Sydney Science book launched

2 June 2009

The Faculty of Science has launched Sydney Science, a new book which reveals the exciting breadth of research across the Faculty.

Sydney Science, a new book which reveals the exciting breadth of research across the Faculty, was launched on 28 May 2009.
Sydney Science, a new book which reveals the exciting breadth of research across the Faculty, was launched on 28 May 2009.

Launched on 28 May 2009 at an event called Celebrating Success held in the University's beautiful MacLaurin Hall, in the Main Quadrangle, Sydney Science showcases how scientists from different Schools within the Faculty of Science bring their multidisciplinary approaches to research in areas such as cancer, materials science, genetics and environmental sustainability.

250 guests attended Celebrating Success, including Faculty of Science staff featured in Sydney Science, science media, industry leaders, science alumni and school science teachers.

Professor David Day, Dean of the Faculty of Science, officially launched the book, saying "Sydney Science really is the story of science at the University of Sydney."

Sarah Masters, editor and main writer of Sydney Science, said, "We wanted to present the diversity of research in the Faculty of Science in a different way to how we have previously, by organising research under themes rather than by Schools.

Professor David Day launches the new book Sydney Science, with Sarah Masters, editor of Sydney Science, and Chris Angwin, graphic designer of the new book.
Professor David Day launches the new book Sydney Science, with Sarah Masters, editor of Sydney Science, and Chris Angwin, graphic designer of the new book.

"The book is written in an accessible and interesting way, with a general audience in mind. The aim is to show how scientists in the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney are finding solutions in areas such as cancer research, environmental sustainability, materials science, psychology and astronomy," explained Sarah.

"It's amazing how our scientists are applying their different fields of science to the same areas of research and coming up with multidisciplinary ways of investigating phenomena."

Sixteen research areas are covered in the book, including:

  • Making light work of communications - the evolution of photonics
  • Geological time machines - looking back to take us forward
  • To catch a killer - keeping cancer on the run
  • Designer drugs - new adventures in drug development
  • Asking the hard questions - historians, scientists and the direction of medicine
  • Field of vision - adventures in astronomy
  • Inner space to outer space - the fantastic voyage
  • Creatures of habit - the persistent problem of instincts
  • Food for thought - obesity, anorexia and diabetes: developing a new appetite
  • Living with a changing environment - keeping biodiversity alive
  • A material world - the future of our physical world
  • Cracking the code - mathematics and the art of organisation
  • From molecules to medicine - starting small, thinking big
  • Passing the baton - shaping the scientific thinkers of tomorrow
  • Sustaining our uncertain future - science to save our planet
  • Understanding life's recipe book - genetic jigsaws

"I'd like to thank Sue Markham, Katynna Gill and Phil Dooley for writing some of the articles. And an especially big thank you to Chris Angwin, who did the graphic design and managed the publication of the book," said Sarah.

To obtain a copy of the Sydney Science book, fill out the order form at:

Extracts from Sydney Science:

Inner space to outer space - the fantastic voyage

As humanity's knowledge of the world grows in detail, the inner workings of the brain may be the final frontier of scientific investigation. Our ability to perceive, interpret and react to the world is an enigma wrapped up in the millions of neurons in our brain. The delicate hunt is on for the secrets of how this system works and the ways we can use this knowledge to halt disease, delay dysfunction and get the most out of our mental muscles.

This chapter includes the work of:

Professor Peter Robinson, an ARC Federation Fellow in the School of Physics and the Brain Dynamics Centre, is developing a new model of the brain's electrical activity. This non-invasive window into the basic workings of the brain is able to interrelate multiple levels of functioning, from microscopic to the whole brain.

Associate Professor Colin Clifford, from the School of Psychology, says that the brain has a remarkable capacity to adapt its representation of the visual world in response to changes in its environment. "I study vision because it's something that most of us take for granted. But there is a computerised complexity about vision that makes it worthy of further investigation."

Professor Max Bennett, Director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, says that researchers at the Institute are in an unparalleled position to advance the study of many degenerative brain conditions.

Professor Allan Snyder, Director of the Centre for the Mind, is investigating innovative ways to enhance certain skills by shutting off parts of the brain, inducing a literal, autistic-like state.

