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life in semesters

Somehow I’m now embedded in life at the University of Melbourne despite subsisting, like many early career researchers, on a variety of tenuous contracts. I am learning about course coordination and teaching from the inspiring Kathryn Williams tutoring the Masters course Interdisciplinarity and the Environment, as well as tutoring an undergraduate course in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. Academic teaching is relatively new for me so I’m investing a lot of time and energy in this learning.

I’m continuing technology development work with Research Platforms particularly on Figshare. My work with Melbourne Law School recently has included creating this infographic of international forestry laws.

As an early career researcher, I’ll soon be going to Sydney to present about rethinking law, economy and environment at an interdisciplinary workshop at UNSW. Then I’ll be returning to Melbourne where I’m presenting in the Centre for Media and Communications Law conference in November in collaboration with Florence Seow.

All of this has left me little time for creative projects outside of academia, though I have been fitting in training with Impro Melbourne and performing at Club Voltaire occasionally. I also presented at Laborastory on Mabo Day, and celebrated the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland at Carlton Connect. My next comedy show is likely to be around Halloween.

September 14, 2015 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Back in Australia

This is a quick note to report that I’ve moved back to Austalia to work for the Royal Institution of Australia, as Science in society facilitator, with funding from the Australian Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. My role is about implementing the Inspiring Austalia strategy at the state level, working with the South Australian Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology.

I’m still researching participatory science and policy processes for my PhD at ANU, details of which are here:

For the moment the best way to keep track of what I’m working on is probably via Twitter.

October 25, 2010 at 11:05 am Leave a comment

Translation: a quarter of laptops distributed through the One Laptop Per Child program in Uruguay aren’t working

One in four laptops given for free by the government of Uruguay to all public school students two years ago is either broken, under repair, stolen or has crashed, according to an official report published in July.

In 2008 Uruguay was the first country in the world to implement the One Laptop Per Child program, created by US scientist Nicholas Negroponte.

The program aimed to provide every child in the developing world with a laptop for educational purposes, at an affordable price.

With this objective the Uruguayan government created ‘Plan Ceibal’, which between 2008-2009 gave laptops to 380,000 children between 6 and 12 years of age who were enrolled in the country’s public schools.

Now the government has completed a survey to check the condition of the laptops, which has found that 27.4 percent are out of operation for different reasons.

According to the survey 14.2 percent of the laptops are broken; 6.2 percent are being repaired; 3.9 percent are frozen or crashed; one percent have been stolen; and the states of 3.1 percent are unknown.

In the country’s interior, where the laptops were first distributed in 2008, 29.9 percent of the laptops aren’t working. In Montevideo, the capital, 19.6 percent aren’t working, but children there received the laptops a year later in 2009.

The percentage of broken laptops in poor areas is higher, where only 66.3 percent are working. In more favourable environments the percentage reaches 83.5 percent.

“A significant number of faults were expected, but not this many. This discovery means that we’re revising aspects of the plan’s operation and coming up with measures to lower that number,” Fernando Brum, director of Plan Ceibal, told SciDev.Net.

Among the measures include a call centre to help users with broken laptops, mobile repair services to work in schools, and ways to reduce the cost of repairs.

Workshops for parents and teachers on how to look after the laptops have also been organised.

“We should keep in mind that 2010 is the first year that Plan Ceibal is operating across the whole country. We’re still gaining experience and problem solving; reducing the number of laptops that are out of service is one of our primary objectives,” concluded Brum.

You can read about the report in Spanish on the Plan Ceibal site.

This is my translation of a story written by Daniela Hirschfeld on the Science and Development Network, “Uruguay: cuarta parte de portátiles del OLPC no funciona”, published on August 11, 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; my translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

August 17, 2010 at 3:52 am Leave a comment

Translation: reducing water contamination using solar energy

Arsenic and other minerals have been removed from river water using solar power by a team of Peruvian and Chilean researchers.

Researchers from Peru’s National Engineering University and Chile’s Tarapacá University have photochemically purified water from the river Locumba near Tacna, a Peruvian town by the border with Chile.

The decontaminated water is used for agricultural irrigation, though depending on the level of decontamination achieved it could be used for human consumption in future.

The technology’s ease of use means it could be used in the countries involved with the research as well as Bolivia; Andean countries where natural contamination is present in many waterways.

Juan Rodríguez, coordinator of the research in Peru, told SciDev.Net that the technology is able to reduce high levels of arsenic contamination of currently 500 parts per billion (ppb) to about 30 ppb.

The researchers designed prototypes of electrochemical equipment and decontamination filters for use in rural or difficult to access areas, which for the moment can treat 20 cubic metres of water daily.

“Modular systems can process much higher volumes, so that’s what we’re trying to achieve,” Rodríguez said.

They used a photochemical system with tubes of glass or plastic to decontaminate the water. Based on reflections the tubes get solar radiation for a few hours, which can purify water contaminated with arsenic and make it suitable for consumption.

This system can also decontaminate boron and iron from water, as sunlight accelerates the rate at which minerals coagulate and can then be removed.

According to Rodríguez, this research is of importance for Bolivia, Chile and Peru because “the problem of arsenic in waterways is of natural origin and doesn’t distinguish between borders”.

This is my translation of a story written by Zoraida Portillo on the Science and Development Network, “Reducen contaminación por arsénico usando energía solar”, published on August 3, 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; my translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

August 12, 2010 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

World Congress of Science and Factual Producers

I’m super excited because I’ve just found out that I’ve won a place in the Wellcome Trust Mentoring Program for Emerging Talent, to attend the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers in Melbourne in a couple of weeks.

As well as covering all costs associated with the congress, the prize means I will also be mentored by a senior producer, be introduced at the opening plenary of the congress, have one-on-one meetings with commissioning editors and go to an opening day VIP session.

As you may have noticed, my freelance media work has been less frequent of late as academia has consumed me, so this opportunity could not have come at a better time. I think it may  influence what I choose to do next year, when my ANU research is due to finish.

So a huge thanks to the Wellcome Trust and the congress organisers and other sponsors of the conference; I anticipate future work in my portfolio will be shaped by this experience.

I need to get some new business cards sorted now!

November 19, 2009 at 2:57 am Leave a comment

Taking musings somewhere they belong

This journalist-turned-researcher thing means I’m increasingly using my portfolio as a place to share opinions. That’s not what I set it up for, so now I’ve got a blog on the Nature Network, where I’ll be discussing science, society and policy issues, so this can remain the portfolio it’s meant to be.

I’ll continue to post news and research articles that I write here following their publication, with links. Plus summaries of my books, when they eventuate.


October 20, 2009 at 6:41 am Leave a comment

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feeling grateful for my experience of a room if one's own in Sydney

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