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Eavesdrop on Experts

Overhear researchers talk about what they do and why they do it. Hear them obsess, confess and profess - changing the world one experiment, one paper and one interview at a time. Listen in as seasoned eavesdropper Chris Hatzis follows reporters Dr Andi Horvath and Steve Grimwade on their meetings with magnificent minds. Made possible by the University of Melbourne.

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The history of paper

Before paper, we had papyrus - made from reeds in Egypt, or parchment - made from the skin of various animals. And then China invented paper in order to collect Buddhist texts. From there, over the next two centuries, the use of paper moved through Central Asia used by merchants, government and commerce. But, how did we get from Ancient Egyptian scrolls to modern-day office paper? Jonathan Bloom is the now-retired Norma Jean Calderwood University Professor of Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College. He is also the soon-to-be retired Hamid Bin Khalifa Endowed Chair of Islamic Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. Sheila Blair is the Norma Jean Calderwood University Professor of Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College Emerita, as well as the soon-to-be retired Hamid Bin Khalifa Endowed Chair of Islamic Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. Between them, they have explored how paper spread around the world, transporting ideas and information. Episode recorded: March 12, 2019. Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath. Producer and editor: Chris Hatzis. Co-producers: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath. Banner: Getty Images.


3 Apr 2019

Rank #1

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Why investigative journalism matters more than ever

“If you knock on a door and it doesn’t open, keep knocking. It’s persistence that gets results in journalism.” The Boston Globe’s Editor At Large, Walter V Robinson, was famously immortalised by Michael Keaton in the Oscar-winning movie Spotlight, about his team of investigative reporters that lifted the lid on institutional child sexual abuse in Boston’s Catholic Church. Here he discusses the importance of investigative reporting, and the challenges it faces today.Episode recorded: June 1, 2018.Interviewer: Louise Bennet.Audio engineering: Arch Cuthbertson.Producer and editor: Chris Hatzis.Co-production: Dr Andi Horvath and Silvi Vann-Wall.Banner image: Front page of the Sunday Boston Globe on May 8, 2016, featuring details of abuse at a private school in New England. Picture: Getty Images.


10 Oct 2018

Rank #2

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Language for living

“Just being able to say beautiful words, to put beautiful words together, is a way of moving through time and living your life and holding onto your life more valuably.”Professor David Mason, former Poet Laureate of Colorado, on why poetry is so ubiquitous and important.Episode recorded: September 17, 2018.Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath.Producer and editor: Chris Hatzis.Co-production: Dr Andi Horvath and Silvi Vann-Wall.Banner image: Taylor Ann Wright.


7 Nov 2018

Rank #3

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Australia: liveability vs sustainability

The Australian city of Melbourne has been voted the world’s most liveable city numerous times - but does that status make those of us who live here complacent about the city’s long-term future? Professor Lars Coenen is the inaugural City of Melbourne Chair of Resilient Cities - an initiative between the City of Melbourne and University of Melbourne. The aim is to strengthen the city’s resilience in the face of sustainability challenges like global warming. But key to creating a sustainable city is innovation, done in a purposeful way that contributes to our societies, cities and our regions. And that, says Professor Coenen, is where Australia needs to raise its game. Episode recorded: November 29, 2018. Interviewer: Steve Grimwade. Producer and editor: Chris Hatzis. Co-production: Dr Andi Horvath and Silvi Vann-Wall. Banner image: Shutterstock.


23 Jan 2019

Rank #4

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Turning science into business

Back in the day, ‘applied life science’ might have referred only to winemaking. Nowadays the massive biotechnology industry is responsible for a vast array of projects that fight diseases, find the functional age of cells, and even create effective alternatives to vaccines. But, as Dr Lynn Johnson Langer warns, many of these exciting new projects will never leave the lab without the right funding and the development of relevant and in-depth business skills. Episode recorded: July 18, 2018. Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath. Producers: Dr Andi Horvath, Chris Hatzis and Silvi Vann-Wall. Audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis. Banner image: Henk Caspers/Naturalis Biodiversity Center.


1 Aug 2018

Rank #5

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"5 Things About..." The psychology and science of poo

Why is poo a taboo? How do our lavatory practices affect our health? What is a toilet graveyard? How can mapping our defecation spots help improve sanitation? Which cultures are the most likely to use excrement-related swear words? Come with us as we weave between psychology and science to unpick and unpack the wonders, weirdness and wackiness of one of our most primal activities. Welcome to (slightly more than) five things about poo. With guests Prof Nick Haslam from The University of Melbourne and PhDc Naomi Francis from the Nossal Institute, Melbourne, Australia.


