

Key recommendations coming from the reports suggests that Australia needs to invest in the science and R&D workforce, deal with deprofessionalisation, enhance Australia’s STEM capabilities, encourage effective reward and recognition strategies and address workforce developments

Furthermore, the report suggests that attracting the next generation of scientists is crucial. The survey found, that seventy-six per cent of Australian scientists were concerned about how science could attract the next generation and ranked this as a second only to funding concerns.

For students looking to enter the workforce, it means fewer entry-level graduate and internship opportunities.

In Professor Chubb’s address, he noted that maintaining our status as a clever country is fundamental to our economic sustainability as well as ensuring a fair and just future for Australia. Professor Chubb also described the progress towards a strategic approach to Australian science policy further to the recommendations set out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future

Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton highlighted the need to not only invest in STEM education but the STEM workforce with a focus on education and training offering workers career pathways, not just skills for initial jobs, and emphasised the need for ongoing investment in the science capability of the workforce rather than deprofessionalisation.

To read the full reports, visit the campaign website.

New resources for school science education

The Australian Academy of Science’s two school education programs, Science by Doing and Primary Connections, have launched new interactive resources aimed at supporting teachers to lead inquiry-based science education in the classroom.

Three new Primary Connections units cover science material suitable from foundation to Year 4 and include a free downloadable PDF, assessment rubrics and new and improved introductory sections.


Three new interactive teaching resources, including two which are already available for purchase on the Primary Connections website, are designed to be used on interactive whiteboards or computers.

More information about the new units, professional development and other resources is available at the Primary Connections website.

Science by Doing is a comprehensive online science program for Years 7 to 10 available free to all Australian students and teachers and supported by award winning professional learning modules and a research based professional learning approach.

The program provides a practical way of implementing the Australian Curriculum: Science.

Science by Doing recently launched a number of new curriculum resources and has begun its program of professional development. For more information visit the Science by Doing website.