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Science & Technology Australia - September Newsletter
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Name and title
Dr Sabrina Heng, ARC Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, University of Adelaide.

 
Discipline
Chemistry/ BioPhotonics

 
What lured you into science in the first place?
Subjects that require logical reasoning like chemistry and philosophy have always appealed to me more than the others. But it was really a series of books / articles that lead me down this career path. One of them was Harvard Professor Chris Walsh’s article on “Molecular mechanisms that confer antibacterial drug resistance”. The article describes the new tools and tactics used by scientists in the race to outsmart the superbugs. Back then, I remember thinking how I would really love to spend the rest of my life trying to find answers to these and other such questions.

 
What keeps you there?
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder 10 years ago, where the good fortune of early diagnosis made a difference to my prognosis. My passion now lies in being in an environment where I am contributing towards developing tools for early disease diagnosis. That and the fact that I still get goose bumps when I read about the exciting new discoveries and devices made by my fellow scientists.   
 

What makes science different from other careers?
After a while, it stops being a career and becomes who you are – a scientist. You start thinking, rationalising, writing and observing the world like one.
 

What would you tell a 10-year-old about a career in science?
Can we ever find a cure for HIV? Can and how do scientists grow organs in a Petri dish? Can we ever stop an earthquake? If you have ever thought about these questions and more, then being a scientist definitely gives you the ability go and find the answers for yourself.
 

Have you got a favourite career moment?
I would like to think that my favourite career moment has yet to come, perhaps in the form a Nature publication or the day my daughters decide to become scientists themselves, preferably with an MD/PhD (no pressure girls!)  :)
Membership fees

A big round of applause for the many STA members who paid their membership dues very promptly this year. If you haven’t received an invoice or have any queries please contact us directly. accounts@sta.org.au
 
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Dear Colleagues,
 
Spring is well and truly in the air and the political landscape here in Canberra is active to say the least. We are gearing up for a number of important events in the second half of the year, including our 30th anniversary. All presidents of member groups should have had a ‘save the date’ by now; if not please make contact with gia.metherell@sta.org.au. Members have been a great help in tracking down all our friends over the years, so it should be a great night. Also we are planning election year activities. As usual we will survey the major political parties on their science policy intentions, and ensure you get the details before polling day. This time we will run a science policy forum to debate and discuss the issues in the lead-up to the federal poll.
Science meets Business 2015
 
We are very excited to bring Science meets Business to STA members, and invitations to register have just gone to member group presidents. If you want to be one of the lucky ones, make contact with your society head. The first-of-its-kind event aims to start a reshaped and refreshed conversation about the low levels of Industry-STEM collaboration in Australia, identifying examples of good and bad practice, and avenues for change. We hope to make this an annual event to broker better mutual understanding between science and business. A range of high-level speakers from business and science will lead this dynamic public debate over one day in the nation’s most innovative new building, the Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing Building. More details are available HERE.
Women in Science toolkit and research report 

The long-awaited Women in the Science Research Workforce report is out and available in full for members HERE [pdf].
 
Outstanding women scientists are achieving at the highest levels, obtaining advanced scientific qualifications and taking key roles in the fields of science and technology. But across the board we all know that we are not making the most of the nation’s natural talent, and that talented women are being lost to science every day. This report makes a very important contribution to the evidence base, and provides a valuable follow-up to the original 2009 FASTS report, Women in Science in Australia: Maximising Productivity, Diversity and Innovation [pdf]. The report focuses on developing clear actions and strategies to achieve organisational and sectoral change. A hands-on, web-based toolkit that accompanies the report is available HERE.
Search for ET kicks off topical science forums

"Are we alone in the universe or is alien life inevitable?" was the first in the new round of topical science events, with a stellar panel. Professor Paul Davies, Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt, Australian search project leader Professor Matthew Bailes and two of Australia’s top young scientists, Alan Duffy and Professor Naomi McClure-Griffiths, tackled the big questions: Is intelligent alien life inevitable? How likely is it that we will find it in an infinite universe? Where and how do we start the hunt? What do we do if we find intelligent life? What does all this mean for Australian science? The panel also took the discussion inside the federal parliament, at a very well-attended Parliamentary Friends of Science event. The aim of this series is to take the best scientific minds, tackling the really big issues, straight to the public and the parliament. If you missed out you can view the whole event HERE. If you would like to be alerted to coming events please sign up HERE.
Science Meets Parliament 2016

Dates are tentatively set for the next SmP, 22 and 23 March, 2016. But as usual the dates will not be confirmed until the federal parliamentary sitting dates are set in late November. As usual, STA member organisations will be entitled to register two delegates for the nation’s premier Science/Parliament engagement event. All the details of last year’s events are available HERE.
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