STEM Talks

Engaging Possibilities

National Science Week
Tuesday 16th August 2016

Register Now

Showcasing the communication of science innovation and cutting edge research

A group of leading Monash scientists will share brief insights into the challenges they face when undertaking cutting edge STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) research.

Each speaker will tell stories from their research tackling some of the most pressing problems of the twenty first century. Their accounts will help to demonstrate that engaging in science is seldom formulaic or prescriptive, but can be exciting, creative, and often highly rewarding.

Learn how research questions (and careers) are sparked, how research problems are overcome, how novel and innovative research approaches come about and how new ways of thinking can lead to surprising scientific solutions.

2015 STEM Talks  Videos

Associate Professor Burkard Polster

Using maths to solve the Rubik's Cube

Associate Professor Beth McGraw

Studying tiny things that matter: a story of viruses, mosquito spit and perseverance

Professor James Whisstock

How can carnivorous mushrooms and the "Angels Glow" help us understand immune killing?

Dr Jennifer Catto

On the front line: finding how much rain comes from fronts

Professor Trevor Lithgow

Germs within our cells: how bacteria evolved to power the human body


Looking for 2016 videos? Find them on the Institute for STEM Education website.

STEM Talks  2016


Tuesday 16 August, 2016


Campus Centre Cinema
21 Chancellors Walk
Monash University
Clayton Campus
Please note free parking is available after 4:00pm


1.00 – 2.00pm
Plants that kill: How climate change is changing our food Associate Professor Ros Gleadow
The Hitchhiker's Guide to Geometry Dr Norm Do
Supernova explosions: destroyers and creators of habitable worlds Dr Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway

Session 2

5.00 – 6.00pm
The detection of gravitational waves: a discovery one hundred years in the making Dr Eric Thrane
Parched: How ice, trees and supercomputers can reveal the history and possible future of Australian droughts Dr Ailie Gallant
Deficiency to excess - it’s all about the dosage Dr Chris Thompson

Find out about future events

Registrations for 2016 STEM Talks are now closed.

To stay informed about our upcoming events (including 2017 STEM talks and Dean's Lecture Series) join our community events newsletter

STEM Talks  Session 1 (1–2pm)

Plants that kill: How climate change is changing our food

Associate Professor Ros Gleadow

School of Biological Science

Ros completed a BSc with Honours in Biology at The University of Melbourne and then a Master of Science in Plant Ecology in 1980. Following this she worked in the agricultural industry for several years and then returned to undertake a PhD at the University of Melbourne in 1999 on the effect of climate change on the nutritional value of eucalypts.

Ros came to Monash University in 2005 to coordinate the core science program and now leads the Plant Ecophysiological research group (EcoFizz) which studies the impact of climate change on crops that contain toxic cyanide (e.g. Sorghum and Cassava). Ros is past-President of the Australian Society of Plant Scientists and has served on national committees such as the Australian Academy of Sciences National Committee for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food since 2010. Her talk will focus on how environmental change may make some of the world’s more important crops dangerous to eat.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Geometry

Dr Norm Do

School of Mathematical Sciences

Norm is, first and foremost, a self-confessed maths geek! He is also a Lecturer in Mathematics and an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow in the School of Mathematical Sciences. Norm's research lies at the interface of geometry and mathematical physics, although he is excited by almost any flavour of mathematics.

People who study geometry like to ask the question: “What is the shape of that?” In this case, the word “that” can refer to a variety of things, from triangles and circles to knots and surfaces, to the universe we inhabit and beyond. In his talk, Norm will examine some of his favourite gems from the world of geometry and provide insights into the interplay between geometry, algebra, and theoretical physics. And the only prerequisite you will need is your imagination!

Supernova explosions: destroyers and creators of habitable worlds

Dr Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway

School of Physics and Astronomy

After completing her PhD in Australia, Jasmina held postdoctoral fellowships at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, USA. She came to Monash University as an inaugural Margaret Clayton Women in Science fellow in 2008.

Jasmina is passionate about learner-centred practices and incorporating the excitement of scientific research into her undergraduate courses. Her astronomy research investigates the physics and chemistry of supernova remnant interactions with molecular clouds. Supernova remnants are products of massive star explosions, which are among the most energetic events in the Universe. These explosions could destroy any planet in their path, but could they be crucial for creating habitable worlds?

STEM Talks  Session 2 (5–6pm)

The detection of gravitational waves: a discovery one hundred years in the making

Dr Eric Thrane

School of Physics and Astronomy

Eric Thrane is an astrophysicist at Monash University and a research member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) collaboration. Eric completed a BS(Hons) at the University of Michigan in 2003 and PhD in astrophysics at the University of Washington in 2008. From 2011, he has co-chaired one of the four LIGO analysis groups focused on increasing the LIGO detector's sensitivity in its search for gravitational waves. This group recently announced a world first this year with the successful detection of gravitational waves.

The detection of gravitational waves is an incredible technical achievement and a watershed moment in astronomy. The world is now witness to the birth of a completely new way of observing the universe. We are now able to observe highly energetic events which previously we had no other way of studying. Eric will discuss his involvement with the LIGO project and how using gravitational waves offers exciting possibilities for discovering new and surprising knowledge about the universe. What can gravitational waves tell us about these immensely distant events?

Parched: How ice, trees and supercomputers can reveal the history and possible future of Australian droughts

Dr Ailie Gallant

School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment

From her undergraduate days as a storm-chasing weather geek, Dr Ailie Gallant has always been fascinated by extreme weather and climate phenomenon. Ailie turned her passion for climate extremes into a PhD at Monash University in 2009 with a dissertation on trends in extremes of the Australian climate. This was followed by two post-docs at the University of Melbourne and the University of Washington examining climate extremes, climate variability and climate change in the Southern Hemisphere.

Much of Ailie’s research involves improving the characterisation of Australian drought and progressing knowledge on its underlying processes. This has included examining droughts from observations and complex climate models and better estimating historical droughts using biological and chemical proxies from trees, ice and corals. This work allows us to travel through time to understand how and why Australia really is a land of drought and flooding rains and what this might mean for our future with human-induced climate change.

Deficiency to excess - it’s all about the dosage

Dr Christopher Thompson

School of Chemistry

Chris completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Chemistry at ANU in 2000 and a PhD in Chemistry at Monash University in 2004. After spending the following 2 years in postdoctoral research at the University of Melbourne he returned to the School of Chemistry at Monash. His research includes high resolution spectroscopy using the Australian Synchrotron, computational Chemistry and more recently active and inquiry based learning approaches in Chemistry education.

Despite the popular media’s abhorrence with ‘nasty’ chemicals, all substances that our bodies consume are composed of chemicals. No matter whether you consume something you've bought from the supermarket, taken as a vitamin or protein supplement, cooked in your kitchen or even grown 'organically' in your garden, your body craves a constant supply of countless chemicals. But when does too much of a good thing make it bad for you? Chris’s talk will discuss the importance of dosage and how it impacts on the chemistry of consumption.