This year, we are proud to have launched Carey’s first three-minute thesis competition, the Serpell Science Communication Prize. Several of our top science students entered the competition, which due to the circumstances of 2020, comprised video presentations sent in to be judged by two Carey science teachers and Old Carey Grammarian Professor Jonathan Serpell (1973).
Professor Serpell is the Director of General Surgery and Head of the Breast, Endocrine and General Surgery Unit at The Alfred Hospital and Head of the Breast, Endocrine Surgery and Surgical Oncology Unit at Frankston Hospital. He is also currently a Professor of Surgery at Monash University. He has generously supported this wonderful new program to encourage students to engage with STEM, think creatively and to stay on top of the latest developments in science research.
The students, coached by Jodie O’Connor, presented varied theses, each with a unique idea for further research. The ideas were based on and supported by currently available evidence and will have a positive impact on the world or the future of humanity.
Professor Serpell was delighted and impressed by this first round of entrants to the new competition.
‘There were seven outstanding entries – each presentation was of an exceptionally high standard, and scientifically stimulating given the topics covered. The topics ranged from bioengineered blood to sleep deprivation, and saving birds from parasites to bacteriophage treatment, among other great ideas,’ he said.
‘All presentations were limited to three minutes, but had excellent content, clarity of scientific presentation and advanced skills in public speaking.’
The winner of the competition was Year 11 student Kathy Xing (pictured), whose well-researched thesis addressed genetically modified cotton as a solution to the negative environmental effects of the plant. Kathy explains that the CSIRO are investigating how to genetically modify cotton to grow in particular colours in order to eliminate the harmful dyes used to process cotton. Cotton is the most commonly used material in the fashion industry, so it is important to provide a more sustainable product. They are also hoping to develop a stretchy and wrinkle-free cotton to replace synthetic fabrics, which are not recyclable or biodegradable.
Second place was shared by William Katz and Alyssa Turnley, also in Year 11, who discussed the topics of Clean Water and the Papua New Guinea Initiative, and Genetics and Autoimmune Diseases respectively.
Professor Serpell is keenly interested in supporting young science enthusiasts and is grateful to be able to contribute to Carey’s science program.
‘Having enormously benefitted from my 12 years at Carey, it is a great pleasure to be able to give back to the school that provided me with a wonderful education and start in life. I am hopeful this model can also be extended to other subject areas as well.’