The life, work and achievements of Professor Ian Ritchie have been celebrated with his posthumous induction into the Western Australian Science Hall of Fame.

The importance of STEM education was emphasised in an awards ceremony when Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson AC, Governor of Western Australia, announced the winners of the 2016 Governor's School STEM Awards at a ceremony held at Government House on Thursday, 24 November 2016.

Thursday, 08 September 2016 13:42

The South West Science Council Inc.

The South West Science Council Inc. is an incorporated not-for-profit regional organisation founded in 2015. Whilst based in Bunbury, as our name suggests, our region covers the whole of the South West corner of Western Australia.

WESTERN Australian scientists and projects are well represented in the finalist pool of the 2016 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes with local talent making up six finalists across multiple categories.

The Murchison Widefield Array, which is backed by Curtin University and UWA, was named a finalist today for the Scopus Eureka Prize for Excellence in International Scientific Collaboration

Back for another tilt at the prizes after being named a finalist last year is FANTOM5, a project investigating the genes used in most cell types of the human body.

The project is supported by Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) among other organisations and they are also vying for the Scopus Eureka Prize.

The third finalist for the Scopus Eureka Prize is held jointly by UWA Associate Professor Chunnong Zhao and Associate Professor Li Ju for their work in enabling the Advanced LIGO gravitational wave detectors to be sensitive enough to detect gravity waves for the first time.

TKI’s Dr Thomas Snelling is in contention for the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science for his work in informing national vaccination policy.

TKI director Professor Jonathan Carapetis has been named a finalist for the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science.

Curtin University’s Fireballs in the Sky project, which was this week also named a finalist in the Premier’s Science Awards, has been named as a contender for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

Thursday, 28 July 2016 13:35

Students thrive on real-world challenges

SOME of WA’s leading PhD students have gained industry experience in their field and even secured part-time roles following the second round of iPREP WA in 2016.

iPREP WA, which was recently named a finalist in the 2016 Premier’s Science Awards, is a program that sees local PhD candidates work with WA industry to solve existing industry challenges.

The second round, which culminated in presentations earlier this month, saw students create a new website and six new training courses for the Western Australian Health Translation Network.

All three of the PhD students have been offered part-time roles to complete the project.

Other projects saw students conduct an environmental assessment of the water quality in south-west dams and compile a report for an engineering company on the potential of current and emerging sensor technologies for use in their products.

In attending the presentations Innovation Minister Bill Marmion expressed his delight about iPREP.

“This is an exceptional program, linking academia with industry, bringing them together. This is exactly what we need to do to drive innovation in Western Australia,” he says.

If you would like to benefit from having a team of PhD researchers to solve a business problem or to innovate with new ideas and a fresh way of thinking, then contact iPREPWA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The next iPREP round is running from the 3rd October- 11th November.

INNOVATORS responsible for developing the world’s first fully automated bricklaying technology and a cloud-based system that stands to vastly improve engineering insight for subsea systems are among the finalists of the 2016 WA Innovator of the Year awards.

Eight finalists have been named this year across two categories with the category winners to receive $25,000 each in prize money while the Overall Winner will receive $75,000.

In announcing the finalists this week Innovation Minister Bill Marmion says the quality of the finalists was again a reflection of the passion and potential in WA.

In 2015, software company Track’em took out the overall prize for its innovative system combining GPS tracking, Bluetooth tags that allows logistics managers track equipment and assets.

Meanwhile, previous finalist Proteomics International recently secured funding to develop an In vitro Diagnostic test (IVD) kit for their innovation PromarkerD, in China.

The program, now in its 10th year, will announce the winners at an awards ceremony on November 2.

Congratulations to all the finalists. They are:

Mitsubishi Corporation Emerging Innovation Category

Company: Electronic Pain Assessment Technologies Pty Ltd (Subiaco)
Innovation: ePAT: an electronic pain assessment tool, which utilises automated facial recognition technology to detect facial cues indicative of the presence of pain.

Company: Fastbrick Robotics Ltd (Walliston)
Innovation: Fastbrick Robotic Hadrian: the world’s first fully automated 3D robotic bricklaying system.

Company: Segnut Pty Ltd (Mandurah)
Innovation: Segnut: an industrial grade threaded nut combined with a rapid release mechanism to allow rapid and safe nut release where otherwise stuck nuts would cause delays and involve unsafe removal methods.

Company: The University of Western Australia and Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (Crawley)
Innovation: Flash flaming of seeds to improve land restoration: a device that repeatedly exposes seeds of wild plants species to a flame, in a precisely controlled fashion, to transform the ability to handle seeds that are needed to revegetate areas such as mine sites and degraded agricultural lands.


Mitsubishi Corporation Growth Category

Company: Furry Dice Pty Ltd (Leederville)
Innovation: Instatruck: an on-demand truck matching service for customers’ with specific delivery requirements and owner/drivers who have delivery capacity.

