June 1, 2017 | News

Public lecture at Melbourne Knowledge Week

We’re determined to connect with curious minds, and being involved in Melbourne Knowledge Week for the second year, is a good start! AI Stephanie Gras, MKW veteran and AI Michelle Dunstone, first-timer, entertained and educated a crowded festival hub at MKW2017.

Experimedia came alive this MKW, with an immersive media lounge – think augmented and virtual realities –  an innovation zone, where early adopters and the city’s most exciting coders, hackers and makers showcased tools to change how we work and live. And, midweek, the hub took a dive inwards to find out what keeps us alive. Our two actual living women in science imparted a little saying: where there is structure, there is function.

Fifty or so Melbournians listened to how Stephanie and Michelle are making breakthroughs in immunology and how these breakthroughs translate into life-changing treatments.

Stephanie started at the perfect place, the beginning aka crystallography and Michelle looked to the future, cryo-Electron Microscopy and X-ray Free Electron Lasers. But they both agreed – all techniques play a major role in unlocking secrets of the immune system.

Stephanie explained how these discoveries enable us to make better and more efficient vaccinations – yes, that includes your flu shot. And she outlined some recent discoveries made by our CoE around lipid recognition and perhaps a reason why we react and have sensitivities to well-known, and commonly prescribed, medications.

Michelle painted a wonderful story about how these same imaging technologies help us to understand the different ways our immune system kills. She didn’t just paint the story, she blew it up with two different sized balloons. A big balloon represented a human cell and a much smaller balloon, bacteria. Michelle wanted the audience to see the size difference and to understand that all cells, whether big or small, can be popped by pore-forming proteins – one of our killing immune cell. You can find out more about some of these hole punching proteins; including pleurotolysin and perforin.

You know you’ve engaged and educated when the audience ask questions. Broad questions around vaccination and immunosuppression were asked, but there were a couple more intricate questions around protein interactions and how we extrapolate from our crystal structures. Stephanie and Michelle also had a queue of interested rugged up audience members keen to ask questions in private at the wrap of the event.

We are committed to engaging with the broader public and are eager to encourage them to explore, question and further develop their scientific mindsets. Being involved in MKW gives us a fantastic opportunity to do this, connect with those curious minds.

Stephanie and Michelle are work out of the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

About the Monash BDI
Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.