Tag Archives: mentoring

Finding Your Voice

13 August 2020: By Kathryn Palasis and Aimee Horsfall

On Wednesday July 22nd, the Adelaide node CNBP ECRs met with Kylie Ahern and LJ Loch from STEMMatters to learn more about how to effectively engage with the media. Kathryn Palasis and Aimee Horsfall have summarised their key takeaways below.

The media landscape has changed a lot over the past 5 years and is continually evolving. The news cycle is moving 24/7; a strong headline and accompanying multimedia are becoming essential to grab the reader’s attention. Journalists have a more significant social media presence, making it easier to track the trends, people and stories they are interested in, and learn how they portray different stories. Twitter is a great platform that allows you to contact people directly…

Confused ECR: Hi @STEMMatters, I’ve got an interview coming up and haven’t spoken to the media in a while! What do I need to consider when speaking to a journalist?

STEMMatters: You need to keep in mind that this is an interview, not a conversation! Your objective is to communicate your key messages, and the journalist is looking for the best possible story. But there are definitely some specific DOs and DON’Ts.

Remember that you’re not speaking to other scientists – think about how you can simplify the key concepts into general language. 

Confused ECR: How do I keep the concepts simple enough to be understood by a general audience?

LJ: Go with the BBQ pitch analogy – would this explanation work if you gave it to family or friends over a BBQ?

Kylie: The key questions to address are who, what, when, where, why and how. You also need to pass the “so what?” test –  make it clear to the audience why this work is important and why they should care.

JL: And don’t forget to avoid scientific jargon as much as possible… keep the story simple so it can be easily retold!

Don’t be apprehensive about speaking to the media, but do prepare for any question.

Confused ECR: And how do I handle the “tricky” questions?

Kylie: It’s important to combat misinformation, which can be rife. We like to say don’t blame the media, just be the media!

LJ: Also don’t get caught up overpromising when asked the common question “when will we see this on the market?” Redirect the question and comment on what is interesting about your work now.

You don’t need to wait to be asked for an interview!

Confused ECR: That is all really helpful! Is there anything I can do to keep up my media presence in the future, without needing to wait for another interview?

STEMMatters: Creating your own content and posting it online is easier, and more important, now than ever. Find your own style and see what people respond to. We have some tips to help you get started!

Get out there and give it a go – if you’re excited, everyone else will be too!

Confused ECR: Thank you so much, any final suggestions?

LJ: Smile and show passion when you speak! Don’t underestimate the “wow factor” of your science and remember people are interested in it, so show  your excitement!

Kylie: Don’t be overly critical of yourself if you make small errors, and don’t be scared of the media – continue to give it a go at every opportunity!

The CNBP ECR Network would like to thank STEMMatters for their entertaining and insightful presentation – we all took a lot away from it and will be ready to implement the tips and tricks as soon as we get the chance!

Lessons learnt managing a remote research community

26 March 2019:

By Prof Mark Hutchinson and Dr Kathy Nicholson

As we move into week two of voluntary self-isolation, remote workplaces have become the new normal.

Within the CNBP network, we find ourselves drawing on the past six years of managing a community of over 200 researchers who work and collaborate on our research program across the globe. Continue reading

CNBP conference veteran talks about his links to the Centre

Professor Dennis Matthews is one of CNBP’s oldest friends, having been coming to Australia from his home in California each year for nearly seven years as a member of its International Science Committee.

“I’ve actually been coming here since before the CNBP inception. They were just getting their act together for the initial grant when I first visited,” he says.

Professor Matthews was trained as physicist, but for most of his working life he has been involved in the development of medical devices.

His multidisciplinary life is reflected in his position as professor at University of California Davis in both the Department of Neurological Surgery and the College of Engineering. He was at one time also director of UC Davis’ Center for Biophotonics, Science, and Technology.

“I was hired into the neurological department not because I knew anything about neurosurgery but because they wanted their physicians to have more opportunity to do early stage research, even before it could be translated to the clinic,” he says.

He “abandoned physics 30 or 40 years ago”, drawn to things that were more hands-on and, around that time, he met a medical doctor who wanted to develop better instrumentation.
“I told him I didn’t know anything about medicine so he should go away. But he didn’t.”

