Around 50 people gathered in the James Theatre on the rainy Saturday afternoon of March 16 to hear a fascinating pair of talks on the structure and function of DNA.
The Paterson Allyn Williams Science Hub with the support of "Inspiring Australia" hosted Laura Greco, studying a PhD in medical genetics, and Alex Kelly from BioFoundry who works in the do-it-yourself field of science.
Laura explained how our understanding of genetics got to be where it is today and Alex picked up from there and explained the rapidly advancing area of genetic manipulation.
They were able to show how different their respective research environments are. Laura has access to academic resources and is subject to tightly controlled constraints and regulations whereas Alex has problems funding his research but has fewer controls on his work.
"After their talks enthusiastic questions from the audience took up more than the available time and Laura and Alex collaborated to give thoughtful and thought provoking answers," said Jane Richens from the Hub.
"These two young scientists are impressive in their commitment to science, the clarity of their presentations and their awareness of future benefits and pitfalls.
"Laura made the basic principles of genetics understandable by the use of interesting analogies and left us marvelling at how amazingly small are the detailed structures that control all life forms.
"She elaborated on some well known examples of genetic manipulation and compared slow genetic manipulation by controlled breeding with the rapid changes made possible by genetic engineering.
"Alex revealed the existence of an international group of scientists, collaborating together outside of academia and operating on limited funds but with strong collaboration.
"He explained how control by the three insulin producing companies has led to the prohibitively high cost of insulin even though production costs are very low.
"The amazing rate of change in genetic engineering techniques was emphasised by his description of a kit that people can use to carry out safe and simple genetic modification of a bacterium in their homes."