Category: Science

Seeds of Life

Food security in Timor-Leste became a major issue following its independence in 2002. Having poor farming practices and increasing concerns over food security, by 2015 Timor-Leste was ranked fourth on the Global Hunger Index. During the hungry season which spans 3 – 4 months per year, farmers and their families experience severe food shortages, poverty and chronic hunger, leading to malnutrition and stunted growth in children. The UWA Seeds of Life program has impacted the lives of East Timorese by reducing the hungry season and improving food and nutrition.

Innovations in Breast Cancer: better diagnosis, better surgery

Around 1.7 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer world-wide each year, with more than 15,000 women and over 100 men affected in Australia. Of these, around one in four will need repeat surgery to remove tumour cells, often missed in the initial surgery. Microscope-in-a-Needle is a highly miniaturised medical device that fits inside a needle and is capable of detecting cancer cells with high resolution 3D imaging. The Optical Micro-Elastography device will image the stiffness of malignant tissue at a microscopic level, allowing surgeons to feel whether all the tumour is gone. Both devices will be commercialised for theatre use and will significantly improve detection and removal of tumour tissue and reduce or eliminate the need for repeat surgery. These technologies will impact the lives of women and men world-wide.

SWANS: safer, more productive operating theatres

In Australia, 22 percent of surgeries suffer from an ‘adverse event’. Whilst most events are minor and cause no permanent harm, 13 percent result in some form of disability 18 months later. 48 percent of these adverse events are preventable and as many as 70 percent are due to communication failures. Added to this are growing hospital wait lists and an ageing population. Public hospitals are now looking to implement efficiencies that can relieve the pressure. The SWANS team have come up with a simple, yet fresh approach of introducing pre-surgical briefings to operating theatres, and their pilot studies have already demonstrated very promising results.

Discovering Gravitational Waves

Professor David Blair’s mentor at UWA challenged him to look out for the most difficult problems around. David chose gravitational waves. 40 years later the dream was realised after Professor Blair and his team’s contribution enabled the LIGO laser detectors to discover gravitational waves.