Congrats to Jamie, Gabby, Erica & David -Finalists of Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) researchers have been announced as finalists in three separate 2019 Eureka Prize award categories! Congratulations to Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti and her team, Professor Jamie Rossjohn and his team, and Professor Paul Wood AO on this incredible achievement.

ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor Jamie Rossjohn, and his team are finalists for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion. The team, including Dr Gabby Watson and Dr Erica Tandori from the Monash BDI and Dr David Jacques from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), developed an innovative program that aims to engage members of the blind and low vision community with science.

Often when science is conveyed to the public, the audience is assumed to be able-bodied. Members of the community with disabilities are frequently overlooked when the method to communicate the scientific discovery is not specifically tailored to their needs. A prime example is the blind and low vision community of more than half a million Australians.

Conceiving the idea for the Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day, Professor Rossjohn joined forces with project leader Dr Watson, and legally-blind artist-in-residence Dr Tandori, who transformed scientific concepts into tactile models and artistic displays that were specifically tailored to this community.

“As the artist working with this amazing team, I can open up a world of scientific discovery to the low vision and blind communities – finally, we can all be part of the wonder of science, and share  this  in a way that is accessible to everybody,” Dr Tandori said.

Following the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the first exhibition held at Monash in May 2018, the team engaged with Dr Jacques at UNSW, who spearheaded the second Sensory Scientific Exhibition held in Sydney in December the same year.

The winners will be announced on Wednesday 28 August at Sydney Town Hall. For more information on the Eureka Prize, visit the Australian Museum website.

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Photo: Professor Jamie Rossjohn, Dr Erica Tandori and Dr Gabby Watson. Absent: Dr David Jacques.

Day of Immunology at the Monash BDI with lab tours and mini sensory science art exhibition

The International Day of Immunology offers an opportunity to celebrate the immune system and share our love of science with the general public. This year, the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) invited more than 50 Year 11 students from Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School and John Monash Science School to celebrate the Day of Immunology with us on Wednesday 8 May.

The students were introduced to the Monash BDI by Associate Professor Stephanie Gras, who offered insight into the work her lab does and the importance of the immune system. Associate Professor Gras explained the importance and role of the immune cells that help us remain healthy and fight off infections on a daily basis, using references from The Avengers and Game of Thrones to explain the immune system.

“Cancer cells are like the White Walkers. They refuse to die and multiply to take over,” Associate Professor Gras said.

The group also visited Monash Micro Imaging, exploring the latest advances in microscopy. The students were shown how these technologies provide biomedical researchers with an unprecedented level of detail within cells and tissues.

The Sensory Science Interactive Art Exhibition was put on display in the foyer of the Monash BDI. Led by our artist-in-residence, Dr Erica Tandori, the activity was designed for students to learn about the immune system and to raise awareness of how members of the blind and low vision community have limited access to science. The students created their own posters of immune cells to be showcased at future sensory science exhibitions.

After morning tea, the students were broken into groups for tours of several Monash BDI labs. Students had the chance to put on lab coats and perform various lab experiments including: running DNA gels, counting cells under the microscope, growing microbes on plates and fishing crystals. They also heard from their lab tour guides about the work done in their labs and how they got into science.

The Day of Immunology event was wrapped up with a round of immunology trivia. The students were highly engaged in the game, with the winning four teams taking home giant toy microbes as prizes.

Thank you to the following labs for organising the lab tours and talks: Gras lab, Rossjohn lab, O’Keeffe lab, Jacobson lab, La Gruta lab and Turner lab. Also thank you to the volunteers that presented at the sensory scientific art exhibition.

The international Day of Immunology is celebrated annually on 29 April to raise public awareness of the immune system. In Australia, events are organised by the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology (ASI) including laboratory discovery tours hosted by research institutes. We’d like to acknowledge the support from the ASI and the Victoria/Tasmania ASI branch’s Day of Immunology organising committee.

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Outstanding contribution to diversity and inclusion

The Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity and Inclusion Awards recognise students and staff who have made an outstanding contribution to supporting diversity and fostering inclusion at Monash. Recipients of these awards have gone above and beyond to further inclusion, connection and belonging for people from disadvantaged or marginalised groups.

The team behind the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI)Sensory Scientific Exhibit were recognised at the recent 2018 Vice Chancellor’s Diversity and Inclusion Awards.

The Sensory Science Exhibition was initially put together in May this year for a special event for members of the blind and low vision community, giving them the opportunity to explore the world of infection and immunity through a specifically designed, interactive exhibit.

Including a range of accessible activities and tactile displays, the exhibit highlights research areas such as vaccination, the evolution of flu viruses, and the process of how our bodies recognise pathogens.

There are plans to share the exhibit across Australia, starting by assisting the University of New South Wales in setting up their own sensory exhibit.

The team was also recognised for their work experience program, aimed at providing members of the blind and low vision community with an opportunity to get hands-on experience in a biomedical research laboratory. This program began when Professor Rossjohn put out the call for anyone interested in completing work experience in his lab at the inaugural Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day earlier in the year. They have had one student complete the program, with more interested in doing so in 2019.