Company: Global Grain Handling Solutions Pty Ltd (Spearwood)
Innovation: Retro-fit open bulk head clamping system: a new grain storage structure clamping system to replace aging, low tech approaches to securely covering open bulk head grain storage facilities.

Company: Subsea Engineering Associates Pty Ltd (Perth)
Innovation: SEA-ICE: a cloud-based intelligent computation, engineering and data platform for subsea systems to deliver detailed engineering insight for subsea systems faster, locally and at a lower cost.

Company: Tap Into Safety Pty Ltd (Gwelup)
Innovation: Tap Into Safety training platform: a safety training application delivered through cross-platform, cloud-based applications, allowing for regular in-situ, self-paced training.

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LOCAL researchers whose work helped detect gravity waves and discover the chemical in smoke that cause plants to germinate are among 13 other scientists and initiatives in the running for the 2016 Premier’s Science Awards.

Premier and Science Minister Colin Barnett says the award finalists, spread across four categories, have played a key role in developing the state’s scientific capacity.

“The awards provide important recognition of outstanding individuals who are contributing to science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the state,” he says.

Now in its 15th year the awards have presented more than 80 individual scientists and research initiatives with accolades.

In 2015 UWA Professor Mark Cassidy, Telethon Kids Institute epidemiologist Hannah Moore, Curtin University astrophysicist Tom Russell and Earth Science WA took out each of the categories.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony on August 18 during National Science Week.

Congratulations to all the finalists. They are:

Scientist of the Year

Professor Carol Bower: Senior Principal Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute

Professor Bower is a public health researcher and physician who discovered a link between low dietary folate and the risk of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida), instigating the world’s first public health campaign to encourage folic acid supplement use before and during pregnancy.

Professor Kingsley Dixon: Curtin Professor and Visiting Professor at Kings Park and Botanic Garden (Curtin University)

Professor Dixon’s efforts in conservation science, restoration ecology and plant science have been fundamental to conserving threatened species and transforming ecological restoration practice in Australia. His discovery of the specific chemical in smoke that is responsible for germination in Australian species has had widespread application, being valued at $100 million per annum in terms of potential global benefits to agriculture, mining restoration and horticulture.

Professor Zheng-Xiang Li: Co-Director (Australia) of the Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Tectonics and Earth Resources, WA School of Mines (Curtin University)

Professor Li is a geoscientist who has pushed the boundaries of knowledge about the evolution over the past 2,000 million years of Earth, making important contributions to the field of tectonics and geodynamics. Professor Li has been pivotal in building WA’s major research centres for geoscience, playing a key role in establishing the renowned Tectonics Special Research Centre.

Professor David Sampson: Director, Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis and Head, Optical+Biomedical Engineering Laboratory (The University of Western Australia)

Professor Sampson is a world leader in multiple facets of imaging science and engineering. He is internationally recognised for his research in new biomedical imaging technology, including the multi-award winning Microscope-in-a-Needle and the micro-imaging of stiffness, now being commercialized. As Director of the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis, he has built an imaging infrastructure for researchers in Western Australia that attracts the world’s best, including the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year

Dr Kaiming Bi: Lecturer, ARC DECRA Fellow (Curtin University)

Dr Bi’s research interests lie in earthquake engineering and structural dynamics, and he is the first researcher who has systematically investigated the influence of local soil conditions on earthquake ground motion.

Dr Scott Draper: Senior Lecturer School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering (The University of Western Australia)

Dr Draper is known internationally for his research in offshore fluid mechanics. He has developed models to optimise the configuration of offshore wind and tidal turbines for renewable energy, predict seabed scour and estimate the stability of offshore structures in extreme wave conditions.

Dr James Fitzpatrick: McCusker Clinical Research Fellow in Aboriginal Child Health, Telethon Kids Institute; Director, PATCHES Paediatrics

Dr Fitzpatrick is a researcher and paediatrician who has made a profound impact on understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and has pioneered new diagnosis and intervention strategies. Dr Fitzpatrick’s research and advocacy has led to FASD being recognised in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, resulting in individuals across Australia with FASD becoming eligible for early intervention funding.

Dr Jun Li: Senior Lecturer/ARC DECRA Fellow (Curtin University)

Dr Li is developing next-generation diagnostic technologies for monitoring the condition of civil infrastructure such as bridges, buildings and offshore structures. His work is particularly important for minimising the vulnerability of bridges and other infrastructure at-risk to natural hazards and environmental change.


ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year

Carl Blair: PhD Candidate (The University of Western Australia)

Mr Blair’s research to control interactions between high intensity laser light and tiny sound waves in mirrors enabled the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) to build up sufficient power to enable the first direct detection of gravitational waves. Following experiments at the Gingin high optical power facility, Mr Blair went to the LIGO Livingston gravitation wave detector in March 2015 to help prevent the instability. The techniques developed in Western Australia by Mr Blair and his colleagues played a significant role in the widely publicised important discovery.

