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Talking Science Over Dinner - feature image, used as a supportive image and isn't important to understand article

“If we don’t treasure them, study them, seek to understand them, who will?”


Our 2018 Year 12 Programs are now over but what is left are the memories of many inspirational talks given by some of Australia’s leading scientists.  There were so many presentations it is difficult to talk about them all but students heard about everything from dark energy and gravitational waves to waste transformation, algae farming, engineering and volcanoes to name a few.

Each of the three January sessions culminated in a final celebratory Science Dinner – and our keynote speakers at each dinner did not disappoint.  We were blessed to hear from three very different, but equally informative, entertaining and inspiring scientists. All leaders in their fields.

With over 320 guests at each dinner there was some very interesting conversations to be had.

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With a full house of 370 guests, Session A heard from neuroscientist, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, an eminent scientific innovator, communicator, educator, and neuroscientist.  Professor Beazley has dedicated more than 30 years to the field of neuroscience, researching recovery from brain damage and changing clinical pratice in the treatment of infants at risk from pre-term delivery.

Professor Beazley spoke of her own scientific journey, being the first in her family to attend university to the successful career that culminatied in becoming the Chief Scientist of Western Australia from 2006 – 2013, and the first female Chief Scientist in Australia.

What was evident was Professor Beazley’s love of science and passion to encourage young people to pursue a career in the STEM fields.

Professor Beazley shared some of her research endeavours from developing steroids for preterm babies (that would later be used on her own grand daughter) to designing deterrent surf wear.

“Steroids for preterm babies came out of research investigating wool quality in sheep – think laterally,” said Professor Beazley.

“Keep being curious, use your imagination and research in broad areas.”

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Not to be outdone the Session B Science Dinner, held at the Brisbane City Hall, was honoured to have the 2017 Australian of the Year, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim give an informative presentation about his science career and research.

Professor Mackay-Sim is an international leader in stem cell research and his research led to the 2014 surgery that allowed a polish paraplegic to walk again!

The presentation titled ‘Following My Nose:- from Macquarie University to the Australian of the Year’ gave guests an insight into the processes involved in research projects.

Initially interested in brain science, Professor Mackay-Sim, went on to research the sense of smell and has spent his life researching this field.  Interested in the regeneration and repair of the nervous system, he studied the regeneration and repair of olfactory mucosa, the organ of the sense of smell in the nose, in which new sensory nerve cells are made throughout adult life.

One of the questions Professor Mackay-Sim asks when conducting research is “how can we use this to help people?”

And when asked by a 2018 NYSF participant why he does it, his reply is simple “the love of scientific research is what keeps me going.”

Students were also addressed by special guest, The Hon Grace Grace, Minister for Education and Minister for Industrial Relations, for the Queensland government, who encouraged young people to pursue study in STEM fields to help prepare them for the jobs of the future.

Current NSW Young Australian of the Year and 2018 NYSF Participant Macinley Butson, got to speak with Professor Mackay-Sim about her own scientific endeavours.

“Meeting Prof. Mackay-Sim was an absolute honour, and being able to talk to him about my own research was even more special. I felt very humbled to be able to listen to his presentation, and was blown away by his incredible work and how it is making such a difference in peoples lives. I am very appreciative to the NYSF and their team for making all of this possible, and going up and beyond at every point during the program.”

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Our Session C Science Dinner, also at the National Museum of Australia saw keynote speaker, Emeritus Professor Ian Chubb AO, speak about his own scientific journey, from a young boy being curious about the world to becoming the Vice-Chancellor of two universities including the Australian National University, and Australia’s Chief Scientist.

Professor Chubb enlightened guests about Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot” and  delivered a strong message to guests, saying science needs to be an integral part of society and take humanity to new heights.

“Science isn’t just what we do, it’s a culture and a way of thinking,” said Professor Chubb.

“We have to invest in science and education, strategically and at scale, so that the community knows how to tell what’s real and true.”

Professor Chubb warned that we need to be acting now to work together to solve global problems and that all scientists can take the community with them.

He outlined five key points looking toward our challenges in the future:

  1. study and value our endemic ecosystems;
  2. recognise the challenge of climate change;
  3. show leadership
  4. prepare for the end of resource based ecenomies; and
  5. build capacity to deal with data.

“If we don’t treasure them, study them, seek to understand them, who will?” Says Professor Chubb.

We were also honoured to have Senator Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation as a special guest at the Session C Science Dinner.

The NYSF would like to thank our three inspiring keynote speakers and Mr Vince Di Peitro AM CSC, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA), our major funding partner who spoke at our Session A and C dinners, Mr Chris Hess from LMA who addressed our Session B guests, our Rotary District Governors, Mr Steve Hill, D9710 who spoke at our Session A and C dinners and Mr John Lane D9600 who addressed Session B guests.

We would also like to thank the staff at Broadbean Catering, the National Museum of Australia and Epicure at Brisbane City Hall for providing a wonderful venue and dinner and in particular The Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Cr Graham Quirk for providing a generous donation towards the Brisbane dinner from the City Hall and King George Square Community Service Obligation Fund.

Each dinner was an entertaining and enlightening evening to remember where guests walked away with bellies full of fabulous food and minds opened to the wonders of science.