Monday, 19 October 2015

Congratulations Macquarie iGEM team!

Well I'm a couple of weeks behind on this news, so much for the immediacy of blogging. Anyway, great news from the Macquarie iGEM student team, who have been in Boston to compete at the 2015 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Jamboree. This is an international synthetic biology competition with student teams from 280 universities around the world. Last year I went along with our team as an advisor and watched them win a gold medal.

The 2015 Macquarie iGEM team has done even better than last year's team. They won a gold medal for their project "Solar Synthesisers", plus they were runner up for the Best Energy Project and were finalists for the Best Basic New Part and Best Model. Fantastic job! Congratulations to all of the medal and prize winners at the 2015 iGEM Jamboree, full results here. Great to see other Australian teams competing, with UNSW, University of Sydney and ANU also successful at IGEM.

The 2015 Macquarie IGEM team with their poster in Boston

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

On the Channel 7 news

Last week I was interviewed by Dr Andrew Rochford for the Channel 7 nightly news. It was an interesting experience being interviewed for 20-30 minutes and then seeing which ten words they decided to show on the TV. The news piece went to air Monday night on the 6 pm news, and was about NutriKane D, a medical food derived from sugarcane. As part of the ARC-funded Training Centre for Molecular Technology in the Food Industry, we have been undertaking research on the effects of NutriKane D on the human gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts).

Turns out the 10 words they did include from me on the 7 News had nothing to do with any of our actual research here, but at least the microbiome work got a mention latter in the news item. There's also film of my PhD student Hasinaka and myself in the lab.

NutriKane D- I've actually been taking myself for the last few weeks, combining half a packet with yoghurt each night. Anecdotally, it seems to be doing good things for my digestive system.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

So You Think You can Synthesize Season 2 Finale

The final episode of So You Think You can Synthesize Season 2 is now available on YouTube. I think our iGEM students did a great job, and it provided a fun opportunity for me to exercise my painful overacting skills (honed from a misspent youth playing roleplaying games).

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Eureka Awards

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Eureka Awards at the Sydney Town Hall. Sometimes described as the Oscars of Australian Science, the Eureka Awards are presented each year by the Australian Museum. I wasn't nominated for an award, but I was invited to one of the Macquarie University tables for the event (I think the Uni likes to roll out its Laureate Fellows for special occasions). Congratulations to all the winners. Macquarie did pretty well, taking home two Eureka prizes (congrats to Dave Raftos and Jin Dayong). For me the highlights are always the Sleek Geek awards for the best science movies made by primary and secondary school students. Interestingly, Paige Beebe, who won the secondary school prize for her movie "the Secret of the Appendix" is actually the grand daughter of Nobel Prize winner Barry Marshall.

Since the Eureka Awards are a glamorous scientific gala, I had to dust off my tux and bowtie (thanks Phyllis for tying my bowtie!)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Food Science #2

While on the theme of food, I gave a talk earlier this month at the Annual Convention of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology. This was a first for me, I've never before attended a food science conference, and I've never been to Luna Park in Sydney, though I did visit Luna Park in Melbourne when I was about five years old. I enjoyed the omics session I spoke in, interesting talks on Aspergillus aflatoxins (Hi Dave), the genetic basis of taste differences in humans, and applying "Big Data" to food safety. Lunch was a bit disappointing for a food science conference, but there were excellent muffins at morning tea.

Luna Park seemed an unusual venue for a scientific conference

Kittybiome Update #2

I am now in possession of an attractive Kittybiome T-shirt, a sampling kit to let me collect my cat's faecal material, and a mountain of paperwork to allow me to ship kitty poop to the US. Now, I just need to get my cat to cooperate.

my T-shirt and kitty poop sampling kit

Food Science #1

A couple of weeks back, we had the official launch event for our ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre. This was originally named the Food Omics Research Centre (FORC), however the Australian Research Council didn't like our name and instead told us that we would be called the ARC Training Centre for Molecular Technology in the Food Industry. Go ahead and see if you can make a good acronym out of that!

Now that we have an official name, we realised that we hadn't had a formal launch event for our Centre (which has now been up and running for over a year). We went ahead and had a very successful launch event with various dignitaries including Senator Arthur Sinodinos, and Professor Aiden Byrne, CEO of the Australian Research Council.

One of the central purposes of this funding scheme is to train PhD students and postdoctoral researchers in collaborative research with industry. We were funded in the first round of this scheme, and arguably, we are one of the most successful of these Centres as we have our full allotment of 10 PhD students working on collaborative projects with our industry partners.

Students and staff of the ARC Training Centre for Molecular Technology in the Food Industry