Biographies for conference speakers and event hosts.

Ben McKenzie Event Host: Ben McKenzie
Ben McKenzie is an actor, scientician, comedian, feminist, improviser, geek, voiceover artist, games player, presenter, nerd, writer and ginger. Described as ‘geek comedy’s patron saint’ (T-Squat Magazine) and ‘the anti-Hitler’ (Boxcutters podcast), Ben has written and performed sketch comedy, comedy science lectures and stand-up for over a decade. He founded production companies Shaolin Punk, Museum Comedy and (with others) Pop Up Playground, created the long-running improvised comedy Dungeon Crawl, and appeared in The Bazura Project and Woodley for the ABC. Ben was recently published in the anthology Geek Mook by Vignette Press, is currently working as Production Manager on the 2012 Freeplay Independent Games Festival, and hopes to launch a new game discussion podcast, “Losing An Eye”, later in the year. Ben’s Internest is labcoatman.com.au. His favourite dinosaur is Stegosaurus.

@labcoatman on Twitter

Bora Zivkovic Bora Zivkovic
Bora Zivkovic is the Blog Editor at Scientific American.
Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), Bora was always interested in animals and nature. His studies in veterinary medicine were interrupted by the 1990s war in the Balkans, when he arrived in the USA. He went to graduate school at North Carolina State University where he studied how bird brains measure time of day (circadian rhythms) and time of year (photoperiodism). He started ‘A Blog Around The Clock’ in 2004.

He teaches introductory biology to non-traditional students at North Carolina Wesleyan College, organizes the ScienceOnline conferences, and edits Open Laboratory – the annual anthology of the best science writing on the Web.

@boraz on Twitter

Chris Cassella Chris Cassella
Managing Director of ScienceAlert Pty Ltd, an ex-Microsoft programmer and failed neuroscientist. Over the last 5 years, he has transformed ScienceAlert into the #1 provider of science news on Facebook. With over a million fans worldwide, ScienceAlert’s Facebook page is more popular than the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and the Economist. Chris is a strong proponent of Facebook as a platform to inspire and engage young people around the world with science.

@darwinsguppie on Twitter

Prof. David Baker Professor David Baker
David Baker is an American biochemist and computational biologist who studies methods to predict the three-dimensional structures of proteins. He is a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Washington (UW),[1] where he is the principal investigator of the 30+ member Baker laboratory. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and is also a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences.

The Baker laboratory developed the Rosetta algorithm for ab initio protein structure prediction, which has been extended to a distributed computing project called Rosetta@Home and Foldit. The project aims to produce structural models for protein complexes as well as individual polypeptide chains. The Baker group participates regularly and is recognized for expertise in the CASP structure prediction experiment using ab initio methods, including both manually assisted and automated variants of the Rosetta protocol.

Baker did his graduate work in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in the laboratory of Randy Schekman, where he worked predominantly on protein transport and trafficking in yeast. He did his postdoctoral work with David Agard of University of California, San Francisco.

Baker was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009.

Dr. Paul Willis Paul Willis
Dr Paul Willis is the Director of RiAus.

He is known as a science journalist and broadcaster, formerly a presenter for ABC-TV’s Catalyst. Dr Willis is a respected leader in the science community, and takes up his appointment at RiAus as the next step in an impressive career in science.

In his role as Director of RiAus, he is instrumental in determining the direction of the national science hub as it continues its mission of bringing science to people and people to science. “I’ve always had a passion for science communication,” Dr Willis said. ”I look forward to working with RiAus to share the latest in science with new audiences.”

Dr Willis’ early interest in dinosaurs and fossils lead him to Sydney University to study zoology and geology, then on to further studies at the University of New South Wales where he completed a doctorate studying fossil crocodiles.

Over the past ten years, he has held many fascinating jobs including a stint as Curator of Vertebrates at the Macleay Museum in the University of Sydney, and a nine month assignment in Bonn, Germany, measuring dead crocodiles. His passion for science communication also saw him spend a number of years touring Australia with a life-sized inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex as part of a primary school education program.

Dr Willis has a solid research career in vertebrate palaeontology, and has the distinction of having discovered a number of significant vertebrate fossil specimens, including a small dinosaur and a large ichthyosaur.

He has lead seven public expeditions to Antarctica, authored and co-authored seven books on dinosaurs, rocks and fossils and authored many popular articles on science subjects across a wide range of topics.

In early 1997 Dr Willis secured a traineeship with the ABC as a science broadcaster. Throughout his television career, he produced and presented over 230 stories for the Catalyst and Quantum programs on ABC TV, as well as many radio stories for the Science Show, Earthbeat and Ockham’s Razor.

