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

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Single Molecule Imaging

We recently hosted a visit from Antoine van Oijen from Wollongong University. Antoine is a fellow ARC Laureate Fellow (not often one can use the word fellow three time in one sentence), who is doing very cool single molecule imaging work. Antoine was a faculty member at Harvard and Groningen before he moved out to Australia, so it's a great coup for Wollongong to recruit him. 
We had some fun discussions about possible collaborative projects and he gave a great seminar while visiting MQ. Hopefully, I'll get the opportunity soon to visit his labs down in Wollongong.

I'm not sure what this is, but it has pretty colours and I got the image from Antoine's web page.

So You Think You can Synthesise Season 2

Last year you may recall the gold medal-winning Macquarie University iGEM team ran an online synthetic biology-themed reality series called So You Think You can Synthesise. This years Macquarie University iGEM team is busy beavering away on their synthetic biology project Solar Synthesisers. As part of the "human practises" (I would translate this iGEM-ism as "Outreach") segment of their project, they are creating So You Think You can Synthesise Season 2.

I'm blogging about this not just to give them a gratuitous advertisement, but also because I was involved in filming the final episode yesterday. While only episodes 1 and 2 are currently up on Youtube at the moment, the final episode has now been filmed, and I know who won, bwahahahaha. However, my lips are sealed. One spoiler I can reveal is that the final episode has a Japanese Iron Chef theme. The reason I know is that I was brought in to play the role of Chairman Kaga, the host of the Iron Chef TV show.

I should mention that I was a big fan of the Japanese Iron Chef, and one of the culinary highlights of my life was attending a dinner function where Hiroki Sakai (Iron Chef French) and Chen Kenichi (Iron Chef Chinese) each cooked a course.

Placeholder Iron Chef photo until I locate the photo of me with Hiroki Sakai and Chen Kenichi

Friday, 7 August 2015

If its my birthday, this must be Canberra

Yesterday was my birthday, and for the third year out of four, I've spent it in Canberra, serving on an NHMRC grant review panel. I've been in Canberra all week, reviewing 75 microbiology grants. I feel a little depressed about it, as grant success rates may drop as low as 10% this year, which means an awful lot of very good grants will not be funded. On the bright side, my panel arranged a birthday cake for me!

Its my birthday and I have a cake, thanks to my grant review panel