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Wark winner - 3 minute thesis competition heat

aidan cousinsThe Wark's Three Minute Thesis Competition heat was held on Friday, 18 May 2012. Nine postgraduate students participated in the event.

The winner was Aidan Cousins who won the competition heat with his presentation titled "Big answers come in small packages: Finding the sentinel node in cancer patients". Aidan receives a prize of $200 and qualifies for the UniSA-wide competition.

The judges agreed that Aidan had a significant topic with a smart title, along with outstanding communication and excellent audience engagement.

Aidan summerized his PhD research as, "The detection of the first organs to receive cell flow from a cancerous tumour site (so-called sentinel lymph nodes, SLNs) has high clinical importance in detecting the early stages of cancer spreading (metastasis). If these SLNs can be correctly identified, they can be removed and studied for metastatic tissue, and the prognosis and treatment options for the patient can be adjusted accordingly. Currently, for breast cancer and melanoma, the standard practice to find the SLNs is to inject a combination of a blue dye and radioactive tracer into the tumour site, and follow its otherwise unpredictable migration through the lymphatic system until they collect inside the SLNs. Unfortunately this procedure has many downfalls, including poor sensitivity, poor accuracy, and the hazards associated with using radioactive materials in patients. To combat this, I am looking at using magnetic nanoparticles to replace the conventional tracers.

To detect the presence of the particles (which are many thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair) I am building a high resolution magnetic field-sensing probe. This probe uses sensors based on the principle of magnetoresistance - that is, the change of the electrical resistance of a material in the presence of a magnetic field. Advances in manufacturing process have seen the development of small magnetoresistive chips capable of measuring single magnetic nanoparticles, which are many thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair".

By incorporating these chips into a slimline probe design, the magnetic signal of lymph nodes can be accurately measured after injection of the magnetic nanoparticles, hence the SLNs found without invoking the use of harmful radioactive substances."

The runners-up were:

- Michelle Liu for "Golden insights: Nanoparticle-tumour interactions". Michelle receives a prize of $100.
- Thomas Michl for "Antibacterial surface modification via plasma polymerization".

Armed with nothing more than a single powerpoint slide - containing no audio or video enhancements - no props, no costumes and being held to a very strict three-minute time limit - the contestants are judged on their ability to best articulate their thesis to an audience.

The Judging Panel comprised senior researchers from The Wark, the Mawson Institute, and the University of Adelaide. The presentations were judged on three specific components - communication, comprehension, and engagement.

The UniSA-wide competition will be held on 6 September 2012, with the winner then competing in the National competition on 11 October 2012.

UniSA three minute thesis competition

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