A biophotonics expert from an RMIT research centre has met with Prime Minister Tony Abbott during the annual Science Meets Parliament event in Canberra.
Dr Philipp Reineck from theARC Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) is part of a team developing innovative light based sensing and imaging tools that will provide powerful new ways of understanding cellular processes inside the living body.
He was in the nation’s capital as a delegate of the Science Meets Parliament event when he received the news that he would be one of a small group of scientists invited to meet with Australia’s Prime Minister at Parliament House.
“I only found out about the meeting the day before and had only a few minutes to summarise what we do and explain its significance,” Reineck said.
“I decided to focus on the importance of early diagnosis of heart disease and describe how at CNBP we are developing a technology to address this issue, improve tomorrow’s health outcomes, and create jobs for the future in Australia.”
During the two-day event, hundreds of Australia’s scientists are invited to Canberra to have face to face meetings with parliamentarians.
Scientists from all backgrounds met with members of parliament – including Malcolm Turnbull (Minister for Communications) and Christine Milne (Leader of the Australian Greens) – and attended the Address to the National Press Club of Australia by chief scientist Ian Chubb.
“When the time came, we were escorted along the bright and long corridors of parliament house towards the prime minister‘s office, where we then waited in a tastefully designed room between selected pieces of artwork until the prime minister arrive.” Reineck said.
After an introduction by meeting organisers, Ross Smith and Catriona Jackson from Science and Technology Australia, each of the scientists had the opportunity to discuss their various research projects.
“The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly and I was able to engage the PM with details of my project to develop technology for the early detection of heart disease at the RMIT node of the CNBP,” Reineck said.
“Mr Abbott asked a number of questions and emphasised the importance of our work and its positive impact on the development of new technologies and on the Australian community as a whole.”
The centre’s aim is to develop innovative imaging and sensing tools for medicine and biology based on light.
“My research is part of the ‘illuminate’ team of our centre and focuses on making tiny ‘flashlights’ which will allow us to measure inside living organisms at the cellular level and see into living bodies,” Reineck said.
“These flashlights are called nanoparticles, which are designed to emit light and are more than 1000 times smaller than the diameter of a hair.”
Reineck said he and his interdisciplinary team of researchers from physics, biochemistry and medicine are working to better understand the origins of pain and to detect early signs of heart and vascular diseases.
“The key is to be able to perform measurements on the scale of individual cells and below,” he explained.
A possible outcome for this research is a device that will detect cardiovascular diseases at a very early stage to enable successful treatment.
Reineck said the Science Meets Parliament event provided scientists and politicians a much-needed opportunity to discuss the importance of fostering science and technology in Australia.
“The event gave us scientists the chance to explain why we think our research is of great value to society, and in return, we received an insight into the policy making process and learned about the challenges politicians face during this process.”