An evening with the Royal Society of Victoria

By Bryant Gagliardi

Royal Society of Victoria. Credit: Peter Halasz.

Victoria has a long and proud history of scientific endeavour, commencing in its earliest years of European settlement. In 1854, four years after declaration of the colony of Victoria, The Philosophical Society of Victoria and The Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science were founded in 1854. These groups would ultimately combine to form the Royal Society of Victoria in 1859, a body whose important work in promoting science continues to this day.

The RSV is an active body of scientists and science enthusiasts, and a key component of the Victorian scientific community.

The RSV is an active body of scientists and science enthusiasts, and a key component of the Victorian scientific community. Among its many events is the annual Young Scientist Research Prize, which enables PhD candidates to compete for one of four prizes. These prizes are aimed at rewarding research achievements as well as students’ ability to communicate their science to the broader community. The four categories are Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences (Non-human), and Biomedical & Health Sciences. Two finalists are selected from each category to give a seminar at the event, from which an ultimate winner is selected for each category. This year, I was quite surprised (and honoured!) to be shortlisted as a finalist in the Biological Sciences category. I knew the competition was going to particularly tough when I found out my counterpart for this category was my PEARG lab colleague, Perran Ross!

These prizes are aimed at rewarding research achievements as well as students’ ability to communicate their science to the broader community.

The event took place in the heritage Royal Society building in La Trobe St, Melbourne CBD; a building I’d often walked past and wondered about, but had never entered. There was a strong sense of history walking through those front doors, not to mention nerves in anticipation of presenting.There were all kinds of paraphernalia to peruse while my fellow finalists and I waited for the main event: shelves lined with old RSV publications, portraits of society Fellows and Members, and artefacts from famous RSV-commissioned expeditions including polar explorations and the Burke and Wills expedition. We were made to feel warmly welcome by RSV President Mr David Zerman, CEO Dr Michael Flattley, and council member Dr Kevin Orrman-Rossiter.

Bryant Gargliardi was awarded the Runner-Up Prize of the RSV Young Scientist Research Prize. Credit: Pip Griffin.

It was soon time for the main event. Prior to our seminars, we were officially signed in as Society members, just down the page from Nobel Prize recipient Prof Peter Doherty as it happened! Then came our presentations, in which we were challenged to condense our years of PhD research into ten-minute presentations, with five extra minutes to field questions from the audience. It was great to be part of a group of such diverse scientists, as I got to hear an amazing range of talks; from x-ray molecular imaging to Salmonella biochemistry. I had fun discussing my own work, looking at pollution toxicity in aquatic insects, and had some great audience questions.

We were challenged to condense our years of PhD research into ten-minute presentations.

Ultimately, Perran took out the Biological Sciences award, which was well-deserved given his great presentation on tackling Dengue transmission by mosquitoes. I was very happy to receive the runner-up prize! All in all it was a really fun evening, with stimulating scientific discussions extending to the social drinks afterwards. I’m grateful to the RSV for generously supporting Victorian postgrads in this way, and I’d urge all science enthusiasts to keep an eye on their calendar of events (https://rsv.org.au/).