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In brief

Selective-entry school based at Berwick

Victorian Premier John Brumby announced the state government-Monash partnership for a new co-educational senior school for high-achieving students

Monash University's Berwick campus will be the home of a new selective-entry State Government senior school for high-achieving students.

Monash University Council has put aside land to the north of the Berwick campus for construction of the new co-educational school, which is expected to open in 2010.

Premier John Brumby announced the partnership in April, saying the Berwick school would have strong links with Monash for both staff and students through joint research projects, special classes and lectures, and shared facilities.

Monash University Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Larkins said the new school would allow secondary students to see the opportunities presented by a university education and hoped it would inspire some to study at Monash.

Easy clean clothes

Monash scientist, Dr Walid Daoud has discovered a way to remove stains from clothes using nothing but sunlight.

The nano-materials expert has developed a nanoparticle coating which can be applied to wool and silk fibres to decompose contaminations such as such as dirt, stains and harmful microorganisms.

In recent laboratory studies, modified wool stained with red wine dried clean when exposed to sunlight.

The coating - which is non-toxic can be permanently bonded to the fibre and does not alter the texture and feel of fabric - is made of anatase titanium dioxide, an efficient photocatalyst. Light triggers an oxidation reaction.

Dr Daoud has previously developed coatings for cotton fibres, but said wool and silk were more complex, particularly when it comes to chemical modification.

"We have essentially taken early research into cotton to the next level and this new coating has proven to be very effective in preventing stains, particularly difficult stains like red wine," Dr Daoud said.

"The testing is still in the laboratory phase, but it is very possible this type of coating could be applied to fabrics in the future. Cleaning a garment would be as easy as hanging it in direct sunlight and the stains would disappear."

Research in good health

Monash University researchers have dominated recent National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Awards, taking out a quarter of the prizes at a ceremony in Canberra.

Surface of a human red blood cell infected with a malaria parasite.

Four Monash scientists and researchers were recognised for their outstanding contributions. Obstetrician, gynaecologist and senior lecturer Dr Stephen Tong, and anatomy and cell biology research fellow Dr James Bourne were both given a NHMRC Achievement Award in Career Development for junior researchers.

Dr Tong is researching ways to improve future clinical care in areas such as early pregnancy, the biological reasons behind conceiving twins and discovering molecules used to diagnose disease.

Dr Bourne is researching primate brains to assess the impact of damage to visual functions to help ‘switch back on' developmental mechanisms to restore vision after a stroke or other brain injury.

Dr Teresa Iacono from the University's Centre for Developmental Disability Health was given a NHMRC Ethics Award for her achievements in developing high ethical standards in health and medical research. She has been researching effective strategies for people with severe communication impairment so they can experience meaningful interactions and improve their quality of life.

Associate Professor Brian Cooke from the Department of Microbiology received the Science to Art Award, in recognition of his studies of human malaria and an image of the surface of a human red blood cell infected with a malaria parasite.

New Chancellor installed

Governor of Victoria, Professor David de Kretser, Chancellor, Dr Alan Finkel and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard Larkins at the historic installation.

A Monash graduate has become the new Chancellor, Monash University.

Dr Alan Finkel was installed as the University's seventh chancellor by Victorian Governor Professor David de Krester at a ceremony at the Clayton campus in March.

Dr Finkel received a Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering at Monash in 1981. He went on to successfully list several robotic and electronic instrument companies on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The installation took place just prior to the University's 681st graduation ceremony. Dr Finkel then thanked the audience of students' grandparents, partners, friends and family for attending and then went on to present several hundred degrees one of them to his son Victor, who graduated with a Bachelor of Music.

Popularity plus

It is official, Monash University is the most popular university for Victorian school leavers.

Monash courses attracted the most first-preference selections among 2007 secondary school leavers for the second year in a row. There was also strong demand from the State's highest-achieving students.

Monash's new Architecture degree and courses in the Engineering and Law faculties were particularly popular.

The score required to study engineering at Monash in 2008 was 91.3, more than five points above any other engineering course in Victoria, and the highest ever cut-off.

The score required to study a law single degree at Monash rose to 99.3 this year and the score required for double degrees involving law ranged from 99.05 to 99.5.

Demand for places in the new Graduate-entry medical course at the University's Gippsland campus was also very strong.

Nano scaffold to re-build nerves

The nano scaffold designed by Monash PhD student, David Nisbet.

A Monash University PhD student has developed a new technique that could revolutionise stem cell treatment for Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury.

David Nisbet from the Department of Materials Engineering has used existing polymer-based biodegradable fibres, 100 times smaller than a human hair, and reengineered them to create a unique 3D scaffold that could potentially allow stem cells to repair damaged nerves in the human body more quickly and effectively.

Mr Nisbet said a combined process of electrospinning and chemical treatment was used to customise the fibre structure, which can then be located within the body.

"The scaffold is injected into the body at the site requiring nerve regeneration. We can embed the stem cells into the scaffold outside the body or once the scaffold is implanted.

"The nerve cells adhere to the scaffold in the same way ivy grips and weaves through a trellis, forming a bridge in the brain or spinal cord. Over time, the scaffold breaks down and is naturally passed from the body, leaving the newly regenerated nerves intact," Mr Nisbet said.

"We are at the interface of two once separate disciplines - nanotechnology and stem cell research – combining into a new exciting era of discovery."

Design on Nature

A Monash Industrial Design graduate has developed a novel way to encourage more people achieve a reduction in greenhouse emissions.

Leigh Ryan has designed a solar generator in the shape of a flower.

Named after the Hindu Sun god the RAVI solar generator absorbs energy through its petals during the day, storing it in an internal battery, which can be removed at night to power small electronic goods and home appliances.

"Although the technology in RAVI is nothing new, it's a product that you want to engage with; it has an emotional connection with the user," Mr Ryan said.

"Even though the energy required to power items like mobile phones and mp3 players is quite minimal on an individual level, when you take into consideration how many users there are world-wide the figures start to add up."

Mr Ryan completed his fouryear degree last year and is employed as an industrial designer in the UK.