With deep expertise in environmental microbiology and biotechnology, Professor Andrew Ball’s research focuses on developing clean, sustainable technologies to remediate environmental contamination, looking for ways of removing contaminants – particularly petroleum hydro-carbons (oil), but also other organic pollutants – from soils, groundwater and water bodies.
Every year, final year PhD candidates present their doctoral studies to the Royal Society of Victoria, competing for prizes recognising excellence in Victoria’s young researchers. Eight finalists present under the four categories: Biological Sciences, Biomedical & Health Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Physical Sciences. In our second year of COVID lockdowns, our participants rose to the challenge to deliver compelling presentations for National Science Week.
With Dr Rajesh Ramanathan, we encounter a special example of a scholar exploring the knowledge base from traditionally separate field of scientific inquiry. First trained as a biologist, Rajesh combined his PhD work in materials science to consolidate expertise across the chemical, physical and biological sciences, enabling him to develop and contribute to research projects across disciplinary boundaries, leading work in the exciting new field of nanobiotechnology.
We enjoyed another remarkable, whirlwind tour of the sciences at the Society last night, with these six outstanding early-career scientists presenting work that pushes the boundaries of knowledge across incredibly diverse fields of research. The applicant pool grew this year to 60 final year PhDs from across Victorian research institutions, meaning our six finalists had already distinguished themselves simply by being selected to present to us on the evening.
As an animator, most of Dr Drew Berry’s days are spent reading scientific literature and going on long walks to think about what he reads while his computer runs tasks. There is a great deal of data on cellular processes, however the full story is often scattered among multiple studies and papers (i.e. all the details of one machine complex may be comprised of multiple proteins that work together, and each is described individually). Dr Berry therefore has to piece the jigsaw puzzle together to show the big picture while keeping the smaller details accurate. He also has to make artistic choices that may not always reflect the science of what’s going on. Colour is not relevant at the cellular and molecular levels; but he uses it in his animations to evoke moods and emotions, allowing him to better engage his audiences and also make it easier to distinguish between different components and processes of a cell.