16 May 2017

Rank #6

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Standing up for science

Biologist Professor Randy Schekman received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2013, along with colleagues, for his work on cell membrane vesicle trafficking - a major transport system within our cells. A passionate advocate of the scientific method and open-access journals, Professor Schekman argues that science needs to be vocally defended now, more than ever. Episode recorded: September 19, 2018. Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath. Producer and editor: Chris Hatzis. Co-production: Dr Andi Horvath and Silvi Vann-Wall. Banner image: Shutterstock


21 Nov 2018

Rank #7

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Reversing irreversible blindness

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. By the time we reach the age of 80, around 15 per cent of us will have glaucoma. By using gene therapy, University of Melbourne ophthalmology professor, Keith Martin, and his team are aiming to encourage the cells that connect the eye to the brain to make new photoreceptors that pick up light, replacing those that have been lost. “The cells I’m most interested in glaucoma are called retinal ganglion cells and these are the cells that connect the eye to the brain,” says Professor Martin. “When light hits the eye, photoreceptors pick up that light and they signal through to these retinal ganglion cells that send the messages back to our brain. If we lose that cable that connects the eye to the brain, the picture quality degrades.” These days, if glaucoma is identified early - it can be effectively treated in most cases. But Professor Martin’s research goes a step further. “We’re moving beyond the era where all we could do for this chronic degenerative disease was slow things down, and we’re now really talking about restoring function in a realistic way.” Episode recorded: April 10, 2019. Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath. Producer, audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis. Co-producers: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath. Banner image: Shutterstock.


1 May 2019

Rank #8

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The quantum sensing revolution

In this bonus episode of Eavesdrop on Experts, our reporter Dr Andi Horvath ventures into the misunderstood world of quantum physics and, specifically, quantum sensing. While the discussion about “spooky” quantum phenomena like Schrödinger’s famous cat is about a hundred years old, there’s a revolution coming in quantum sensing. Quantum sensors exploit of the quantum mechanical behaviour of atoms or ions to measure physical quantities such as frequency, acceleration, rotation rates, electric and magnetic fields, or temperature with the absolute accuracy. The sensors use properties (like entanglement) to achieve measurements beyond the reach of traditional systems, and are currently are used in devices like atomic clocks and magnetometers. And while sensors like this have been around for at least a decade, the new generation of quantum sensors are making major advances with real-world impact. Episode recorded: March 27, 2018. Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath. Audio engineering: Arch Cuthbertson. Production: Chris Hatzis, Dr Andi Horvath and Silvi Vann-Wall. Editor: Chris Hatzis. Banner image: Paul Burston/University of Melbourne.


10 Sep 2018

Rank #9

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Why nerd politics is here to stay

Politics in the digital age is increasingly being shaped by tech-savvy activists; the Edward Snowdens and Julian Assanges of the world. But it’s when these ‘nerds’ join with others that true change happens - like Spain’s Indignados movement becoming a force in the country’s mainstream political system. Dr John Postill discusses his new book The Rise of Nerd Politics in this new episode of Eavesdrop on Experts. Episode recorded: September 4, 2018. Interviewer: Steve Grimwade. Producer and editor: Chris Hatzis. Co-production: Dr Andi Horvath and Silvi Vann-Wall. Banner image: Getty Images.


24 Oct 2018

Rank #10

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Molecules in motion

Professor Eva Nogales started her career in a time where barely any women were seen in science departments. In college, she skipped biology to focus on physics, relying on her high-school knowledge of the former to shape her career as a biophysicist. Now, she’s using her understanding of the microtubules in our cells for improving disease management, including slowing the uncontrollable growth of cancer. This niche understanding of our cell behaviour at the molecular level is already improving the lives of humans everywhere, and the technique used by Professor Nogales called “cryo-EM” is taking the world of structural biology by storm. She recently visited the University of Melbourne to receive the 2019 Grimwade Medal, and to deliver the oration titled: Visualising the molecular dance at the heart of human gene expression. Episode recorded: February 14, 2019.Interviewer: Steve Grimwade.Producer and editor: Chris Hatzis.Co-production: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath.Banner: Berkeley Lab.