He received the Eureka Prize for the Communication of Science in 2000 for Science in the Pub and in 2008 he presented the inaugural Reg Sprigg Memorial Lecture.

@fossilcrox on Twitter

Wilson da Silva Wilson da Silva
Wilson da Silva is a former science reporter for ABC TV and served as a foreign correspondent for Reuters, working in Canada and Australia. He began his career as a staff journalist on The Sydney Morning Herald and later worked as a technology writer for The Age in Melbourne.

A former correspondent for Britain’s New Scientist magazine, he has been science editor of ABC Online and was the managing editor of Newton science magazine. The winner of 31 awards – including twice Editor of the Year for his work on COSMOS, and the Australian Film Institute trophy for Best Documentary – he is a former president of the World Federation of Science Journalists. He is scheduled to fly into space on Virgin Galactic in 2012.

@wilsondasilva on Twitter

Cobi Smith Cobi Smith
Cobi worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation while completing degrees in journalism and international studies. After working as a newsreader she headed abroad to join a team of young international journalists producing a documentary about youth-led development for the Millennium Development Goals. This experience showed her the power of participatory technologies for overcoming regional and cultural boundaries.

After working in communications for an Australian genomics institute Cobi moved to Cambridge, UK, where she managed science media projects ranging from podcasts to books. After some time in South America she returned to Australia to work for RiAus on the Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia initiative. She helped build capacity in communities to engage with science and technology, facilitated science communication activities and evaluated engagement projects.

She’s now completing her PhD in science communication through the Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science, while consulting in public engagement with science and experimenting with improvisation and comedy. She was part of The Ada Initiative’s first AdaCamp and is an open access activist.

@cobismith on Twitter

Matt Levinson Matt Levinson
Matt Levinson is Communications Adviser to the newly re-elected Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. Matt has worked in the media, science and politics, and is passionate about creative culture, the environment and technology. He was part of a Eureka Prize winning team in 2009 and was listed among Sydney’s top 100 emerging creative leaders in 2010.

@matt_levinson on Twitter

Dr Joshua Drew Dr Joshua Drew
Joshua is a postdoctoral researcher working at the Biodiversity Synthesis Center in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. He is also an adjunct professor in the Biology Department of East West University. Joshua believes that teaching gives us the opportunity to help students to think critically and to understand the role that science can play in our society. He argues that scientists have a responsibility to present their findings in a manner that engages the general public, especially if the funding for that research originates from public funds.

He is currently exploring the use of digital media (web resources and social networking) to help make science more accessible and exciting. This has included using a variety of media to reach out to the public with engaging stories about his research including podcasts, tweeting, and videos. He has even been able to live-tweet expeditions to Papua New Guinea and Fiji to provide near real-time updates on what life as a field biologist entails.

@Drew_Lab on Twitter

Dr. Bridgette Dang Bridgette Dang
Bridgette is the Chief Operating Officer for The Labshare Institute (TLI). She has a double Masters’ degree in International Business and Commerce from the University of Sydney. Originally from Silicon Valley, she is passionate about all things technology and has held roles in Account Management, Business Development, and Production Management in the Telecommunications, IT and Semiconductor industries. She is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.

You can find out more information about TLI at: www.labshare.edu.au

Kylie Sturgess Kylie Sturgess
Kylie Sturgess is an award-winning Philosophy teacher, who has lectured on pseudoscientific and anomalistic beliefs worldwide, and holds a special interest in promoting critical thinking for the younger years. She is the host of the Token Skeptic podcast, a show that looks at the intersection of science, media and pop culture. Kylie blogs at FreeThought Blogs network and writes for a number of publications, including CSICOP’s ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ online column. As a former English teacher, Kylie enjoys combining her love of art, science, and social media as a means of communicating science to the public

@kyliesturgess on Twitter

Dr. Laurel Dyson Dr. Laurel Dyson
Dr Laurel Evelyn Dyson is a Senior Lecturer in Information Technology at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has published over 75 papers and books, which include research into the adoption of mobile technologies by Indigenous people and the use of mobile technology to enhance student learning in the higher education sector. She is one of the founders of her faculty’s Indigenous Participation in Information Technology Program, aimed at increasing the number of Indigenous Australians studying and working in IT.

Her work with Indigenous communities has included cultural projects and ICT studies in the remote Australian communities of the Torres Strait, Lockhart River and Wujal Wujal and from 2005-2006, she lead the evaluation of UNESCO’s Indigenous project ‘ICTs for Intercultural Dialogue’. Her publications include the book Information Technology and Indigenous People and she is currently preparing a new book proposal on Indigenous people and mobile technology.

