Faculty of Science

Rising Stars 2017

Further information

Read about 2016 presentations

This event is an opportunity to showcase the breadth of research that takes place within the Faculty, showcasing twelve presentations on the evening (two from each School).

Each nominee is given three minutes to present their research/thesis after which guests, including donors and Faculty of Science alumni, are invited to vote for their favourite presentation. The top three win a cash prize to be spent on furthering their research.

The 2017 winning presentations

The Faculty has benefited from a number of philanthropic gifts for the specific purpose of recognising early career researchers and is able to offer a prize pool of $20,000 this year. These prizes are critical in providing support for young gifted academics to accelerate their research and establish themselves as leaders in their respective fields. This year's winners were:

Dr Sarah Bourke

Understanding groundwater discharge: The key to sustainable groundwater use

First prize: $10,000.

Dr Brendan O'Leary

Peak plant performance: Rooting out energy inefficiency in crops

Second prize: $6000.

Dr Louise Naylor

Exercise is your medicine

Third prize: $4000.


Dr Alison O’Donnell
Droughts, fires and flooding rains: What trees can tell us about climate change

To predict future changes in climate, we first need to understand the full range and drivers of natural climatic variability. My research uses tree rings to reveal how western Australia’s climate has changed over the last few centuries and to understand how these changes came about.
Dr Brendan O'Leary
Peak plant performance: Rooting out energy inefficiency in crops

Every day we rely on plant metabolism to produce the food, materials and medicines that we need. Plants are amazingly well adapted to their role as primary producers, but they still perform metabolism in a puzzlingly inefficient manner. My research identifies areas were plant productivity can be made more efficient.
Dr Bruno Buzatto
Why are Mum and Dad so … similar?

In many animals, there are distinct forms of males that have different mating strategies, such as fighting and sneaking for access to females. By simulating natural selection in mites, I discovered that the evolution of females and fighter and sneaker males is connected, revealing evolutionary limits.
Dr Jason Bell
Paying attention to eating disorder symptoms: Could the problem be the solution?

Eating disorders affect 15% of women. Those at risk have an attentional bias: their attention is drawn to the thin-ideal female images omnipresent in the media. But the problem may also herald the cure. I have discovered that attention can be re-trained to reduce eating-disorder symptoms and aid in prevention.
Dr Jeff Hansen
The Australian Indian Ocean Observatory: A window into the Indian Ocean

The Australian Indian Ocean Observatory will be Australia’s first cabled ocean observatory, providing power and a high-speed data link to a diversity of subsea instrumentation. This unique infrastructure will enable novel real-time observations and experiments for research and education, and provide a platform for industry to develop new sub-sea technology.
Dr Kirsten Martinus
Resources Boom to Ideas Boom: Rising to the Prime Ministerial challenge to all Australians

Under global restructuring, nations are emphasising innovation. With much of this occurring in cities, periphery areas are often excluded as sites of research investment. I use network science to examine how people connect and innovate across large spatial divides, and how facilitating knowledge transfer in peripheries will raise national productivity.
Dr Louise Naylor
Exercise is your medicine

Exercise has many health benefits, and is a first line treatment and prevention for many diseases. However, exercise is complicated, with different forms and types of conferring distinct benefits. By understanding how exercise affects the cardiovascular system, we will be able to set the right “exercise prescription” for maximal efficacy.
Dr Nicole Smith
Investigating the role of 4-stranded DNA in tissue repair and fibrosis

Confluent scarring (fibrosis) can occur as a consequence of uncontrolled repair processes in many organs ultimately impairing organ architecture and functioning. We have identified an increased number of 4-stranded DNA structures called G4-DNA in scar tissue and are developing ways to target these structures to promote tissue repair and regeneration.
Dr Parwinder Kaur
Breaking Barriers: From conventional to next generation genetics

This work creates a new paradigm for mitigating methane production by ruminants, one of the most significant challenges to global livestock production. We have identified regions of the genome in key Australian pasture that are linked to generate high or low amounts of methane when fermented by rumen microbes.
Dr Patrick Dunlop
“I want to volunteer, but don’t know where or how!” Improving Volunteer Recruitment, Engagement, and Satisfaction with Targeted Recruitment Messages

Volunteers provide essential services to Australian communities. Yet organisations such as Scouts and the SES struggle to attract and retain volunteers, putting service delivery in jeopardy. My research aims to improve recruitment practices to help not-for-profits attract new members who will better match their roles, and remain volunteers for longer.
Dr Sarah Bourke
Understanding groundwater discharge: The key to sustainable groundwater use

The majority of Earth’s liquid fresh water is stored in groundwater systems. Groundwater use is compensated by decreasing groundwater discharge, which can be catastrophic for ecosystems. Novel tracer techniques allow us to understand the sources and residence times of groundwater discharge, so that we can ensure groundwater use is sustainable.
Dr Yu Suk Choi
Force of Nature: Hitchhiker’s guide to Mechanobiology

My research focus is in controlling stem cell fate by providing different microenvironments. The fate of stem cells was thought to primarily dictated by biochemical signals including cytokines and growth factors for decades, however, more recent data suggested stem cells also responded to their neighbouring cells and extracellular matrices (ECMs).