15 December 2017

Over the course of this year, there have been literally hundreds of new research breakthroughs, discoveries and advances by Australian universities.

We’ve looked back at the year that’s been and the stories that Universities Australia brought to the Australian public as part of its Keep It Clever campaign.

Below is a list, by no means exhaustive, of the research stories that caught your eye in 2017.




It’s the most common cancer in women in Australia. But a new optical fibre probe can tell breast cancer tissue from normal tissue, making surgery more precise. It’s an idea from The University of Adelaide with huge potential.

Click here to read the full article. 

The hidden killer of Australian women


What's killing more Australian women than cancer? New research from the Australian Catholic University reveals we may be ignoring the signs of a hidden killer.

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Geologists find biggest exposed fault on earth


Beneath the sea off the coast of eastern Indonesia is an area that could be vital in predicting future earthquakes and tsunamis. Australian National University scientists who discovered it say the Banda Detachment fault is seven kilometres deep and extends over 60,000 square kilometres, making it the biggest in the world. 

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Parents grossly overestimate benefits of antibiotics


Are we over-using antibiotics for kids' respiratory and ear infections? Bond University researchers say yes. Their research found that antibiotics were often prescribed for acute childhood respiratory infections despite providing marginal benefits. 

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Helping humans walk on Mars


It's a giant leap for mankind but even one small step might be tricky on the mission to Mars. A long space journey can make standing and walking a challenge for astronauts. University of Canberra researchers are helping NASA to get things moving.

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Survey finds high level of violence against paramedics


Our ambos are on the front line when it comes to saving lives. Bur they're increasingly at risk of physical attack from the very people they're trying to help. It's not just an Australian problem, a CQUniversity survey has found. 

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Not just hot, but bothered


Feeling hot and bothered? It turns out the way you think about the heat can actually increase your stress. A Charles Darwin University study confirms it.

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Changing nature of writing shapes school curriculums


Is handwriting important in an age of keyboards, touch screens and mobiles? And, if so, should that shape what we teach in schools? New research from Charles Sturt University suggests there's still a place for pencil and paper.

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Six-year-olds aware of sexualised images


Is adolescence too late for programs that educate girls about sexualised images? Curtin University found worrying attitudes in girls as young as six.

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Virtual reality brings dinosaurs to life


How's this for a Jurassic perk? Imagine being able to touch a dinosaur - feeling the grooves and contours of its lizard-like skin. Virtual reality and 3D modelling are about to make this mind-blowing experience a reality. Deakin University researchers will showcase their work in Geelong later this year.

Click here to read the full article.

Soil linked to antibiotic resistant bacteria


Kids like to play in the dirt. But if that dirt is polluted with even small amounts of metals they could risk being exposed to bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics, according to Edith Cowan University researchers. And that should have planners and developers taking note. 

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Platypus venom could hold the key to diabetes treatment


They're cute, iconic and distinctively Australian. Now a new discovery about platypus venom could bring benefits to diabetes sufferers, say Federation University Australia researchers. A virtuous use for venom? Now you're talking.

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Wearable device trains insomniacs to fall asleep


A new wearable tracking device could put an end to those sleepless nights. Insomniacs, let's hear it for the Flinders University Australia team. 

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Efficient catalysts the key to turn water into fuel


Clean fuel made from water? It's possible. A team at Griffith University is now working to make it economically viable. A new generation fuel that's cool, clean and cheap? What a combo. 

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New insights into how Australia's first peoples populated the continent


How did Australia's first peoples survive as they began to populate the world's driest continent over 47,000 years ago? By clever use of water sources. Great work, James Cook University!

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Responding to domestic violence in East Timor

La Trobe

In East Timor, nearly half the women of child-bearing age have experienced domestic violence. Health care workers are struggling to respond to the scale of the problem. But researchers from La Trobe University say training midwives to understand more about legal protections and support services could help. 

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Blood biomarker discovery a breakthrough for MS sufferers


A new simple blood test could spare multiple sclerosis sufferers from drawn-out and expensive testing regimes. And it's all thanks to a world-first discovery by Macquarie University researchers. Now that's clever. 

Click here to read the full article.

New understanding of 'Jekyll and Hyde' brain cells


What makes normally helpful brain cells turn rogue? New findings from researchers at The University of Melbourne provide hope that many brain diseases, including Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's disease, brain trauma and spinal cord injury may be treatable.

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Women wait years for polycystic ovary syndrome diagnosis


It affects nearly one in five women of childbearing age. And it increases your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression. Yet this chronic condition often goes undiagnosed for years, Monash University researchers found. 