Dr Martin Wechselberger, from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, looks at the brain from a different perspective. He is developing mathematical tools to examine the underlying dynamics of physiological rhythms. "Physiological rhythms like the beating of the heart, the activity patterns of neurons and the release of hormones are central for life," reveals Wechselberger. "We are working on new methods to identify key parameters which control these rhythmic processes and to explain complex oscillatory patterns observed in systems like the brain."

A material world - the future of our physical world

Madonna got it right: 'We live in a material world'. Materials science is a burgeoning and essential area of research, which allows us to understand how the molecular and atomic structure of a material relates to its properties.

This cutting edge field uses nanotechnology to delve inside materials and figure them out from the atom upwards, a method that relies on contributions from chemists, physicists, engineers, imaging specialists and - depending on the material - biologists, biochemists and medical researchers.

Materials scientists go beyond merely analysing materials, they create new materials with novel properties.

This chapter includes the work of:

Professor Cameron Kepert, an ARC Federation Fellow in the School of Chemistry, works on a number of molecular materials with a range of properties. Materials that contain crystal lattices that shrink when hot, can store hydrogen in nano-sized pores, and sense the presence of specific chemicals at the molecular level.

Associate Professor Sebastien Perrier, Director of the Key Centre for Polymer Colloids in the School of Chemistry, also investigates the nanostructures of materials. His research focuses on the synthesis of polymers via highly controlled polymerisation, to create functional materials for specific purposes.

Professor Greg Warr, Head of the School of Chemistry, is a colloid scientist whose work also crosses over into polymer science. "Ionic liquids, made from salts that melt at room temperature have immense potential as solvents in many industrial processes. Salts are not good at evaporating, so ionic liquids don't contribute to atmospheric pollution," says Warr.

Professor Sergey Vladimirov, from the School of Physics, works on dusty plasmas, plasmas that contain particles of dust. There are many examples of dusty plasmas in astrophysics, industry and even in our skies. Plasmas are essentially gases where the constituent particles are electrically charged.

Professor Simon Ringer, Director of the Australian Key Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, uses sophisticated imaging and probing techniques to study the relationships between structure and properties of materials.

Field of vision - adventures in astronomy

In a world where seeing is believing, it's hard to comprehend the size of the objects that hold the secrets of our beginnings. From the astronomically large to infinitesimally small, physicists extend their field of vision beyond the everyday, to the night skies and to the building blocks of matter.

This chapter includes the work of:

Professor Tim Bedding, an asteroseismologist, studies 'star quakes' to work out their internal composition, just as geologists study the vibration and movement of the Earth's crust to understand the composition of its liquid core.

Dr Peter Tuthill is involved in another global alliance of telescopes. As Chief Investigator of the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer (SUSI), Tuthill is installing a twin instrument system, called PAVO, located here in Australia, and in California. This system can be remote controlled allowing scientists in Australia to run observations and control telescopes on the other side of the world.

Professor Anne Green, Head of the School of Physics, has spent her career mapping the galaxy to unlock the secrets of the interstellar medium, producing what is still the most detailed low radio frequency map of our galaxy. In the process, Green has identified a quarter of all known supernova remnants.

Professor Bryan Gaensler, former International Project Scientist for the Square Kilometer Array, conducts innovative research through his ambitious project to develop a magnetic map of the sky. Using the rotation of light rays from around 100 million polarised background sources of radio waves, such as quasars, Gaensler will be able to determine the scale and strength of the magnetic processes at work throughout the Universe.

Professor Elaine Sadler, a surveyor of elliptical galaxies, generates galactic lifecycles from detailed demographics. "It's difficult to reconcile elliptical galaxies with current theories of galaxy formation," explains Sadler.

Professor Geraint Lewis, on the other end of the galactic spectrum, studies the formation of smaller and younger galaxies. Galactic cannibalism is an integral process in the formation of these galaxies: as clumps of matter collide they become larger, exert greater gravitational force and grow faster. Contrary to what was traditionally thought, the Milky Way will continue to grow and eventually collide with the Andromeda galaxy in what will be the largest and most dramatic event of galactic cannibalism.

Dr Kevin Varvell, a particle physicist, in the quest to discover the origins of the Universe, the Solar System and Earth, turns his gaze to much smaller objects compared to astronomers who look out to the sky to answer these questions. Dr Varvell investigates dark matter, antimatter and the smallest components of matter.

Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 20340341175c177a291c0f2e0a0c24184b4a283018180418