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The Laborastory


Each month The Laborastory brings together five scientists from diverse backgrounds to share the story of their science hero. Hear the tragedies and triumphs of the men and women who made science their passion and left legacies that inspire the scientists of today.


Melbourne, Australia


Each month The Laborastory brings together five scientists from diverse backgrounds to share the story of their science hero. Hear the tragedies and triumphs of the men and women who made science their passion and left legacies that inspire the scientists of today.




Nicholas Johnson on Elsie Wright

Nicholas J. Johnson is an author, a magician and collector of scams. He exposes tricks and inspires audiences to think critically and never be swindled again. After two decades entertaining and educating audiences, He’s realised there is much we can learn about persuasion, deception and influence from the world of the professional swindler. Just don’t trust him with a deck of cards.


Eli Mrkusich on Eugenics

Eli Mrkusich works for Illumina, the world’s leading genomics (DNA information) company. When Illumina entered the DNA sequencing market a genome (compete DNA sequence) cost $10 million dollars in 2014 Illumina launched the $1,000 genome. Illumina’s technology powers 23andMe and AncestryDNA. Illumina’s mission to unlock the power of the genome to improve human health. Eli joined Illumina in 2015 and is a Senior Applied Genomics Segment Manager for Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) and is based on...


Maria Roitman on Wilhelm Reich

With a background in stress neuroscience and shocking mice in the name of research, Maria is well-placed to speak at the Halloween edition of Laborastory. Although her latest scientific manuscript explores the mechanism of human pain (muahaha), Maria’s interest in psychiatry, crossed with her villainous mind and crass sense of humour, brings a special kind of science villain to the event - not unlike his predecessor, a psychoanalyst gone a bit rogue in his study of orgonomy, aka “the energy...


Dr. Gary Hime on Giovanni Aldini

Gary Hime completed his PhD at the University of Adelaide before working as a research scientist at Stanford University and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute. He is currently a professor and acting Head in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at the University of Melbourne where his work is focused on understanding the genetic regulation of stem cells in development and disease.


Richard MacEwan on The Nature Of Villainy

Richard is recently retired and is now enjoying a life of travel, music, gardening and wine making unfettered by daily obligations to office, government department machinations and fickle funding. His career encompassed estate management in Scotland, educating university aspirants in land rehabilitation and researching soils and land management for the Victorian government. He has now nearly forgotten everything he ever pretended to know about science but has accepted the challenge to...


Dr Pam Rana on Perfection

Pam is from the eastern shores of icy Canada, is a medical doctor, a comedian and a passionate environmentalist. She's presented her solo show 'Kim Kardashian is bad for the environment' and her duo show 'Meat Bags' at Melbourne International Comedy Festival.


Ella Loeffler on Sylvia Earle

Ella Loeffler holds a Bachelors degree in zoology and literature, and is currently completing her honours in wildlife conservation. This means she spends more time than she would like to admit looking at bandicoot poo. She is a mediator at the Science Gallery Melbourne and loves scuba-diving, hiking and reading.


Dr. Ryan Jefferies on Leonardo Da Vinci

Ryan is Head of Programs at Science Gallery Melbourne at The University of Melbourne and curator of the PERFECTION and BLOOD exhibitions. He is a passionate advocate of art and science in equal measures, a champion of creative science communication and is a sometimes taxidermist. Ryan has a PhD in infectious disease research and spent many years studying somewhat terrifying parasites that will happily live in your blood.


Connor McMahon on Clement Wragge

Connor is a second year science student at the University of Melbourne. As a Melbournian, Connor was a natural at having no idea what weather would come next. However, his curiosity got the better of him, and he decided to major in Climate and Weather to gain a better understanding of the world around him. A passionate science communicator, Connor has been involved in several science outreach programs, including the National Youth Science Forum, the Young Scientists of Australia, and is...


Dr Chris Lassig on Chien - Shiung Wu

Dr Chris Lassig is a particle physicist and broadcaster, who has recently acquired the delusion of being a comedian. His show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival told the story of his journey from obscurity in Bundaberg, Queensland, to obscurity as a former research physicist. But he eventually learnt to write, and now calls himself a science communicator. Since 2011, Chris has been one of the hosts of the long-running community radio program and podcast "Lost in Science". In...


