The Graeme Clark Oration - Australia's most prestigious free public science event




Nanomedicine Comes of Age:
How Engineered Materials Are Transforming Medical Treatment

Professor Paula T. Hammond
David H. Koch Chair Professor of Engineering  and the Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT.

Nanomedicine Comes of Age: How Engineered Materials Are Transforming Medical Treatment

By alternating positively and negatively charged molecules in sequence, it is possible to generate thin films one nano-layer at a time while controlling the composition of the film with great precision. This electrostatic layer-by-layer (LbL) process is a simple and elegant method of constructing highly tailored ultrathin polymer and organic-inorganic composite thin films.


We have used this method to develop thin films that can encapsulate and release proteins and biologic drugs such as growth factors with highly preserved activity from the surfaces of biomedical implants or wound dressings with sustained release over periods of several days. We have engineered coatings that yield release of different drugs, DNA or protein, resulting in highly tunable multi-agent delivery nanolayered release systems for tissue engineering, biomedical devices, and wound healing applications.


Depending on the nature of the LbL assembly, we can generate thin films that rapidly release proteins or peptides within minutes for rapid hemostasis to stop bleeding in soldiers on the battlefield, or release growth factors that help to regenerate bone in defects where bone may no longer grow. Recently, we have adapted the LbL approach to design nanoparticles that can deliver a sequenced one-two punch to cancer cells through the delivery of drugs in sequence by designing nanolayers that give a staged release. It is possible to design nanoparticles that consist of several nanolayers wrapped around a drug loaded core to allow the release of siRNA to silence mutant genes and lower the defences of cancer cells, followed by chemotherapeutics that enable cancer cell killing in difficult to treat tumours.


The 2018 Graeme Clark Oration will be video recorded and available for viewing on the Internet. Photos will also be taken and used on web publications and in print publications or in promotional activities. If you do not wish to be filmed or photographed, please tell our staff members on the day.



Our 2018 Orator

Professor Paula T. Hammond

Professor Paula T. Hammond is the David H. Koch Chair Professor of Engineeringand the Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the MIT Energy Initiative, and a founding member of the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology. She recently served as the Executive Officer (Associate Chair) of the Chemical Engineering Department (2008-2011). The core of her work is the use of electrostatics and other complementary interactions to generate functional materials with highly controlled architecture. Her research in nanomedicine encompasses the development of new biomaterials to enable drug delivery from surfaces with spatio-temporal control. She also investigates novel responsive polymer architectures for targeted nanoparticle drug and gene delivery, and has developed self-assembled materials systems for electrochemical energy devices.


Professor Paula Hammond was elected into the National Academy of Engineering in 2017. She was elected into the National Academy of Medicine in 2016, and into the 2013 Class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.   She is also the recipient of the 2013 AIChE Charles M. A. Stine Award, which is bestowed annually to a leading researcher in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of materials science and engineering, and the 2014 AIChE Alpha Chi Sigma Award for Chemical Engineering Research.   She was selected to receive the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Teal Innovator Award in 2013, which supports a single visionary individual from any field principally outside of ovarian cancer to focus his/her creativity, innovation, and leadership on ovarian cancer research.




Wednesday, 4 July 2018
6.15 pm – 7.30 pm



Plenary 3

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

1 Convention Centre Place

South Wharf, Melbourne










Graeme Clark Oration Youth Ambassador Program

The Convergence Science Network is celebrating its 10 years of presenting the Graeme Clark Oration by establishing the Graeme Clark Oration Youth Ambassador Program.  Each year, two senior Victorian secondary science students will be appointed as ambassadors in recognition of their academic excellence and demonstrated leadership skills.  They will attend the Oration and Oration Dinner accompanied by their family, spend private time with the orator, be given the opportunity to spend some time during the summer vacation in a research laboratory and receive $500 in support of their education.  We have been proud to support the active participation of secondary schools at the Oration since 2012.


The Inaugural Graeme Clark Oration Youth Ambassadors are Betty Zhang and Sena Fukushima.  Betty is a VCE student at Methodist Ladies’ College in Kew and Sena is completing his VCE at Mount Erin College in Frankston South.  You can learn more about these outstanding individuals here.  We will be reporting on their experience in a future post.




Betty Zhang


Betty is currently a Year 12 International Baccalaureate student from Methodist Ladies’ College and is aspiring to become a clinician-scientist, a career she has chosen because of its capacity for widespread impact. She feels being both a clinician and a scientist will allow her to help the most people by facilitating the translation of her own research and others directly into patient benefits. She wants to be able to follow the research process all the way from discovery to clinically viable treatment.


