Mug of Science 2021

In Mug of Science 2021, we caught up with scientists around Australia over a cup of coffee. We discussed their research, hobbies, and how they found themselves in science. My interviews are below, also check out the full line-up!

Genetic Detective - Dr Erin Hahn #

How did genetic analysis on old museum samples help save an endangered species?

In the beautiful Australian National Botanic Gardens we caught up with Dr Erin Hahn, who does genetic detective work at CSIRO. Erin extracts information from the genome of old museum specimens, so we can apply modern-day analysis to long-dead species.

We chat about Erin’s path into science, how she helped save the endangered Sonoran pronghorn, and what rookie errors to avoid when working with museum curators! How do you extract DNA from a formalin-preserved frog? What are the challenges, and victories, that a geneticist faces every day? And how does a scientist get good at asking questions?

Art & Robotics - A/Prof Damith Herath #

What would it take for a robot to be as easy to use as an iPhone? Maybe an artist!

We caught up with Damith Herath, Associate Professor of Robotics and Art at the University of Canberra, for a Mug of Science in his laboratory. There we discuss his work helping robots and humans to work side by side. This requires crossing a wide range of disciplines, and Damith talks about how bringing together very different people leads to new breakthroughs, and unexpected challenges.

Join us as we chat about what researchers can learn from working with artists, how psychologists are behind the modern cell phone, and ‘Twiggy the robot’, Damith’s childhood creation!

Engineering Bacteria - Dr Trevor Rapson #

Can we combine human technology with biological systems?

Have a Mug of Science with Dr Trevor Rapson, Research Scientist at CSIRO. Trevor is connecting solar panels to bacterial enzymes, so we can one day make fertilizers easily and cheaply in zero-emission bioreactors. Trevor talks about how he found his way from studying medicine, to his current work in fertilizers and renewable energy. Along the way we’ll hear about some of the cutting-edge technology which may bring on the green revolution.

What is the most lifesaving invention of all time? What challenges arise when scientists with very different backgrounds come together to build a bioreactor? And what are the little victories that keep you going, when working on such a long-term goal?

co-CEOs Jirana Boontanjai and Tom Carruthers #

What makes Pint of Science tick?

Catch up with Jirana Boontanjai and Tom Carruthers, co-CEOs of Pint of Science Australia, for a behind-the-scenes look at the festival. In the cosy King O’Malley’s pub, we chat about how they got involved in the project, and what’s been going on over the last few months to make these two weeks a reality.

Jirana and Tom have been at the helm of Pint of Science Australia for the past five years. They discuss how the organisation has evolved over time, and the structures they put in place to get the most out of every volunteer.

These last two years have been especially challenging. In 2020, the pandemic forced Pint of Science Australia to move online with only a weeks' notice. This brought many difficulties, but also unexpected benefits.

This year the festival relied on more than a hundred volunteers, who do a lot of hard work backstage. Volunteering at Pint of Science is also a great opportunity to gain new skills in all sorts of areas. We also talk about the impact Pint of Science has on Australia, both direct and indirect, and what might be coming in the future!