Christopher Brennan-Jones: PhD Candidate, Ear Sciences Centre (The University of Western Australia)

Mr Brennan-Jones’ PhD research focused on improving efficiency and access to ear and hearing healthcare services in Western Australia. He led an international consortium that assessed the reliability of automated hearing tests for use in the absence of specialists. Mr Brennan-Jones discovered some common inconsistencies that, if not corrected, could result in missed diagnoses of middle ear disease or tumours.

Tim Rosenow: PhD Candidate (Telethon Kids Institute/The University of Western Australia)

Mr Rosenow is a PhD student at the Telethon Kids Institute, working in the field of paediatric respiratory medicine. His research has resulted in a new method for measuring structural lung disease in infants and young children using chest CT scans. This method is the world’s first age-appropriate measure of cystic fibrosis-related structural lung disease in children under six.

Melanie Walls: PhD candidate, School of Women’s and Infant’s Health (The University of Western Australia)

Ms Walls’ research focuses on in vitro maturation (IVM), an innovative fertility treatment that can be cheaper and more patient-friendly than IVF. Her research into IVM and embryo-morphokinetics led to an award-winning presentation at an international conference and the world’s first live birth from a combination of these techniques.


Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year

Fireballs in the Sky: (Curtin University)

The Desert Fireball Network aims to understand the early workings of the solar system by studying meteorites, fireballs and their pre-Earth orbits by capturing the paths of fireballs in the sky from multiple viewpoints. With this data, the fireball’s pre-Earth orbit and eventual landing position are tracked. Fireballs in the Sky is the outreach arm of the project.

iPREP WA: (Edith Cowan University)

iPREP WA (Industry and PhD Research Engagement Program) involves interdisciplinary teams of PhD students from all five Western Australian universities, working on a six-week project for an industry partner. Since iPREP WA was established in early 2015, the program has included 26 successful projects, 78 PhD researchers and 21 companies.

Old Ways, New WaysAboriginal science outreach program: (Edith Cowan University)

The Old Ways, New Ways program aims to improve the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in science subjects, thereby increasing their employment prospects in science and technology. Through the use of peer-supported learning and demonstrator training, the program enhances confidence, leadership and communication skills, while promoting and providing positive role models and career opportunities.

WESTERN Australia’s very own shark deterrent technology Shark ShieldTM has proven to be effective against great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) with tests finding white pointers stay up to 1.3m away from the device’s electrodes on their first approach.

However, the sharks started to develop a tolerance to the technology after being exposed to it multiple times with the technology repelling sharks nine out of 10 times as opposed to it having a 100 per cent success rate for sharks on their first approach.

The tests found the deterrent field decreased by an average of 12cm per approach by the same shark but they still continued to be deterred from interacting with the bait sporting the active Shark ShieldTM.

UWA researchers tested the technology in Mossel Bay in South Africa in 2014 and deployed a custom-built Remote Monitoring Research Apparatus (ReMoRA) with either an active Shark Shield or an inactive device to generate a baseline for the researchers to compare against.

The scientists analysed 322 encounters from 41 individual sharks.

UWA lead researcher Dr Ryan Kempster says only one white shark interacted with the static bait in the presence of an active Shark ShieldTM, and this only occurred after multiple approaches to the device.

UWA Oceans Institute deputy director Professor Shaun Collin says the testing showed that the Shark ShieldTM could reduce white shark interactions.

“The research provides quantitative evidence of the effectiveness of the Shark Shield, its electric field characteristics and its influence on the behaviour of white sharks,” Prof Collin says.

“This device is no guarantee of 100 per cent protection from any species of shark but at present, but under the conditions under which we tested it, the Shark ShieldTM is the most effective shark deterrent device currently on the market.”

The research was made possible by a $220,573 grant from the WA Government.


A TEAM of international scientists including a Curtin University PhD student had front row seats to see a meteor streak across Earth’s atmosphere earlier this month.

While knowing where and when a meteor will make an appearance in the sky is tricky to predict and rare in itself, this particular meteor was actually man-made.

The meteor took the form of the Cygnus OA6 resupply capsule which had reached the end of its life.

Curtin high speed photometry expert Ellie Sansom, among other researchers, boarded a nine hour flight armed with all manner of scientific equipment to capture the capsule’s re-entry in order to figure out what happens to space junk when it is jettisoned into the atmosphere.

It is hoped that the data recorded from the flight can give some insights into what will happen when the International Space Station reaches the end of its life and de-orbits.

To gather their data the researcher flew three hours east from Christchurch to just beyond the International Date Line, they then witnessed the re-entry at that furthest point.

Ms Samson, whose research focuses on the dynamic modelling of meteors and fireballs, captured the final fiery moments of Cygnus OA6 which can be viewed on the group’s blog.

The Start-Up community in Perth is continuously growing, with many developing companies growing to be used nationally and internationally; it is expected that the government’s support of these will increase dramatically by 2025, making Start-Ups a vital part of the Australian economy.

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