Australians are not only one of the friendliest peoples on the planet, they're also a terrific intellectual population and global resource in medicine and technology. UNSW's motto is "scientia manu et mente" which is Latin for "knowledge by hand and mind." UNSW's core philosophy is about balancing the practical and the theoretical, and that's why I ultimately chose to go there. My dissertation wasn't just a giant book that maybe five people would ever see or read, it was two giant books--one written for a critical audience and one written for a mass audience. It took me nearly four years to complete--and that was with a Masters degree! Usually, a person would go into a Doctoral program directly after undergrad and along the way, maybe a year or two in, after successfully completing qualifying exams, that individual automatically receives a Masters. I didn't do it like that. I had already completed a Masters five or so years prior to enrolling in the Doctoral programme at UNSW. So my work took more like ten years to actually complete because I was working most of that time on my research (interrupted for a few brief years while dealing with a second malignant brain tumor but right back on the horse!), bridging the chasm between stress and cancer diagnoses among women. And UNSW was uniquely qualified to help me with my work.
Did you know that professors at UNSW are the first in the world (!) to create a true bionic eye? Really. It's not just a fiction for television anymore. In just a few years, the model will be prepared for human trials. The device, created by biological engineers Dr. Nigel Lovell and Dr. Gregg Suaning, both professors at UNSW's Centre for Implantable Bionics, uses a patient's own eye and an antenna with an external micro-processor and micro-camera mounted on glasses to transmit a signal to the implanted electrode array transplanted near the back of the eye towards the retina. Though US researchers are working on similar technology, it's no where near as advanced. The resolution on this particular model will be the highest available on the planet. These same scientists also created a bionic ear with similar technology. Now that's what I call a terrific use of my tuition dollars!
But it's not just about helping people regain lost senses, UNSW's research in the sciences branches out to "molecular assassins" or a new way to cure diseases like heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, even age-related blindness. Human trials are now underway, treating patients with skin cancer, the leading cause of cancer-death in Australia. The nanotechnology-based drug targets what lead researcher, Dr. Levon Khachigian, calls the "Godfather gene." Contained within the nucleus of a cell, the "Godfather gene" controls the expression of hundreds of other genes and though it's normally dormant in healthy humans, with certain diseases like cancer, the gene begins to produce a key protein. The "molecular assasins" work by homing in on ribonucleic acids found in the "Godfather"; these acids are actually messengers. If the drug can cut them off, then the disease process is completely halted. If successful, the drug may be market-ready by 2015!!! Again, it's hard not to look at the money spent on my education at UNSW and not feel tremendously good about it helping to fund projects like this one, which has the potential to help hundreds of thousands of lives today and in the very near future.
Both of these are great examples of how UNSW follows the "scientia manu et mente" philosophy, combining the practical and the theoretical in ways that bring innovation to life thereby improving human life...not just in theory, but in reality. Like what UNSW researcher and Chair of the new Cure for Life Centre at UNSW, Dr. Kerrie McDonald's, studies are trying to do--bring a cure to stop the rise in global malignant brain tumour diagnoses. She identified a particular lipid that helps cells survive longer. UNSW scientists have also found an innovative way to create new medical technology that will make tissue-typing for organ transplants faster, cheaper and easier--getting organs to patients like children with leukemia even faster. Another recent UNSW study shows that longer life isn't just about genetics, exercise and eating...a good 80% of living to be 100 or older has to do with your psychology--how well you stay connected and how well you deal with change are but a few examples of this study's results that show your life is truly in your own hands. Attitude really is everything! Or at least, 80% of everything....
Sometimes, when you live in one part of the world, you become completely centered around the events in your particular geography...not just your local city or town or state or province, but your country of origin. Everyone does this mainly because it's the majority of ready-information provided in accessible ways like TV news or local newspapers. Even though we live in a globalized world, we don't always think globally or see globally. Looking beyond our own borders is key to 21st century survival. And research universities like UNSW are leading the way in improving the quality of not just human life but human existence. Australia is far from "down under" these days; the leaders in science and technology at UNSW are proof of that.
G'day, good on ya, and no worries, dearest readers...until next time!