That started a long history of working with doctors and bioscientists to develop technology that helped in their work.

“Biological scientists are incredibly smart at what they do but they are not so smart at measuring it,” he says.

“I don’t know what their problems are, of course, so they tell me what they are trying to achieve and I tell them ways to get at the solutions to their problems – and we help each other along the way.

“What I like about it, and CNBP works very nicely in this respect, is that you ‘bootstrap’ it. I tell the bioscientists I can do something but I’m not quite sure I know how to do it. So they challenge me to make technology progress at the same time.”

He believes CNBP has some unique strengths – “I wouldn’t travel around 13,000km to come here otherwise”.

Dennis Matthews presenting at CNBP’s 2019 conference

He was first introduced to the centre by the inaugural director, Professor Tanya Munro. “I thought she had an extremely good vision of where all this could go and perhaps an even better way of communicating that vision.” Since then, he says, current director Professor Mark Hutchinson has emerged as an incredible thought leader as well.

Professor Matthews says he likes the way the CNBP brings themes together and its “Mission Impossible” approach to throwing multidisciplinary teams of experts at problems.

As a technologist he was also drawn to the IPAS fibre optics group, and the way it was developing fibre sensors to interrogate places that might otherwise be invisible.
Two biological research themes particularly interested him.

“Many of the things here are important to me but there were two that were exceptional and that was Mark’s [Hutchinson] work on neuroscience applied to pain, and particularly his interest in developing a “painometer”.

He was also attracted to the IVF research under Chief Investigator Professor Jeremy Thompson.

“My daughter had two children by IVF and so my interests were already a bit piqued. But I was also interested to see if we could make the whole thing work better.”

Secondly was the possibility of making sure the highest quality embryos were developed and then implanted.

“That whole notion was extremely fascinating and provocative to me,” he says. “I think that we are going to learn how to make embryos healthier in normal conception. And if we can make the healthiest baby possible it can lead to a lifetime of good health.”

Personal experience also lay at the heart of his interest in Professor Hutchinson’s work on pain, which, while important to help people cope at a personal level, he sees as a potential solution to the opiate crisis.

“At the moment we are only delivering pain-masking drugs,” he says. “These powerful drugs don’t do anything except make people not care if they hurt – they still hurt.”

He is helping with the task of looking for biomarkers that might underpin such a measuring device.

“I think it’s possible, but I don’t know yet what the right measurements are,” Professor Matthews says. “And the problem with humans is there is no single recipe, so if we do get a panel of biomarkers that said my pain level was 6 it could be completely wrong for you.

“So we need some way to normalise it so we can say this is a baseline for an individual.”
Professor Matthews is particularly drawn to the CNBP’s focus on envisioning the ultimate translation of the technology.

“So instead of just filling the journals with more manuscripts it is also important in biosciences that you keep in mind that your work will, in the end, actually affect patients.

“The question we should always be asking is ‘how do we get doctors to have the latest technologies to work with?’.”

Undergraduate students take on a CNBP summer project

2015 summer student YuanJanuary 2015 – Summer student at Adelaide Node

Working with Dr Jinxian Yu and the recognise theme; Ms Yuan Yeoh has spent 6 weeks as a University of Adelaide summer research student.  It has been a pleasure to participate in a summer research project. This has given me an opportunity to learn, as well as to polish my lab skills. I feel happy to utilise the scientific knowledge into real-life applications. A summary of her project is described below.

Synthesis of Azobenzene as a Photo-inducible Molecular Switch

Azobenzene changes configuration (cis & trans) when illuminated with light of particular wavelength. This molecular switch can be incorporated into functional molecules, such as proteins, sensors, electronic devices, etc. Thus, by controlling the configuration of the switch, the electron transfer in functional molecules can be fine tuned.

Encouraging future scientists

November 2Neuro014: High School Work Experience

Mr Julian Greentree spent a week in the neuroimmunopharmacology laboratory working with CNBP researchers Ms Vicky Staikopoulos and Dr Sanam Mustafa.

During this time Julian was trained in cell culture techniques and novel clearing histological techniques in the development phases for later rollout in biophotonics projects.