Notre Dame Academic Bringing Science to the People

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
4 Jul 2016

NSW Fresh Science award winner,
Dr Edward Waters

Dr Edward Waters, a mathematical biologist from The University of Notre Dame Australia's School of Medicine, Sydney, has been announced as a NSW Fresh Science award winner for 2016.

Fresh Science is a national competition helping early-career researchers find, and then share, their stories of discovery. As part of the award, Dr Waters will bring 'science to the people' at the Fresh Science 2016 School Forum to be held in Sydney on July 26, followed by an evening event for the general public.

Dr Waters' work on Possums: furry friend or filthy foe? investigates the role of possums as a disease threat to humans particularly their role in contributing and spreading water-borne diseases.

"It is a great honour to win this award, and on a practical level it gives me the opportunity to promote scientific research," Dr Waters said. "This award is about bringing science to the people and demystifying research. "There is a misconception that science is not a viable career for many people. So hopefully through my research and this award, I can make science much more 'fun'.

"Part of what excited the panel was the fact that I am mathematical biologist - the idea that maths can work together with laboratory science in medicine and biology to solve key problems, it isn't just about equations on paper. 

"Winning this award allows me to inspire and engage with school students and the general community to promote the idea that scientific research (and maths) are about collaboration, creative approaches to interesting problems, having fun and doing things that are significant and meaningful."

Dr Waters said his research demonstrated how seemingly simple problems were best addressed in a multi-dimensional and collaborative way.

"The idea that possums could spread disease seems like such a simple question but it has so many dimensions. It started out as an idea, that I studied using mathematics. But I quickly realised that to really understand the problem, I needed information that only animal behaviour experts and laboratory scientists could provide," Dr Waters said.
"What is really exciting is it turns out that possums are a lot like humans - there are a whole range of behavioural factors that we need to understand that decide why some animals become infected and others don't."

While mathematical and laboratory results to date show that possums might be more filthy foe than furry friend when it comes to waterborne disease, Dr Waters explains, a lot more work still needs to be done. He will present his results to date as well as talk about the future directions of his work alongside other NSW winners at the School Forum at UNSW, Kensington on Tuesday 26 July. The talks will be aimed at Year 9 and 10 students, but students from upper primary up to Year 12 are welcome. Students will have the chance to ask questions at each forum. Sessions at 10am and 11.15 am. Bookings open now.

The general public can hear Dr Waters and other leading early-career scientists reveal their discoveries from 5pm-8pm on Tuesday 26 July at the 3 Wise Monkeys Hotel in George St, Sydney, near the Australian Museum. Bookings are free and can be made at