6 Mar 2019

Rank #11

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Forty percent banana, ninety-nine percent bonobo

In the evolutionary timeline for mammals, we've not been around that long as a species. Paleoanthropologist and Miegunyah Fellow at the University of Melbourne Professor Bernard Wood asks what does it mean for our planet that we continue to decimate the environment of our closest relatives? Also, find out how looking for the fossils of our ancestors is like a drunk looking for their keys under a lamppost and discover the hominem species you never knew existed...Recorded: 6 June 2016. Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath. Producers: Andi Horvath and Chris Hatzis. Editor: Chris Hatzis. Engineer: Arch Cuthbertson.


10 May 2017

Rank #12

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From "failed musician" to innovative entrepreneur

Associate lecturer Susan de Weger is a French horn player. In fact, she’s a self-confessed “failed musician”, who walked away from music and went on to establish a multi-million dollar IT consulting practice in Europe. But music didn’t walk away from her. Once she returned to Australia, she decided to change her internal narrative and tackle a Performance Master’s degree at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne. Now she teaches music entrepreneurship to a new generation of musicians, helping young performers build careers that are artistically and financially rewarding.Episode recorded: July 3, 2018Interviewer: Dr Andi HorvathProducer, audio engineer and editor: Chris HatzisCo-production: Dr Andi Horvath and Silvi Vann-WallImage: supplied


18 Jul 2018

Rank #13

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Why does radio hold a special place in our hearts?

Loneliness and isolation can be a very real issue for many older Australians. Dr Amanda Krause’s research is looking at how listening to the radio can help.Episode recorded: August 3, 2018Interviewer: Steve GrimwadeProducers: Dr Andi Horvath, Chris Hatzis and Silvi Vann-WallAudio engineer and editor: Chris HatzisBanner image: Getty ImagesThe survey for Dr Krause’s Radio for Wellbeing research project can be completed online. You can also visit the Community Broadcasting Foundation website for more information.


15 Aug 2018

Rank #14

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My brilliant career

While progress has been made, men still hold 60 per cent of senior positions within the Australian Medical Research Institute’s 49-member organisations, according to 2018 data. For International Women’s Day, six female leaders in medical research come together to discuss the professional challenges they’ve overcome, to help encourage more women in science to build successful, enduring careers. Professor Fabienne Mackay, head of the School of Biomedical Sciences, joins Professor Kathryn North AC, Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute with Laureate Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO and others to dispel some myths about women working at the cutting-edge of medical research. “Role models will not ask aspiring young women what would help them, but rather what stops them,” says Professor Mackay. “At a point in your life something will drive your passion, it will come early or later depending on the person, but once you have that passion nothing should stop you.” Recorded: March 7, 2019. Reporters: Dr Andi Horvath and Buffy Gorrilla. Producers: Dr Andi Horvath, Buffy Gorrilla and Arch Cuthbertson. Audio engineer: Arch Cuthbertson. Banner: Getty Images.


8 Mar 2019

Rank #15

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Workplace bullying in the #MeToo era

Workplace bullying. Chances are we’ve all seen or experienced it at least once in our lives. From the extreme of sexual or physical assault, to the subtler eye-rolls that exist in the ‘grey area’ of bullying. Dr Victor Sojo, a lecturer and Research Fellow at the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, says all these negative behaviours can lead to a toxic work environment and, as a result, impact on productivity. “At the most basic level within organisations, people need to make rules clear about what behaviour is acceptable and what behaviour is not acceptable,” he says. And the #MeToo movement is increasingly defining what’s not acceptable. Dr Sojo says that’s giving people who have been feeling marginalised, disrespected and abused the opportunity to speak up. “We need more women in positions of power so that they could actually have a voice about how we are going to manage the situation. This is very important, because right now, I’m a guy talking about this.” Episode recorded: December 21, 2018. Interviewer: Louise Bennet. Producer and editor: Chris Hatzis. Co-production: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath. Banner: Shutterstock.


20 Feb 2019

Rank #16

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Our flesh after fifty

WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE.The inspiration for the exhibition Flesh after Fifty came about as a result of Professor Martha Hickey’s work in the menopause service.“Women facing menopause at an early age would often say ‘I’m going to be an old woman’,” explains the professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospital.“Those two words together were the worst thing in the world. Reflecting on myself and the women that I knew and the contribution of older women, I really wanted to change that message.”Lead curator of the exhibition Jane Scott describes the dilemma and also the delight of this exhibition was attempting to photograph 500 women over the age of 50 in the nude.“Most of the women would comment and talk about the fact that they were unhappy in their own skin,” she says. “But once they got that off their chest, they started to talk about how proud they were of their bodies for carrying them around, for delivering them the ability to have the life that they now enjoy.”“In an ageing society, it’s unsustainable to not give full recognition and support to old people,” adds Professor Hickey.“Women are the larger proportion of older people. Maintaining their physical and mental health is absolutely paramount for us.”Episode recorded: March 10, 2020.Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath.Producer, audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis.Co-production: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath.The Flesh After Fifty exhibition is on at the Abbotsford Convent, Victoria, Australia, and runs until April 11, 2021. For more information visit the website, fleshafterfifty.com.Banner: Getty Images.