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Sawfish exposed as the ultimate stealth hunter 


Well this makes sense. Swiftness and stealth are the key to how sawfish hunt their prey. But what makes their lethal sideswipes so effective? Murdoch University scientists have taken a closer look and their work might just help save this endangered species. 

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For alcohol-related injuries, home is where the harm is


The place where you should be safest can be the most dangerous of all. In this study, people who turned up at the emergency departments with alcohol related injuries were more likely to have been hurt at home than in pubs and clubs. Startling news from The University of New England

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Revolutionary solar cells hit new world efficiency record


These revolutionary solar cells are flexible, cheap to produce and could even be sprayed on to buildings. And the best part of all? Australia is leading the world by making them work at record efficiency. Clever work UNSW, Sydney!

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Australia found to gyrate with the weather


Now that rocks—literally! Up and down, round and round—the whole continent of Australia gyrates with the weather. A world-first discovery from The University of Newcastle.

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Active bodies lead to a healthier sense of self


Sport and physical activity helps to build a healthy self-image and avert stress—especially for teenage girls. This study by The University of Notre Dame Australia found that motor coordination plays a crucial role in developing self-esteem. 

Click here to read the full article. 

Daylight saving could help koala conservation


Could Queensland save koalas' lives by adopting daylight savings? Researchers at The University of Queensland say yes.

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From rubbish dump to clean diesel: old tyres transformed


Around the world, 1.5 billion tonnes of tyres are thrown away each year. Australia, alone, will send 55 million a year to landfill by 2020. But can we turn this environmental zero into an environmental hero? Queensland University of Technology scientists think so.

Click here to read the full article. 

A carbon footprint league table for fresh foods


Which of these fresh foods does least damage to the planet? RMIT University has ranked the contribution of many foods to greenhouse gas emissions. Hint: hope you like onions!

Click here to read the full article. 

Fighting infection with 'chocolate'


As if you needed one—but here's another reason to love chocolate. University researchers are using natural cacao extract to improve how we treat infection. What's more, it's eco-friendly too. Nice work, University of South Australia.

Click here to read the full article. 

Coral reefs emit gas that influences climate


Another reason to protect coral reefs: they directly affect our weather patterns. Scientists have found that corals give off a gas that could actually help make it rain. Intriguing stuff from Southern Cross University

Click here to read the full article. 

Don't blame TV for childhood obesity


Is too much TV watching making children fat? Spoiler alert: the evidence is thin, according to a new study from the University of Southern Queensland.

Click here to read the full article. 

Marine turtles not fussy nesters


Protecting turtle nesting sites is important to the conservation of these endangered animals. So it's important to understand how they choose a spot to nest. It turns out they're not as fussy as the team from the University of the Sunshine Coast expected. A surprising result, researchers say.

Click here to read the full article. 

Futuristic holograph technology within sight


Well this is cool. Holograms projected from your watch? Or your phone? This sci fi scenario just got a step closer thanks to Swinburne University of Technology.

Click here to read the full article. 

The sports that could save your life


Want to know which sports could save your life? The researchers at The University of Sydney have got you covered. 

Click here to read the full article. 

Out-of-place fish warn of climate change impacts


Fish turning up where they're not supposed to be is more than a matter of getting lost at sea. Turns out it's linked to warming oceans. Clever detective work from the University of Tasmania is posing questions for marine management.

Click here to read the full article. 

New hope for reversing spinal cord injuries


Spinal cord injuries have paralysed 15,000 Australians. Now a new research centre at University of Technology Sydney could provide the breakthrough they need.

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Active wear helps the drive to exercise


Is active wear all show and no go? Not according to Victoria University researchers. They found that wearing something that makes you feel healthier can actually increase your desire to get active. Lycra, anyone?

Click here to read the full article. 

This drug accelerates ageing


This class of party drugs not only makes you grow older faster - researchers have also found that it hardens your arteries and increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Worrying results from this study from The University of Western Australia that shines a light on some dark side effects of drug use. 

Click here to read the full article. 

Young festivalgoers over-confident about condom use


Young festivalgoers say they are confident about how to use a condom. But a large number aren't using them correctly... or at all. New research by Western Sydney University highlights the need for health promotion campaigns.

Click here to read the full article. 

Breakthrough reveals potential cause of multiple sclerosis


Multiple sclerosis or MS affects more than 23,000 people in Australia. It's often diagnosed while people are in their 30s and there is no cure. But scientists at the University of Wollongong say they're getting closer to understanding the cause. 

Click here to read the full article.