These were our three speakers for the public lecture on 26 June.
Dr Igor AharonovichDiamonds – the most precious scientific gem
Nanodiamonds are tiny diamond crystals a million times smaller than a grain of rice. They offer fascinating possibilities in the areas of physical and biological sciences. Diamond nanocrystals contain various defects (known as colour centers) that are so bright, they can be detected on a single level. These colour centers can be harnessed to transfer information in an incredibly secure manner, preventing even the most sophisticated eavesdropping. On the other hand, they can also be used as fluorescent biolabels, targeting malicious cells and used as a carriers of drugs and vaccines. In this talk, Igor Aharonovich will highlight these two applications and other promising directions for florescent nanodiamonds.
Professor Louise RyanThe beauty of mathematics
Mathematics is a universal part of human culture. It helps us to recognise patterns and understand the world around us. Mathematics plays a vital and often unseen role in many aspects of modern life, such as making purchases, choosing insurance or health plans, and planning for retirement. Business and industry need workers who can solve real-world problems, explain their thinking to others, identify and analyse trends in data, and use modern technology. Professor Louise Ryan is a mathematician and statistician at UTS.
She is well known for her methodological contributions to statistical methods of big data sets for cancer and environmental health research. She recently complied a report for the Environmental Protection Authority about coal train dust particles and the impact on air quality within the community of the Hunter Valley Region. She will explain the beauty of mathematics in solving real life issues and take you through some of her work examples to show the importance of mathematics in society.
Dr Rachael DunlopA tale of blue green algae, attacking birds, Hollywood and neurodegeneration
Despite being a rare condition, motor neurone disease (MND) has a relatively high profile owing to famous sufferers such as Prof Stephen Hawking. Yet, in over 90% of cases, we don’t know what causes MND and there is no cure. For some time, scientists have observed that exposure to blue-green algae is linked to increased incidence of MND, but the reason for the link has been a mystery – until now.
A recent discovery from UTS scientists, in collaboration with a team of US botanists, has pointed to a role for a common toxin found in blue green algae as a potential trigger. In this talk, Dr Rachael Dunlop describes how thinking outside the box and taking an unorthodox approach lead to this breakthrough. The search begins in the jungles of Guam, heads to the deserts of the Middle East, crosses to baseball pitches in the US and finally arrives in a lab in Sydney. This is a tale of blue green algae, dementia, coconut fruit bat soup, Hollywood and how a ubiquitous “silent killer” might be stalking us all.