1 Apr 2020

Rank #17

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What will it be like for teenagers of the future?

The teenage brain is very interesting. According to Dr Katherine Canobi, author and cognitive developmental psychologist at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, it’s a time when young people are starting to work out who they are, as well as looking to form meaningful and authentic relationships. “During this stage, their brains are still developing in various ways, for example executive function like decision making isn’t fully developed yet and neither is impulse control.” Combining novel writing and research, Dr Canobi is interested in how teenagers respond to the technology in their lives. Her novel Mindcull, explores how technology can be used to disguise and escape from reality. “It’s probably fair to say that there are links between extensive screen use and symptoms of depression and anxiety, but not every study has found that. Some studies have found positive results for social media for a sense of connection with others,” she says. Dr Canobi says we need to look at how we use technology. In particular, think about the vulnerabilities of young people and how we can use technology well. “Technology is with us and it does many, many wonderful things but we also need to be aware of the risks.” Episode recorded: October 8, 2019. Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath. Producer, editor and audio engineer: Chris Hatzis. Co-production: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath. Image: Getty Images.


11 Dec 2019

Rank #18

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Knowledge sharing for health and wellbeing

A lot of Aboriginal people don’t necessarily feel comfortable accessing health services, explains Gwenda Freeman, Associate Lecturer in Aboriginal Health at the University of Melbourne. “Whereas you might have been brought up to go to the doctor when you are unwell, for Aboriginal people (going to a doctor) might be a much bigger issue,” she says. “There might be issues of racism, there might be history of difficulties, there might be hesitancy about western medicine and all sorts of cost and other anxieties that often prevent people from being able to access what we would consider basic health services.” As a lecturer in the Specialist Certificate qualification in ‘Empowering Health in Aboriginal Communities’, Gwenda says the course provides a pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to undertake the Master of Public Health degree, opening possibilities for Indigenous people to be at the table in organising health services for their own community. “There’s been a lovely coming together recently of traditional healers – traditional Aboriginal healers – and what you might call western medicine.” For example some Indigenous healers – the Ngangkari – have been recruited by the South Australian Health Department to work in hospitals and health services in Adelaide alongside mainstream medicine. “They’re very happy to because Aboriginal people can see that western medicine offers some things that traditional medicine doesn’t. But also, that traditional medicine covers things that western medicine neglects. So, it’s a good coming together.” Episode recorded: October 7, 2019. Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath. Producer, editor and audio engineer: Chris Hatzis. Co-production: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath. Image: Getty Images.


14 Oct 2019

Rank #19

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The oddities of existing things

The 13th century physician and astronomer Zakariya ibn Muhammad al-Qazwinin was an influential member of the literary circles in Iraq and advisor to the Mongol Governor of the area. One of his major works is the Wonders of Creation, a kind of compilation of the knowledge of the universe, says Dr Stefano Carboni, lecturer in Islamic Art at the University of Western Australia and 2019 Macgeorge Fellow at the University of Melbourne. “Starting from the outer spheres where the throne of God is found and then coming down to the sphere of the angels, the fixed stars, the planets, the sub-lunar sphere and then everything that happens on earth. That includes the sphere of air, so all the phenomena – the atmospherical phenomena that happen in our skies.” Professor Carboni explains that the majority of books in the 13th century would be illustrated scientific manuscripts, or even works of Arabic literature that looked very much in the tradition of late Byzantine art. And when the Mongols arrived they brought the Chinese edition. “It’s an incredibly important period in the formation of the - of art history, basically, in Iran.” Episode recorded: September 5, 2019. Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath. Producer, editor and audio engineer: Chris Hatzis. Co-production: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath. Image: A map of the inhabited world, from Ajaib al-makhluqat wa-gharaib al-mawjudat (Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing) by al-Qazwini (d. 1283/682). The copy was made in 1537/944, probably in western India. Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.


2 Oct 2019

Rank #20