Devilish whiskers, coal fungi and forgetful babies: postgrad research competition results

Prize winner Marie Attard
Wednesday, 15 August, 2012
Bob Beale

Using whiskers to monitor the ecology of Tasmanian devils, using fungi instead of machines to extract coal seam gas, and understanding why we can’t remember when we were babies: those are just some of the intriguing projects being conducted by postgraduate researchers within the Faculty.

Those projects were also among the winning presentations last week when some 70 of the Faculty’s research students stepped up for the Faculty’s Postgraduate Research Competition.

Contestants had to present their often exciting findings in short written abstracts, speedy one-minute verbal presentations and eye-catching posters that outline the key points of their work.

“The quality and breadth of the research and professionalism of the presentations was most impressive,” says Professor Mark Hoffman, Associate Dean, Research. “A big congratulations and thank you to all those who entered. The competition was very close.”

Dean of Science Professor Merlin Crossley notes that a key purpose of the competition is to recognise the importance of communication of scientific research to the broader community and to showcase the amazing breadth of ideas and creativity across the Faculty, particularly the work done by postgraduate research students.

The following winners received their prizes from our special guest, the UNSW Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, Professor Les Field:

First Prize (a certificate and $5,000 towards international research travel):

  • Marie Attard, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, “The biological time machine: Using whiskers to monitor the ecology of Tasmanian devils”
  • Hazlin Hazrin Chong, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, “The application of fungi to reduce the environmental impact of coal seam gas extraction”
  • Bridget Callaghan, School of Psychology, Breaking through infantile amnesia: Early-life stress causes an earlier transition into the adult-like memory system.”

Runners-up (a certificate and $3,000 towards international research travel):

  • Keisuke Komiyama, School of Materials Science and Engineering, “How to Make Blast Furnaces Last Longer - A Computer Aided Design”
  • Lynette Roberts, School of Psychology, “Memory development in pre-schoolers with Down syndrome”
  • Jake Cao, School of Materials Science and Engineering, “Improving Corrosion Resistance of Bioresorbable Screws”

Hazlin Hazrin Chong also won the inaugural People’s Choice Award, voted on by undergraduate attendees.

The first prize winners will go on to the university-wide 3 Minute Thesis Competition on 4 September 2012. 

Leading scientists and technologists served as judges.

Many presentations from previous competitions have featured on the ABC Science Show, the host of which,  Robyn Williams, was one of the judges.