ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology


31, Jan 2024

Annual conference champions sustainability

Sustainability took centre stage at the Centre’s third annual conference held in December 2023 against the scenic backdrop of the Sunshine Coast.

A call to urgently reduce carbon impact resonated through insightful presentations on synthetic biology solutions, mirroring the commitment embedded in the conference’s operations. As a testament to its dedication, CoESB planted 50 trees locally as part of the Reforest and Visit Sunshine Coast sustainability program.

Speakers from the US, UK, Denmark and Australia joined almost 200 Centre members at the Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort for four days of presentations, networking and panel discussions on topics ranging from working in industry to equity and diversity in synthetic biology.

‘Our conferences get better and stronger every year, thanks to the enthusiasm of the hardworking conference committee and professional staff behind it,’ says Centre Director, Distinguished Professor Ian Paulsen.

Keynote speakers included Jane Calvert from the University of Edinburgh, Irina Borodina from the Technical University of Denmark, Lucy Ham from the University of Melbourne and Drew Endy from Stanford University. The blend of synthetic biology, mathematical, social, cultural, business and educational perspectives opened minds to the lasting impact Centre members can have on the world.

Some of those speakers also joined an industry insights panel and mock interviews, held for the first time as part of the Early to Mid Career Workshop day.  Breakfast workshops held on following days focused on industry mentorship and careers.

Sponsors this year included Idea Bio, Australian Genome Foundry and Twist Bioscience and Decode Science (Diamond), CSIRO (Platinum) Gingko Bioworks, Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (Oceania) Pty Ltd (Silver) and the Sunshine Coast Council/Visit Sunshine Coast (Government funding).

‘We worked hard to ensure all local businesses were supported and followed sustainable practices in all aspects of the event to limit our CO2 impact,’ says Business Development Manager Dr Rahau Shirazi.

The Find a Researcher Expert Directory (FRED) – and idea that emerged from the 2021 conference- had its official launch by instigator Skye Young.  Colourful FRED socks have been produced as a lasting reminder of the networking and collaborative tool, developed by a group of diverse Centre members.

The Equity and Diversity Committee presented the results of its survey that explores belonging and adversity in synthetic biology. One of the key messages is how much the annual conference fosters a sense of belonging. The team also convened a popular panel discussion with senior researchers, canvassing such topics as the challenges of blending a research career with parenthood and coming from a non-English speaking background.

As always, Professor Paulsen presented awards for best science presentations and outreach.

‘We celebrated the outstanding hard work of our Outreach team members who have developed a new card game Remediate participated in 13 Science Week reaching thousands of people with this new award,’ says Professor Paulsen.

‘Science presentations were of their usual high standard and rewarded with our usual round of prizes.’

Winners are:

CoESB Annual Conference 2023 Prize Winners

Best Poster

1st prize – William Holdsworth, QUT
2nd prize – Rashika Sood, MQ
3rd prize – Oliver Smith, ANU and Felicia Lie, USyd

CoESB Annual Conference Prize Winners

Best EMCR Short Talk

1st prize – Richard Lee, University of Western Australia
2nd prize – Alescia Cullen, MQ
3rd prize – Rosemary Gillane, UQ and Taylor Szyszka, USyd

Prize Winner Madeleine Smith of QUT

People’s Choice Poster Award

Madeline Smith, QUT

Prize Winner Louis Nightingale of University of Newcastle

Science Communication Award

Louis Nightingale, University of Newcastle

Annual Conference Prize Winners

Outreach Excellence Awards

Jonathan Berengut
Taylor Szyszka
Eric Jenner
Luke Rees
Skye Young
Danielle Rudler
Luis Quijano
Thom Dixon

Excellence in EMCR Management

Joachim Larsen