What does DNA, snowflakes and the hydrophobic effect have in common? They are all example of molecular self-assembly! Inspired by this process of nature, Dr Nisa Salim used attractive and repulsive forces to influence molecules to interact, and in doing so created an array of nanostructures capable of becoming solar cells, drug delivery systems, and in her newest venture – manipulating carbon fibre to be stronger than steel, lighter than aluminium and even electrically conductive! For her work in carbon manufacturing, Dr Nisa Salim was awarded the 2020 Phillip Law Postdoctoral Award for the Physical Sciences and explains how a nature-inspired approach to manufacturing can be the key to many issues facing our time – from climate control, water management and even high speed travel.
With electric vehicles predicted to represent 90% of all cars and light commercial vehicles on Australian roads by 2050, structural supercapacitors have the potential to revolutionise our transport by providing ‘mass-less’ energy storage, storing electrical energy in lightweight structural components of a vehicle’s body instead of in heavy, sole-purpose batteries. Dr Nisa Salim and her research team are working with multinational companies and Australian SMEs to demonstrate the exciting potential of these new supercapacitors, leveraging her collaborative relationships with a global academic and industrial network to take this cutting-edge research from the lab to the market place.
According to Dr Anita Hill, CSIRO’s Chief Research Scientist, “There are several impressive factors about Professor Fox. Her ability to communicate, inspire, and advocate for science is evident not only from the ecosystem that she has been able to create and fund but also from her presentations, several of which are available on YouTube as TEDx talks or interviews. She provides audiences of any background a vision of the future and one where Australia is designing and manufacturing the lightweight materials of future mobility (flying cars, hyperloops). She is a role model for STEM and for supporting high tech companies in Australia. She is recognised internationally, and uses her networks to Australia’s advantage.”
Every year, final year PhD candidates present their doctoral studies to the Royal Society of Victoria, competing for four Prizes that recognise excellence in Victoria’s early career scientists. Eight finalists present under the four categories: Biological Sciences, Biomedical & Health Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Physical Sciences. While the format of delivery was different this year, participants rose to the challenge to deliver engaging and informative videos for National Science Week. From chicken sexing to neutron stars, all finalists’ presentations are summarised here, with links to their video presentations and the full proceedings as broadcast on the night via Facebook Live.
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.