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Exceptional Scientists' Program

Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology (CBNS) Incursion

Tell me where you could listen to bio technicians’ experiences, walk inside a life-like rodent, and create nylon and jelly spaghetti? On Friday 19 October, we were invited to a biotechnology incursion that I found very exciting and engaging. We listened to scientists who spoke about how they were able to create medicinal drugs that correctly interacted with the desired human cells. We learnt about targeting tumour and cancer cells with special drugs, then were able to use virtual reality technology to locate a tumour in a mouse. The activities also included creating our own nylon material and an immediate jelly substance. I am very grateful for this experience and would be very excited to participate in another Science incursion in the future.

Italia Rees, Year 9

CHAC and scientists from CBNS have given us an opportunity to learn about Bio-Nano Technology. By listening to three speakers, we learned many interesting things such as scientists do not work individually and for any project to work, it can take years and years but, on the way to success, they will hit many milestones. This technology is already in use, and scientists in Australia and internationally have been working to improve this technology. Nano technology projects to replace chemotherapy and radiotherapy are being carried out in order to be able to kill cancerous cells without killing healthy cells. By listening to these scientists, I have realised that Science is not just dissecting things, mixing things or calculating things – Science can save people.

Anastasia Kihara, Year 10

In this incursion, we were introduced to the innovative world of Bio-Nano medical research and discovery. We participated in a variety of activities that were based upon real-world research. The practical that I most enjoyed involved a reaction between acyl chloride and dicarboxylic acid where a nylon interface is formed. This is then pulled out of the solution and allows for a strand of nylon to be lengthened. Nylon is a polymer and as long as there are both solutions in the flask, this reaction can go on continuously. Overall, the experience was thoroughly enjoyable and if the opportunity comes up once again, I would encourage any other student with an interest in science to go along.

Brooke Smith, Year 10

The CBNS incursion was an informative yet highly intriguing experience. I learned how Nano-science can be utilised for medical advantages, such as identifying tumours. While cancer has no full cure yet, we were shown how scientists are slowly progressing towards finding a solution for the full removal of tumours. One way is the manipulation of microparticles’ activity and their use as vectors in chemotherapeutic drugs. I loved learning about this as I have always wondered what scientists are actually doing to find a cure. There were various activities that we could complete; however, my favourite was the availability of virtual reality that displayed a mouse with a tumour. It was an amazing first-time experience and it showed the tumour and how and where exactly the particles were working to destroy it. This visit has shown me the significance that Science has to society in discovering cures that have the possibility to save the lives of thousands.

Georgina Badenhorst, Year 10

The work of the CBNS is predominantly to research the delivery of drugs to cancerous cells, in order to avoid unpleasant side effects such as cardio toxicity that sometimes results from chemotherapy. A presentation by three members of their research team gave us significant insight into how bio-Nano medicines work and the research and technology going into finding new ways to develop and package medication that will target only tumorous cells. One of these technologies, which we later got to try, was virtual reality, in which we were able to enter a mouse and follow the path that a cancer medicine had followed after being injected. We pulled organs out of the mouse and located the tumour, which only about 1% of the medication had gone to. It was extremely interesting to see the effects of the medicine in images obtained from PET scans. It also gave us a laugh as people traipsed around the room wearing VR headsets.

Hannah Dagwell, Year 10

One of the things that I found fascinating was seeing how data can be formatted into mediums such as virtual reality. The virtual reality felt disturbingly real, especially in the sense that you could move objects, such as a mouse’s internal organs, using handheld remotes. We may have managed to misplace the lungs of the mouse in the simulation, but that’s another story. I really enjoyed the experience of the day and I feel that I left with a greater understanding about the everchanging field of Science.

Joanna Findlay, Year 10

During the incursion we were spoken to by Catalina, a PhD student at UQ, who spoke to us about her research she is undertaking. She is researching ways to create Nano materials which can be used to administer drugs to tumours in the brain. I found this quite interesting because it was focused on being able to cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the tumour without damaging the barrier. The blood-brain barrier is a system in the brain which is there to protect our brains from unwanted toxins. Unfortunately, it also stops drugs and imaging dyes from reaching tumours unless the tumour has damaged the barrier. This research is very important to make the imaging and treatment of brain tumours much easier and more successful.

Josh Trotter, Year 9

The Bio-Nano incursion was an incredibly rewarding and informative experience, and probably one of my favourite STEM events. It began with three thought-provoking lectures from accomplished university researchers who are focusing their research on treating cancer. My favourite lecture was from Caterina, who is making a medicine that can break through the blood-brain barrier in order to treat brain cancer. Afterwards, we engaged in a variety of fun, interesting experiments, ranging from chemistry to virtual reality. In summary, the bio-nano Science incursion was especially rewarding for me, as I have an interest in medical science, and I hope to be involved in more of these types of events in the future.

Juliet Munro, Year 9