Human activities have released significant quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, the more carbon dioxide emitted, the warmer our planet becomes. Partly mitigating these impacts, plants recover 30% of atmospheric carbon via photosynthesis. Using energy from the Sun, they combine carbon dioxide with water to form sugar and oxygen. When the chemical reaction is reversed, carbon returns to the atmosphere – either by cellular respiration in plants and animals, or the burning of coal, wood, or gasoline. Soil scientist Dr Samantha Grover explains that one way of preventing carbon dioxide from returning to the atmosphere is keeping it sequestered in the ground. In fact, there is two-to-three times more carbon in soil than in the atmosphere.
Consistent with the theme of “Possible Impossibles”, six undergraduate students presented STEM solutions to global challenges in the Let’s Torque Grand Finals for National Science Week. The finalists aimed to bridge the gap between researhcers and society by communicating innovative STEM developments to the general public. RSV Councillor Rob Gell delivered the keynote address. Coincidentally, the day of the Let’s Torque Grand Final, 22nd August, was Earth Overshoot Day, which marks the date that our demand for nature exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a year. To Rob, conserving our remaining natural assets is a top priority. “Business as usual” simply does not work. Everyone wants things to be better, but it is difficult to find momentum to change our individual behaviours. We need a lust for change, and that is what Rob aims to inspire. With their energy, enthusiasm, and ideas, the six Let’s Torque finalists will be agents of change too.
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.
Prizes across four categories of science are available to doctoral candidates who are in the final year of their PhD (or equivalent). Thanks to the generosity of Dr Max and Mrs Margaret Richards, the value of our four first prizes are now valued at $1250 each. With an opportunity to present your research work to Victoria’s oldest learned society, you should start planning your application today!
Finalists will present to the Society during National Science Week, on the evening of Thursday, 16 August 2018.
The RSV is delighted to be partnering with the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments to deliver a new Inspiring Australia program, engaging our state’s communities in the excitement and opportunities of advances in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
The partnership will connect everyday Victorians with STEM by demonstrating how these skills improve our knowledge of the world around us, inform better decision making, business efficiency and solve some of our greatest everyday challenges.