Dr David Ompong is a lecturer in the Faculty of Science and Technology at Charles Darwin University (CDU), specialising in engineering materials and their applications. His research interest includes semiconductor physics, renewable energy, and additive manufacturing process efficiency. David’s work examines the designing of organic, perovskite, hybrid solar cells, and OLED for optimal performance and minimising the environmental impact of additive manufacturing. David holds a BSc., MSc., and PhD degrees in physics and is a member of the Australian Institute of Physics.
David is passionate about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. In collaboration with Inspired NT, David has been organising robotics workshops for students and teachers in the Northern Territory to help high school students understand the application of mathematics in robotics.
We are facing a global biodiversity extinction crisis. Governmental spending on protecting and recovering threatened species is inadequate and insufficient. Consequently, the protection and conservation of many threatened species is becoming ever more reliant upon the actions of self-funded community groups.
Dr Mariana Campbell’s research interlinks ecology and conservation science with community engagement to improve outcomes for some of Australia’s most threatened species. Her collaborative approach has demonstrated the power of the local community in facilitating research for informed management and evidence-based conservation initiatives. Specifically, Mariana has led a 15-year collaborative community research program focused on saving the Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus) from extinction. This long-term collaboration has enabled national priorities to be set for this threatened freshwater turtle and ensured research findings were incorporated into local water resource planning, infrastructure projects, and economic development.
Dr Mariana Campbell was awarded her PhD from The University of Queensland in 2012. She is currently a Lecturer/Research Fellow at Charles Darwin University.
Extreme and prolonged weather events including drought can cause significant decline in crop production, decreasing food supply, increasing food prices and reducing access to nutritious food. As climate change becomes more and more prevalent globally, there is an urgent need to improve plant’s ability to make food given less fertilizer and water and adapt to non-optimal environments.
Plasmodesmata are tiny channels in plants important for intercellular transport and Dr Florence Danila has found that plants that are able to make food more efficiently have more plasmodesmata than less efficient food crops. Her current research aims are to understand how plasmodesmata are formed and regulated throughout plant development and to identify the genetic controls involved using agronomically important model crop species like rice, wheat and millets for crop improvement strategies.
The conversion of simple chemicals into more complex ones is essential for society, such as the manufacture of medicines and plastics. But these processes present significant challenges from a sustainability perspective as they can be energy intensive, produce large amounts of waste, and often rely on limited resources.
Dr Annie Colebatch’s research aims to develop new methods that utilise catalysts to reduce energy and waste in chemical processes. Her and her team take inspiration from biological enzymes to create synthetic catalysts and study their interactions at the molecular level to build our understanding of how to effect chemical transformations efficiently and selectively.
Australia and the South-west Pacific are rich in mammalian biodiversity, and many species are found nowhere else on the planet. But much work remains to better document this diversity and put conservation actions in place, because our region’s mammal extinction rates are extraordinarily high.
Dr Tyrone Lavery uses field surveys, museum collections and molecular data to answer questions about how mammals are distributed and related, how their distributions are shaped by geographic and biological variables, how they interact with their environments, and how we can best conserve them. He focuses on documenting new species so that we can properly protect them, and he also searches for the ones that are missing (just in case they’re out there somewhere and still need our help).
Combatting man-made climate change is one of our biggest challenges. We need both better knowledge of how our climate is being affected and increased quantities of metals like lithium, nickel and copper to meet tomorrow’s demands for clean energy technologies.
Dr Hugo Olierook uses novel age dating and geochemical tools to unravel the causes and effects of past drivers of Earth’s climate to provide better forecasting tools for our present-day predicament. These same techniques also help mining companies find the metals we require to make wind turbines and solar panels.
Lasers can carry much more data, and make higher-precision measurements, than radio waves can. This makes lasers extremely useful for science and communications, particularly with satellites. However, atmospheric turbulence causes the laser beams to twinkle like a star, ruining the fidelity of the data or measurement.
Dr David Gozzard takes technologies developed for astronomy and adapts them for use in laser links with satellites. These technologies include adaptive optics, which undoes the twinkling caused by atmospheric turbulence, and high-precision time transfer systems Dr Gozzard previously developed for the Square Kilometre Array. Together, these technologies will create stable laser links to satellites through the turbulent air and revolutionize science and communication with satellites.
One in five of us will have a traumatic brain injury in our lifetime. Most people will recover, but some will have long-term problems with their memory, thinking, and emotions. There are no tests or scans we can take to see exactly which areas of the brain are damaged, how severe it is, or how it will recover.
Dr Sarah Hellewell uses advanced research tools to look inside the brain after injury: MRI to examine changes in specific brain areas and connections between them; tests for brain electrical activity; cognitive assessments; and microscopes to look at individual cells. She also designs and test new treatments to lessen or reverse brain damage and prevent long-term problems from occurring in the first place.
Dr Dona Jayakody is the Head of Brain and Hearing at Ear Science Institute Australia. In addition, she is also a Career Advancement Fellow at the Royal Perth Hospital Research Foundation, an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Curtin University and the University of Western Australia and a Director of the Australian Society for Medical Research. Dona’s research has contributed significantly to understanding the broad health impacts of hearing loss—particularly on cognition & mental well-being—and has influenced changes to clinical guidelines and policies nationally & internationally.
Her exceptional standing is recognised by 14 awards, including Superstar of STEM 2023-2024, STEM Ambassador, and Tall Poppy in Science 2023. She has received over $6.6m in research funding through national and international funding schemes. She has published over 50 research publications and presented at more than 70 national and international conferences. She reviews journal articles for Nature, LANCET and JARO and grants for the National Health and Medical Research Council Australia, Medical Research Future Fund Australia, Alzheimer’s Research, and Action on Hearing Loss- Deafness Research Foundation, UK.
Multiple Sclerosis is a devastating neurological disease that usually begins in young adults. It can greatly limit their ability to have an independent life and impacts their family. There is no cure for MS and the treatments we have are life-long and often come with their own major side effects.
Dr Zhou’s research aims to understand the factors that cause MS and lead to its progression, which will provide novel insights to understand the biological changes that cause MS and develop new, better treatments.
Dr Zhou has shared details of his research at various public events including ‘Adults-Only Science Night’ at Questacon organised by Australia Academy of Science and the Menzies MS Research Flagship’s annual ‘Research with Connections’ event for the MS community.