Jacqui Hayes Jacqui Hayes
Jacqui Hayes was one of those kids: she collected fossils, her walls had posters of galaxies and she suffered a teen crush on the late U.S. physicist Richard Feynman. So it was no surprise when she graduated from the University of Sydney with honours in physics, and went on to complete a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication from the Australian National University in Canberra. She started at COSMOS as an intern in 2006, then returned in 2008 to take up a job as a sub-editor and staff writer, working her way up to Deputy Editor. After a stint working at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research), near Geneva, Switzerland, in 2011, she returned to COSMOS as Digital Editor. She enjoys riding tandem bikes and playing underwater rugby.

@SpaceKangaroo on Twitter

Professor Barry W. Brook Professor Barry W. Brook
Professor Barry Brook is a leading environmental scientist, holding the Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and is also Director of Climate Science at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute.
He has published three books; over 200 refereed scientific papers, is a highly cited researcher, and regularly writes popular articles for the media.

He has received a number of distinguished awards for his research excellence (including the Australian Academy of Science Fenner Medal) and was awarded the 2010 Community Science Educator of the Year for his public outreach activities.
His research interests are climate change impacts, species extinctions, simulation and statistical modelling, energy systems analysis (with a focus on modelling future nuclear and large-scale renewable energy scenarios), and synergistic human impacts on the biosphere.

He runs a popular climate science and energy options blog at http://bravenewclimate.com. He has written a popular book on sustainable nuclear energy, is an International Award Committee member for the Global Energy Prize, and considers himself a ‘Promethean environmentalist’ (seeking effective techno-fixes to solve entrenched sustainability problems).

@BraveNewClimate on Twitter

Kirsten Gottschalk Kirsten Gottschalk
Kirsten wanted to be an astronomer from her earliest memory, but after four years of study she realised she much preferred talking about it than doing it. After a whirlwind year touring Australia with Questacon Smart Moves she found her way back into astronomy at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth. She now gets to meet astronauts, talk about the world’s biggest telescope (the Square Kilometre Array), build telescopes in the desert and show off the gorgeous West Australian night sky to anyone that comes near. Part of her job is also babysitting theSkyNet and communicating with its 7,500 members. She makes sure theSkyNet doesn’t get too unruly on its twitter account (@_theSkyNet) and has been involved in the project since its inception 12 months ago. She has recently started blogging her adventures in astronomy communication at raspberryastro.wordpress.com

Deborah Cleland Deborah Cleland
Deb Cleland works in science communication and fisheries conservation. Her PhD at the Fenner School of Environment and Society (ANU) asks if interactive games can help us manage human environmental systems better and more justly. Deb’s latest project had her playing computer-assisted board games with small-scale fishers and other interested bystanders in an attempt to understand and promote community support of marine conservation in coastal communities in the Philippines. Deb also co-convenes and blogs for the Human Ecology Forum at ANU.

@pezrojizo on Twitter

Nigel Mitchell Nigel Mitchell
Nigel Mitchell is an educator based in Adelaide, South Australia. He has taught in Catholic, Independent and government schools in South Australia and Western Australia, and also at University level. In his current role as Manager of Online Professional Learning for the Australian Science Teachers Association, Nigel works with members of the state and territory Science Teacher Associations to increase digital literacy amongst educators by promoting the use of online technologies in teacher professional learning and in the classroom. He manages the ASTA online professional learning portal at moodle.asta.edu.au and an associated virtual classroom environment where webinars are made available to supplement face-to-face professional learning.

Nigel also manages the social media presence of ASTA on Twitter and Facebook.

Dr Derek Muller Dr Derek Muller
Derek Muller is the Creative Director at Veritasium – a science video blog which aims to present topics in all areas of science from the simplest to the most complex. The goal is to make scientific ideas clear, accessible, and interesting. Veritasium features 90 films with experiments and interviews with Australians about issues such as global warming, seasons and the scale of the universe. This work is informed by his PhD in Physics Education Research from the University of Sydney, over six years of teaching experience, and over a decade of video production.

@veritasium on Twitter

Dr Will J Grant Dr Will J Grant
Will Grant is a talker, writer, thinker and reader based at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at ANU. His talking / writing / thinking / reading has focused mostly on the intersection of science, politics and society, and how this is all this is changing in response to new technologies. Current projects include longconversations.net, howtokeepfood.com and society5.net.

