Science at the Shine Dome 2015, Minerals to medicines: 100 years of X-ray crystallography

Science at the Shine Dome 2015 delegates
Science at the Shine Dome, Canberra on May 25, 2015. Photo: © Mark Graham

Geophysics, stellar spectroscopy, statistical learning theory, plant hormones and disease genetics … all before morning tea. This was the start to the Australian Academy of Science’s 2015 Science at the Shine Dome meeting; three days, from 26 to 28 May, of cutting-edge Australian science. This was my second Science at the Shine Dome event. After yet another great few days in Canberra this meeting is set to become a permanent annual fixture on my calendar. My favourite aspect of the meeting, one shared by many others that I spoke to, is the breadth of science on display as exemplified by the very first session. This diverse array provides an opportunity to learn about new research that is being conducted well outside my own field.

Day 1 was filled with talks from the newly-admitted Academy Fellows and it was clear to see why these scientists had been elected; the science was fascinating and the quality of their presentations excellent. This continued on the morning of Day 2 with presentations by the Academy’s award winners. As an early career researcher, the two days were equal parts inspiring and intimidating. Day 3 was the Academy’s annual symposium, ‘Minerals to medicine: 100 years of X-ray crystallography’, a journey through the history and some of the hugely varied current applications of crystallography.

My own particular science highlights over the three days included:

  • Christine Charles’ talk on advanced plasma thrusters
  • Edward Holmes’ presentation on using the genetics of past disease epidemics to understand future pandemics
  • Wendy Hoy’s enlightening discussion of the rise in chronic renal disease in aboriginal communities
  • Michelle Simmons’ summary of her team’s latest work in quantum computing, and
  • Helen Maynard-Casely’s fascinating report of using rovers, satellites and crystallography to understand the properties of extra-terrestrial bodies.

Science at the Shine Dome is a particularly good meeting for EMCRs. The EMCR and Fellows barbecue on the evening of Day 1 provided an informal opportunity for networking with other EMCRs, and new and current Fellows. During the afternoon of Day 2, EMCRs had the option to choose one of four workshops to attend: Leadership in science; Research and industry partnerships; Successful grant writing; and Communication and collaboration. I attended the industry partnership workshop where we had an entertaining discussion about industry engagement, as well as some of the government funding options that are available. I understand that the discussion in the leadership workshop was particularly lively. A social highlight of the meeting is, of course, the annual black tie dinner, which provided further opportunity to mingle with the cream of Australia’s current and future science leaders.

There is no doubt that science in Australia and globally is facing some challenges: a shortage of funding, political and public indifference, and dealing with the differing timescales of research, industry and politics. However, I left Science at the Shine Dome feeling hugely optimistic about Australia’s science future. The passion, enthusiasm and expertise of Australia’s scientists, particularly its EMCRs, is infectious, and places Australia in a good place to continue delivering global scientific impact. Best of all, Australia has a thriving EMCR science community, led by the efforts of the Academy’s EMCR Forum, and it is great to be a part of it.

You can read about the event, watch all the presentations and check the conference on Twitter at: #shinedome15.

To find out more about EMCR activities, register to become a member of the Australian Academy of Science EMCR Forum and follow us on Twitter: @EMCRForum.

Alistair White
Research Scientist, CSIRO Mineral Resources Flagship, Perth

EMCR Pathways Issue 4

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