Associate Professor Megan Munsie on Sir John Gurdon

Over the course of her 20 year career in stem cell research Associate Professor Megan Munsie has combined her scientific expertise – gained through working in academia and industry – with a deep understanding of the issues associated stem cell research and its clinical translation. She has co-authored numerous educational resources for the public, health and educational professionals; contributed to the development of policy at a domestic and international level; and regularly provides...


Rohan Long on Frederic Wood Jones

Rohan Long is the curator of the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology at the University of Melbourne. He is a writer, an obsessive birdwatcher, a composer of esoteric music and a paleontologist with many field seasons experience on the early Cretaceous rocks of the Victorian coast.


Mark Nikolic on Galileo Galilei

Mark completed his honours degree last year with a project in zoology and evolutionary-developmental biology (or evo-devo as the cool kids call it). He now works as a specimen registration officer in the entomology and marine invertebrate departments at Museums Victoria; a role in which he has already learned many things, such as what anal forceps are and that there are fly larvae that will burrow into a small child’s scalp. Nightmarish insects aside, Mark loves riding bikes, listening to...


Dr Lynette Plenderleith on Grace Olive Wiley

Lynette is a wildlife biologist by training and has a Ph.D from Monash University, where she studied the ecology of native Australian frogs. She is now a science media specialist, working mostly in television. Lynette is current president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Science Communi-cators and spends her spare time snorkelling, hiking and competing with her dogs at agility.


Ben Mackenzie on Veronica Megler

Ben Mackenzie is a performer, writer, game designer and nerd for all seasons. He’s written and performed stand-up, sketch comedy, theatre and late night museum tours. He’s part of the team behind the award-winning time travel comedy Night Terrace, and currently co-hosts the Terry Pratchett book club podcast Pratchat. His games include the hit live bank heist adventure Small Time Criminals, and (as lead writer) Table of Tales: The Crooked Crown, a PlayStation VR game from Tin Man Games...


Ben Francischelli on Mary Anning

Ben is a Vertebrate Paleontologist from Museums Victoria, where he has been exploring the southern coastline of prehistoric Australia for ancient marine organisms. His work has a focus on whales, but he’ll pretty much work on anything that has a backbone and exists within the marine environment. Ben has been on numerous paleontological digs and has found evidence of new species of mega-toothed sharks, the largest birds that took to the sky and crazy weird whales un-known to science. Ben can...


David Nuthall on Elizabeth Loftus

Dave is a former and future provisional psychologist and a musician. One time a friend said that nothing is boring if you know enough about it and he clings to this for justifying his crippling wikipedia habit. Go see his band Hi New Low, and find them on instagram for kimchi pancakes that look like maps of Jurassic park.


Julian O'Shea on Arthur Eddington

Julian O’Shea is an engineer turned traveller and educator. He leads overseas study tours across Asia including Nepal, India, and Vietnam. As a Melbourne inner city type he sometimes finds the lack of lattes challenging. He has his own crazy projects in the works including a high altitude balloon launch for the upcoming National Science Week, and is building a solar powered tuk tuk that he will drive across Australia.


Kiri Beilby on Christopher Polge

Kiri is a lecturer and Course Coordinator for the Graduate Diploma of Reproductive Science at Monash University. She graduated from The University of Sydney with a Ph.D. in animal reproduction & genetics, followed by a science communication chaser at the ANU. Kiri accepts that you only get a noble prize by experimenting on yourself, and she works with sperm, so it’s a bit awkward - her subjects would have to buy her dinner first!


Idan Ben Barak on Max Von Pettenkoffer

Idan has degrees in microbiology, and the history and philosophy of science, a diploma in library studies, and a day job that has very little to do with any of the above. He’s written three books so far. He lives in a smallish rented apartment in Ivanhoe with his wife and their two boys. Sometimes, after they go to bed, he grabs his guitar and makes up harmless little tunes. If you're extra-specially nice, you might get to taste his hummus.