Keynote Speakers

CONASTA 61 will be hosting some of the best Australian and international speakers. These will include: Drs Tim & Stephanie Slater,  Professor James Robertson, Dr. Kylie CatchpoleDr Peter StoneProf. Michael Jennions and Dr Charley Lineweaver 


Drs Tim & Stephanie Slater
CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research, USA    

A Cognitive Approach to Enhancing Students' Critical Thinking
Much of the rhetoric focused on improving science teaching calls for teachers to invoke a student-centered, inquiry-oriented approach to instruction.  Clearly easier to say than to actually implement, one wonders if such a contemporary approach to the teaching of science can effectively enhance students’ critical thinking. Recent research results in cognitive science now offer new pathways for building effective and engaging learning experiences that directly target students’ critical thinking and intellectual engagement in complex scientific concepts.  By combining notions of cognitive overload and scaffolding, we have developed a backwards-faded scaffolding approach that dramatically enhances students’ understandings of the nature of scientific inquiry, as well as their conceptual understanding of science.    

Working at the CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research, Drs. Tim and Stephanie Slater are discipline-based education researchers working at the intersection of cognitive science and astronomy education.  Stephanie Slater earned her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona (USA) in Teaching, Learning & Socio-Cultural Studies where she studied the educational impact of scientific research experiences on women in astronomy.  Tim Slater is the University of Wyoming (USA) Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair of Science Education and holds appointments as a Professor in both the UW College of Science and the UW College of Education.  Highly recognized speakers at professional conferences around the world, their science education research endeavors are funded by the USA National Science Foundation and NASA and focuses on developing classroom-ready teaching strategies to intellectually engage students at all levels in authentic scientific inquiry.    

 Professor James Robertson
Professorial Fellow and Director, National Centre for Forensic Studies    

Forensic science, fact , fiction and the media - does accuracy matter ?
On one night in the USA 30 million people watched CSI and at least 70 million watched at least one of three CSI programs . What is the so called CSI effect and should  we be worried about its impact on the criminal  justice system ? In this presentation the role of the media in how they present forensic science will be discussed and the real impact of CSI mythology exposed ! The real role  forensic science plays will be explored and why it is important that a balnaced appraoch to forensic science is critical to its effective use.    

Dr Robertson is a Professorial Fellow at the University of Canberra having moved to UC in 2010 after a 20 year career leading the forensic group with the Australian Federal Police. Previuolsy he worked as a senior sceintist in South Australia having moved to Adelaide in 1985 from Scotland where he lectured in forensic scince for nearly ten years. He is an active researcher with over 100 publications . He is the President of the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences, Vice President of the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society and Chair of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences Advisory Forum. He is an Honorary Doctor of the University of Canberra and an Honorary or Adjunct Professor at four universities in Australia and overseas. He holds the Australian Public Service Medal ( PSM ) and is Member of the Order of Australia ( AM ) .    


Dr. Kylie Catchpole
Research Fellow, Australian National University    

Solar electricity - getting better all the time
Solar electricity is continually dropping in price, and the solar industry is doubling in size every 20 months.  The price of solar electricity is now the same as the retail price of conventional electricity in many parts of Australia.  This presentation will give an overview of solar electricity worldwide and a summary of the latest research on using nanotechnology to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of solar cells. It will also attempt to give a sense of what the process of doing science is like, and the implications of that for science teaching.    

Kylie Catchpole is a Research Fellow at the Australian National University. She has published over 60 papers and her work on has been featured in the news sections of Science magazine and The Economist. In 2010, her work was listed as one of MIT Technology Review’s 10 most important emerging technologies. Currently she leads the nanophotonics group in the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at ANU.    

 Dr Peter Stone 
Deputy Chief, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences and Director of Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance

What can Julius Caesar teach us about coal seam gas?    
Coal seam gas is a source of energy that, whether combusted or discussed, has the potential to generate more heat than light. We'll explore the process of extracting and using coal seam gas and its likely impacts on water, greenhouse gas emissions, farms and farmers. By reflecting on such timeless maxims as ‘never bring a knife to a gunfight’, ‘be certain that you’re uncertain’ and ‘facts never speak for themselves’, we’ll discover the critical role of science in informing public decision and debate, and methods by which that role can be enhanced.    

Peter Stone is Deputy Chief of CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences and the Director of GISERA, the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance. GISERA is a vehicle initiated by Australia Pacific LNG and CSIRO to foster collaborative public good research into the social and environmental challenges and opportunities associated with Australia’s growing gas industry.

Peter’s work history includes farm management, food industry consulting, grain marketing and agricultural research. For much of the last 10 years, his research has focused on the use of contested land-based resources, seeking to understand the intersection of a range of scientific, community and industry perspectives.    


Prof. Michael Jennions 
Professor, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University    

he Consequences of Sex: sex ratios, parental care, attractiveness and sexy genitals 
What is sexual reproduction, and why do biologists struggle to explain its evolution? When we think about sex in animals we usually assume that a male and a female are involved, but this is not necessarily true. Explaining the evolution of the two sexes (labelled males and females) is a distinct issue from explaining the evolution of sexual reproduction. Assuming we can explain the evolution of two sexes, we can ask why, with notable exceptions, there are such obvious behavioural and morphological differences between the sexes. For example, on average, female mammals, birds and insects tend to provide more parental care than males, and males tend to invest more than females into producing elaborate sexual ornaments. Why? I will provide a broad overview of current thinking on these questions. Finally, I will present new data testing an old rumour about sexual attractiveness in humans (Hint: Does size really matter?). 

Michael Jennions completed his undergraduate degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He then received a scholarship to study at Oxford University. He was awarded his PhD in 1996 for his research on sexual selection. He subsequently completed three years of post-doctoral research working on fish behaviour and reproductive biology at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He moved to the Australian National University (ANU) in 2001, and currently holds an Australian Research Council DORA Fellowship in the Research School of Biology. He has published over 125 papers and book chapters, which have been cited about 4 500 times. Research conducted in collaboration with colleagues has been published in several papers in the prestigious journal Nature. His main research interests are in the broad areas of evolutionary ecology and sexual selection. He has published papers on plants, crickets, damselflies, butterflies, crabs, frogs, birds and marsupials. 

 Dr Charles Lineweaver
Associate Professor, Australian National University    

Cool Factoids about the Big Bang, Black Holes and Aliens    
If our goal is to inspire a new generation of scientist cool factoids can help.  I will discuss the most interesting cool factoids about the universe, black holes and aliens  -- Including 

  1) the ubiquitous grapefruit
  2) whether the universe contains an infinite number of Julia Guillards.
  3) recession velociites greater than the speed of light
  4) how some events, including the big bang, may not have had a cause.
  5) how the universe could be a black hole
  6) why we may already have detected extraterrestrial life

Charles H. Lineweaver  is the coordinator of the Austrailian National University’s Planetary Science Institute and holds a joint appointment in the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Earth Sciences.  He obtained an undergraduate degree in physics from Ludwig Maximillians Universitat, Munich, Germany and a PhD in astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley.

His research areas include cosmology (determination of the age and composition of the universe) exoplanetology  (the statistical analysis of exoplanets) and astrobiology ( using our new knowledge of cosmology to constrain life in the Universe).   His research has been published in Science, Nature, the Astrophysical Journal, Astrobiology, Scientific American, American Journal of Physics, and Microbiology Australia.

He is the son of a high school biology teacher and has lived in or traveled through 65 countries, has spoken 4 languages semi-fluently at one time or another, and was a semi-professional soccer player in Germany.   Personal homepage:


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