Congratulations to all Monash BDI recipients of the award:

  • Professor Jamie Rossjohn
  • Dr Gabrielle Watson
  • Professor Nicole La Gruta
  • Professor Ramesh Rajan
  • Dr Erica Tandori
  • Sabrina Constantin

This initiative exemplifies best practice both in developing teaching programs and experiential learning, and engaging with the wider community to encourage participation by a diverse range of people.

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Sensory Scientific Showcase brings infection and immunity research to life for low vision community

Monash University recently opened its doors to the low vision community with an inaugural Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day. Held on May 31 to coincide with the end of Macula Month, over 80 attendees had the opportunity to explore the world of immunity and infection through interactive exhibits specifically designed for a low or no vision audience.

This innovative event was conceived by Professor Jamie Rossjohn, ARC Australian Laureate Fellow and Head of the Immunity and Infection Program of the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI).  “I thought it would be great for us to take the time to talk about what we do and make sure that it’s completely accessible for people who are blind or have low vision,” said Professor Rossjohn.

Led by Professor Rossjohn and Dr Gabby Watson, researchers from the BDI Infection and Immunity created a range of accessible activities and displays to highlight their exciting research. Artist in residence, Dr Erica Tandori, collaborated with the Rossjohn lab to create a collection of tactile materials and models that detail aspects of vaccination, the evolution of flu viruses, and the process of how our bodies recognise pathogens.

From experiencing the different smells of microbes, using the lab tools of a superbug researcher and being immersed in the 360-degree CAVE 2, visitors took part in a range of discovery activities engaging the full range of senses.

Genie Lim bought her two young sons from Mount View Primary School to take part in the half-day event. “I’m so proud the university is making an effort to engage with the outside community” she commented.

“Events like this open up the university and my kids are now saying they want to come here! It’s really inspiring – we hope you run this every year.”

The enriching event was enjoyed by attendees of all ages, and the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute looks forward to expanding on the event’s success in the future.

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Jamie launches Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day

ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, Professor Jamie Rossjohn, and colleagues, are helping people with low or no vision to experience the fruits of the latest infection and immunity research through a special Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day, held at the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University.

“The Australian Laureate Fellowship really gives you a chance to do something different,” says Professor Rossjohn, who is a Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging, and Infection and Immunity Program leader within the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University.

“I had been employing people in my research group for sixteen years, but had never employed someone with a disability. Taking proactive measures, one of the first people who I employed was someone with low vision. This experience has really ‘opened my eyes’ to the possibilities for vision impaired people by looking past the disability, to the ability,” says Professor Rossjohn.

Professor Rossjohn says that he realised that this was a community that often didn’t get to hear about science, and that unless scientists made it accessible and employed engaging efforts to explain their research breakthroughs, even revolutionary events like the invention of the microscope could remain intangible to someone who had low or no vision.

Driven by this, Professor Rossjohn’s research team, spearheaded by project leader, Dr Gabby Watson, and other Infection and Immunity laboratories at Monash, organised a half-day scientific exhibition at Monash University, targeted towards a vision impaired community.

The event was held on 31 May 2018 to coincide with Macula Month, and had the full support of Vision Australia and Monash University. Researchers developed an innovative program targeted at those who have low vision or are blind, complete with tactile 3D models, 2D graphic displays, olfactory displays, large print and braille formats,all specifically geared to a low vision/blind audience.

To guide them expertly and creatively in this process, the research team engaged Dr Erica Tandori, who is legally blind, as artist-in-residence for three months to design and develop tactile materials and models that detailed aspects of vaccination, the evolution of flu viruses, and the process of how our bodies recognise pathogens.

Some of the displays included 3D-printed models of immune cells, sounds which were synchronised to live videos of immune cells, and even a section which featured ‘smells from a microbiology lab’. All the models were accompanied by descriptions in both large text and braille. Participants were also able to experience Monash University’s CAVE2 facility which is a 360-degree immersive experience that had immune molecules projected onto enormous surround screens.

Professor Rossjohn says that he considered the event to be a successful showcase of the great science being undertaken at Monash University, which particularly highlighted the latest breakthroughs in infection and immunity research.

Approximately 90 guests attended the exhibition, ranging from primary school students to grandparents. “Most of all, I want people to have a rewarding and educational time,” said Professor Rossjohn.

Professor Rossjohn is using his Australian Laureate Fellowship, ‘A molecular investigation into immune function’, to understand how immune reaction events enable immunity. The project is using multidisciplinary approaches empowered by technological innovations, including the latest advances in atomic and molecular imaging. The research is expected to identify new approaches for the biotechnology industry.

Group Image: Left to Right: Project Leader Dr Gabby Watson, ARC Australian Laureate Fellow Professor Jamie Rossjohn, Ms Liz Visher (ARC), Dr Erica Tandoori, Mr Wayne Seary (ARC). Credit: Hynesite Photography & Monash University.

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