Exploring the Science universe

  • Published on September 9, 2019
  • For National Science Week, Indooroopilly State High School was sucked into a black hole and transported to another dimension!

    The theme for 2019 was Destination Moon: More Missions, More Science!and  Indro celebrated by inviting Dr Catalina Curceanu, Dr Jason Whitfield and Andrew Penton to inspire the students.

    International Physicist Dr Catalina Curceanu gave a lecture titled ‘Black holes: Monsters or Wizards?’, covering topics ranging from Stephen Hawking and his research and Einstein’s general theory of relativity, through to black holes and what would happen if we were to get sucked into one.

    Dr Curceanu is a Romanian-born physicist who currently works at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics. Dr Curceanu also works on projects at CERN which is a part of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Since completing her PhD, she has had a decorated international career. In 2016, Dr Curceanu was awarded the Australian Institute of Physics Women in Physics Lecturer.

    Griffith University was gracious enough to sponsor Dr Curceanu to the Nathan campus this year for collaboration, which in turn allowed her to visit our school.

    Students Samuel Morris, Yasmin Aryan and Elsa Erkfeldt with physicist Dr Catalina Curceanu.
    Students Samuel, Yasmin and Elsa with physicist Dr Catalina Curceanu.

    Students Samuel, Elsa and Yasmin sat down with Dr Curceanu after her lunchtime lecture to ask her a few questions. They asked about topics like quantum entanglement, gravitational waves and particle physics. Elsa also asked, “What would you recommend to students who want to enter similar fields of physics?” Dr Curceanu’s response: “Never give up!”

    Dr Jason Whitfield is a CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Fellow based at The University of Queensland. His research looks at how we can reengineer and repurpose biology for the needs of our modern society.  Dr Whitfield completed his PhD at the Australian National University before moving up here to Brisbane where he continues his research. Dr Whitfield has big plans for his future including having a passion for developing a streamlined service to test athletes for banned substances through his knowledge in molecular biology.

    University of Queensland biologist and CSIRO fellow Dr Jason Whitfield accepts a thank you gift presented by students Yasmin and Elsa.
    University of Queensland biologist and CSIRO fellow Dr Jason Whitfield with students Yasmin and Elsa.

    Dr Whitfield spoke about what was happening in your brain and the molecular mechanisms within your cells before taking biology concepts on to the sports field. Towards the end of his talk, Dr Whitfield spoke about some ethics within his fields of study and left us asking the question: “Just because we can, should we?

    Andrew Penton from UQ also stopped by and ran an out-of-this-world workshop and talk with our Year 10 Physics cohort. Students participated in a workshop to measure a star’s heat from graphics before asking Andrew many questions about their curiosities towards space.

    Year 10 students with UQ PhD student Andrew Penton.
    Year 10 students with UQ PhD student Andrew Penton.

    Andrew Penton is a PhD student from UQ studying astrophysics, black holes and dark matter. Andrew’s PhD focuses on measuring the masses of very distant massive black holes.

    “I’m trying to understand how black holes have evolved throughout the history of the universe and whether we can use that to measure things like how much dark energy and dark matter there is in the universe,” he said.

    Andrew recommends jumping on the Hubble Telescope website to explore the amazing photos of our solar system.

    Students also participated in a scavenger hunt, to find over 400 tickets hidden all over the school. Students simply had to find a ticket, complete the STEM trivia question and hand it in for a prize. UQ’s Science faculty graciously donated globe stress balls for students as prizes.

    Test your knowledge with some of the questions:

    1  What three sub-atomic particles can be found in an atom?
    2  Who wrote the famous novel Frankenstein?
    3  What is the chemical symbol for Tungsten?
    4  Refraction of light is displayed in which natural phenomenon?
    5  What is the sum of the internal angles of a heptagon?
    6  In what household item would you find monoflurophosphate?
    7  Name the seven levels of taxonomic identification?
    8  How often does Halley’s Comet visit?

    Brooke Jensen
    Scientific Operations Officer


    1 Protons, neutrons and electrons
    2 Mary Shelley
    3 W
    4 A Rainbow
    5 900 degrees
    6 Toothpaste
    7 Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species
    8 Every 75-76 years

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