Community

What’s the Big Idea? Researchers reveal the inspiration behind their work

Ten UOW professors talk about their trailblazing work at 2019 UOW Big Ideas Festival.

Do trees make you healthier? Can purple-coloured foods help prevent dementia? How can mathematics help you to lose weight?

The 2019 Big Ideas Festival on Wednesday 16 October is a community event that sees some of the University of Wollongong’s brightest minds share the ideas behind their research.

Ten of the University’s professors will present entertaining and thought-provoking 10-minute talks about the big ideas behind their research.

The topics of their talks vary widely: from bringing peace to Afghanistan to helping mum and dad investors get the most out of their superannuation; from fighting neurodegenerative diseases to making higher education more accessible to people from all backgrounds.

scenes from the 2019 Big Ideas Festival

In addition to the UOW researchers, guest speaker Emeritus Professor Maree Smith AC, a world-leading innovator in biomedical discovery from the University of Queensland, will talk about her work in developing a new type of painkiller to alleviate chronic pain.

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) Professor Jennifer L. Martin AC said the Festival was a great opportunity for the community to find out firsthand about the trailblazing work the University’s researchers are doing.

“I am very excited to attend my first Big Ideas Festival, to find out more about the incredible diversity and impact of the research at UOW, and to meet the Wollongong community that supports the University so well,” Professor Martin said.

scenes form Big Ideas 2019 Festival

This year’s speakers are:

  • Environmental health expert Thomas Astell-Burt, who says “health grows on trees” and that urban greening can help us stay healthier, happier and out of hospital; 
  • Dietitian turned statistician Marijka Batterham on the mathematics of weight loss and how data mining can be used to design better and more effective diets;
  • Finance expert Millicent Chang on how to give mum and dad investors the knowledge to make sound decisions about their superannuation;
  • Nutritional epidemiologist Karen Charlton, who says “purple is the new black when it comes to foods for better brain health” – the purple pigmentation found in some fruit and vegetables may combat the effects of dementia;
  • Medical researcher Heath Ecroyd on new drugs he is developing to treat currently incurable neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Motor Neurone Disease;
  • “War Professor” Theo Farrell, a world expert on the Afghanistan conflict with firsthand experience talking with Taliban leaders, on why negotiation is the only way to end the war;
  • Materials scientist Michael Higgins on breakthroughs in our understanding of how biological systems interact with artificial materials thanks to advances in microscopy and being able to visualise how single molecules move;
  • Education specialist Sarah O’Shea on how to help students from low socio-economic status backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and those from rural and remote areas, thrive at university;
  • Nursing researcher Victoria Traynor on her mission to give nurses the skills they need to assess and treat patients with delirium, a complex and traumatic medical condition that is frequently overlooked or misdiagnosed;
  • Motor Neurone Disease researcher Justin Yerbury on the work that has helped deliver a paradigm shift in the way scientists understand the disease.
2019 Big Ideas scenes

The Big Ideas Festival also includes interactive research stalls, showcasing some of the University’s cutting-edge equipment and technology, along with live music, entertainment, food and drinks. It is held in University Hall on the main campus from 5pm to 9pm.

People wishing to attend Big Ideas Festival must register at uowbigideasfestival.eventbrite.com.au. The event will also be live-streamed on the UOW Research Facebook page for those unable to attend on the night.

Story by Benjamin Long – UOW Media Unit

Subscribe for updates