In Year 11, Betty was awarded an ASSIST Scholarship, which allowed her to spend a year in the United States attending Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico. After this, she was able to get a taste of research through the Clark Scholar program at Texas Tech University, where she was mentored by Associate Professor Josh Lawrence in the Department of Pharmacology & Neuroscience at TTU Health Sciences Centre. This summer project taught her a number of advanced scientific techniques, such as immunohistochemistry, patch clamping, and mouse behavioural analysis. Betty was able to apply these skills to help characterise a human gene knock-in mouse model of SLC13A5. This experience made her fall in love with the scientific method as a way to answer complex questions. However, she still feels that as a doctor she could play a bigger role in translating this kind of research, giving it broader impact.


Being an incredibly ambitious student, Betty is involved with a number of extracurricular activities. She is a member of Youth Neuro Australia, as well as leader of a neuroscience club at her school, Brain Buzz. Betty has also helped organise a TEDx event for her school and was a speaker on the Victorian Schools Debating Team. She is currently working with teachers, professors, and students to organise a neuroscience conference – MLC NeuroDay – which is sponsored by CSN. Her main goal is to provide students with more opportunities and make access to knowledge easier for everyone. Vic Student Science Squad is one of the ways she is accomplishing this goal.


Looking forward to this year’s Graeme Clark Oration, Betty is eager to speak with Professor Paula Hammond. She looks to gain a better understanding of Professor Hammond’s work on layer-by-layer assembly, its impact on cancer, and its translational potential. Betty is also interested in Paula’s personal experiences. Inspired by Professor Hammond’s work, Betty sees her as a role model – particularly for women in science – as Paula is a mould breaker in modern society. Overall, Betty feels this year’s orator truly represents the state of science in 2018 and the direction she hopes it maintains for the foreseeable future.


Sena Fukushima


Sena is an inquisitive VCE student, studying at Mount Erin Secondary College, with a passion for both science and music. In an effort to pursue both his interests – and in hopes of one day becoming a real-life Ironman – Sena is looking to study electrical engineering at RMIT next year. Being keenly aware that skills in science, technology, and computer programming are going to be as essential as literacy in the near future, Sena plans to stay ahead of the curve and has even taught himself the basics of coding in Python.


Music and drama are hobbies for Sena, but these outlets for his creativity require constant practice and teach him to work problems to the end. Additionally, the same passion and imaginative mindset that fuel those pastimes, also prevent Sena from accepting things as they are and force him to ask, why? In fact, to Sena, the most interesting questions are the ones that cannot yet be explained by science, like dark matter and quantum computing. Although many people avoid the unknown, it is Sena’s dream to help advance scientific understanding by contributing something towards answering these types of questions.


With a number of extracurriculars on his plate, Sena currently balances being a mentee in the Monash science mentoring program, performing in a production of high school musical, and playing in his own band. Last summer the ConocoPhillips Science Experience had a big impact on Sena. He said, “they made learning about science fun” and seeing all the opportunities on the RMIT campus has swayed Sena towards choosing RMIT for his secondary school education.


Having always had a knack for public speaking, in primary school, Sena was elected school captain. Today, he often speaks at school assemblies and acts as a student representative on the school’s refurbishment of school environments project, code name project ROSE. Over school holidays last year, Sena had the opportunity to attend the Magic Moments Youth Leadership Summit in Sydney. He spent 5 days there taking part in leadership activities and hearing from motivational speakers. The experience taught Sena about how to be a leader and drive positive change in his community.


There is no doubt that a student with Sena’s tenacity and keen intellect will have a bright future in science. At this year’s Graeme Clark Oration, Sena plans to listen and absorb as much as he can to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms behind Professor Hammond’s work and the advancements in nanotechnology. Sena will bring what he learns back to his biology and chemistry classes to discuss how these advancements will affect the future with his classmates. Overall, Sena is very excited about his opportunity to meet the orator, but just hearing about this level of research makes him even more eager to become a part of it.





The Graeme Clark Oration

The Graeme Clark Oration is delivered by global leaders in health and medical science in honour of Prof. Graeme Clark’s pioneering work in developing the bionic ear in Melbourne in the 1970’s.  It is recognised as Australia’s most prestigious free public science event and is attended by secondary school students.