@willozap on Twitter

Dr John La Salle Dr John La Salle
Dr John La Salle, Director of the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), has been involved with the ALA since its inception and played a key role in its establishment in 2006. John is an internationally recognised insect taxonomist who is a leading figure in adopting emerging technologies to accelerate the processes of taxonomy, species discovery and description, and delivery of information from natural history collections. As Director of the Atlas of Living Australia he is helping to unlock the information stored in Australian biological collections and related biodiversity databases, and make this information accessible and useable online.

@atlaslivingaust on Twitter

Ben Hosken Ben Hosken
Ben is the founder of Flink Labs, a Data Visualisation studio based in Melbourne. Flink Labs creates beautiful and compelling interactive visualisations that help their clients develop insights, tell stories and make the invisible visible. Previously, Ben founded AgentArts, a multi-national recommendation and personalisation company that he sold to Microsoft in 2007. Ben holds two patents in data mining.

@flinklabs on Twitter

Robert Thomas Robert Thomas
Rob has been in Science Communications since 2005, building and promoting education programs for the Australian Science Festival. In his current role as Program Manager of the National Enabling Technologies Strategy’s Public Awareness and Community Engagement (NETS-PACE) Program at the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science Research, and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE) he is responsible for the development of the techNyou Science Education Resource.

The resource contains materials on nanotechnology and biotechnology suitable for High School students. All materials are available for download and editable, comments can be posted from teachers on the resources or in the general discussions board. The site aims to be participative and an ongoing material for teachers to contribute in for many years.

Philip Roetman Philip Roetman
Philip Roetman is Institute Manager at the University of South Australia’s Barbara Hardy Institute. He is particularly interested in citizen science and people’s attitudes towards the natural environment. Philip works closely with Prof Chris Daniels on the Institute’s citizen science research and education program. Projects have included “Operation Possum”, “Operation Magpie” and “Operation Spider”, as well as events such as “Bring us your Bugs” and “Be a Beachcomber”. These projects have engaged thousands of participants of all ages through traditional and new media, as well as a focus on both formal and informal education. The projects have received acclaim for the way results have been disseminated back to the community through various media, including popular books like “The Possum-Tail Tree” and “The Fearsome Flute Players: Australian magpies in our Lives”.

Philip’s research has included project evaluations that have revealed how participants have changed their attitudes and behaviours towards the focal taxa of each project. A new project is currently being planned, the Great Koala Count, to be run on November 28 in South Australia.

Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen
Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen has been engaged with communications technology since at school. He worked as a network administrator at Flinders University while pursuing bachelor and doctoral degrees in computer science and computer systems engineering, before creating the world’s first fully functional shoe phone.

Dr Gardner-Stephen is the founder of the Serval Project, where he is creating open-source software for mobile phones that allows them to communicate without reliance on infrastructure, and he is also a Shuttleworth Telecomunications Fellow and Rural, Remote & Humanitarian Telecommunications Research Fellow at Flinders University.

@servalpaul on Twitter

Dr Karen Murcia Dr Karen Murcia
Karen Murcia (PhD) is an Associate Professor at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. She is the convenor of the School of Education’s Science and Mathematics Learning and Research Cluster and Director of the Research Center for Transformational Games.

Dr Murcia’s research has focussed on multimodal interactive teaching and learning in digitally enhanced learning environments. She has worked extensively in school based research partnerships and engaged teachers with the process of designing, implementing and evaluating new strategies for improving teaching and students’ learning outcomes. Dr Murcia has worked in education for over 25 years promoting the importance of science for citizens and the achievement of scientific literacy as an education outcome.

Her expertise is recognised in her journal review board roles with Research in Science Education, the Journal of the Australian Association of Science Education Research Teaching Science, the Journal of the Australian Association of Science Teachers and Issues in Educational Research the Journal of the Australian Association of Educational Researchers. In addition, Dr Murcia has recently been appointed as a board member for Child Australia.

Dr Wendy Russell Dr Wendy Russell
Dr Wendy Russell has a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a PhD in Photosynthesis research from the University of Queensland. She was a lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Wollongong from 1996 until 2008. During that time, her research shifted from plant science to social science, specializing in social aspects of biotechnology and transdisciplinarity, and she received an ARC Discovery grant with Prof Frank Vanclay in 2006 for research on a technology assessment framework for Australia. As an academic, she authored 20 refereed journal articles and received a number of awards, including a young biophysicist award, a science and innovation award for young people from DAFF, and university, regional and national tertiary teaching awards.

She joined the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research in 2010 to work on community engagement in relation to enabling technologies. She designed and conducted a multistakeholder process which lead to the STEP (Science & Technology Engagement Pathways) framework and won a Project of the Year Core Values Award from the Australasian branch of IAP2 (International Association for Public Participation). She is now implementing STEP within DIISRTE.