Professors Anthony Burkitt and Jamie Rossjohn are the 2018 RSV Medallists for Research Excellence

RSV President David Zerman emphasises the Medal is not just about discovery and innovation, but also about fostering and supporting a thriving research community and workforce to achieve collective impact. “Some of this is demonstrated through a scholar’s personal output of journal articles and the related citations, or through patents and commercialisation, but it is also the research ecosystem that a leader supports through mentorship, collaboration and public engagement. We look very favourably on research leaders who bring effective teams together, and who actively promote younger scientists in particular, either through direct supervision, co-authorship of major papers, or simply creating opportunities for meaningful, purposeful work in an intensely competitive job market.”

The Neuroscience of Racism: Science and Stories

People often say that we are not born racist, however the truth is actually more complicated: new-born infants exhibit no preference for faces of various ethnic groups, however from the age of 3 months, infants begin to take longer to scan faces – indicating that they are thinking more about appearances – and exhibit a preference for faces of their parents’ (and own) ethnic group(s).  These findings imply that while we may not be born racist, our perceptions of ethnic differences are learned during early development as a result of exposure to own- versus other-race faces. In this reflective piece, Catriona Nguyen-Robertson considers the neuroscience of racism as presented to the Society by Dr Larry Sherman, drawing parallels to her own experience as an Australian with a mixed heritage of Vietnamese and Scottish parentage.

Brain Interfaces: the Hype and the Reality

Recently, there has been worldwide “hype” around brain interfaces and the seemingly endless possibilities that they provide. Despite bold predictions from several technology companies about the future of neural interfaces (e.g. Elon Musk’s whole brain interface that will allow the brain to connect to an information network), the science of brain augmentation is still in its early days. There is a large gap between what is talked about amongst the hype and what is actually feasible in the near future. Professor Arthur Lowery gave us a reality check of what applications are possible for brain interfaces; electrodes can be placed to stimulate the occipital lobe for sight, the motor cortex for the control of prosthetics, or the speech centre for artificial speech.

Testosterone Rex – An Evening with Cordelia Fine

It has long been a popular perception that risk-taking and status-seeking have evolved as masculine traits, as there is less selective pressure for women to develop a “competitive edge” and to take risks. Professor Cordelia Fine discussed the roles of men and women in society, particularly how their behaviour contributes towards “reproductive return” – their passing on genes to offspring and continuing their ancestral line. Scholars have previously reported on links between testosterone levels and risk-taking, their argument being that where men evolved a promiscuous streak to be competitive in order to acquire or defend their status and sexual opportunities, the female strategy has been more focused on ensuring they have enough resources to care for their offspring. As Professor Fine points out, however, women can be big risk-takers in their own right.