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Curtin PhD student only Australian to reach global science competition final

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Fresh from winning the national final of the 2019 Young Person’s Lecture Competition, a Curtin Mechanical Engineering PhD student was one of only nine finalists from around the world to progress to the international final of the event, held in London this month.

Michael Max Brown from Curtin’s School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering was the sole Australian representative at the event, where he delivered a 15-minute presentation on his technical topic of choice before answering questions from a panel of judges.

Mr Brown, of Belmont, whose PhD research is into new materials for harvesting microalgae, said his presentation topic at the competition was ‘Programmable hydrogels: Coding materials for medicine’.

“Both at home or university, I love science and research however I’m also conscious that some people feel very differently and are quite turned off by the topic, which is what motivated me to improve my science communication skills,” Mr Brown said.

“My passion for sharing the fascinating secrets of science and in particular chemistry led me to the Young Person’s Lecture Competition, which I believed would be the ideal forum for me to explain my research into polymers and programmable hydrogels in a fun and relatable way.

“My presentation explored programmable hydrogels, which can act as a unique tool for medical implants and sophisticated drug delivery and offer many exciting potential medical benefits.

“Beyond this important research, my hobbies all involve science of some sort, such as harvesting carbon dioxide and converting it into starch through gardening, and breaking glucose down into alcohol by way of home brewing.”

Mr Brown graduated from Curtin last year with first class honours in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and in 2019 commenced his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, which he is doing under the supervision of Curtin’s Dr Yu Dong and Professor Xia Lou from the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, and Dr Ela Eroglu from the WA School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering.

The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining has held the Young Persons’ World Lecture Competition annually since 2005.

While in London, Mr Brown and the other competition national finals winners toured the Rolls-Royce Heritage Site and Cambridge University’s Materials Department, attended a Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining’s awards dinner and visited a primary school to give a shorter version of their presentation to students.

For more information about the competition, visit here.

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