So many of our State’s wonderful science achievements fly under the radar. As WA’s Chief Scientist I am privileged to see science progress first hand but for many, the ‘lab’ is a million light-years removed from everyday life.
Well I’d like to try to bring you some highlights of WA science that will have affected you or someone you know.
Firstly, I’d like to congratulate the winners of BioGENEious 2012! Our two high school student winners will travel to Boston in the USA to compete in the International BioGENEius Challenge finals in June this year.
Year 10 student Abbey Mardon of Presbyterian Ladies' College and year 11 Tess Douglass of Iona Presentation College both won this year’s challenge with exceptional entries.
Abbey’s research, 'Enhanced phosphorus removal from piggery effluent ponds,' will help enhance the livestock industry. The research, overseen by Dr Sasha Jenkins of UWA’s Natural and Agricultural Science Faculty, aimed to enhance the waste treatment process in piggery farms and could lead to improvements in manure management systems for other livestock.
Tess’s research focused on the development of new breast cancer detection devices. Overseen by postgraduate student Kelsey Kennedy from UWA’s Optical and Biomedical Engineering Laboratory, the project involved developing an object that can simulate cancer within the breast. This research will then aid in the development of optical needle probes, which can take a picture of the tumour and its properties at a microscopic level.
Both of these projects have considerable value and I am so impressed with what these young ladies have contributed. I’m looking forward to seeing how they fare in the USA. I know we can expect great things from them as they embark on their careers in science.
Secondly, I must mention recently announced WA Australian of the Year Professor Donna Cross and her work at the Child Health Promotion Research Centre. The centre is based at Edith Cowan University and promotes the health of children and young people through active engagement with families, schools and communities. Research ranges from obesity prevention, bullying, mental health promotion and drug use control.
Prof Cross’s work in cyber bullying is especially noteworthy because so many children spend considerable time online. But in addition to her extensive research in this area, Prof Cross has completed school-based research to influence health promotion in schools in areas like smoking cessation, drug control, child safety, and obesity prevention from peri-natal to early childhood studies.
And recently another Western Australian won another prestigious award when the Australian Academy of Sciences gave their early career award for researchers under the age of forty, the 2012 Fenner Medal for distinguished research in biology (excluding the biomedical sciences) to Professor Harvey Millar, of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Science at the University of Western Australia. His research looks to understand respiratory damage in cell ageing as it relates to both plants and animals.