In summary

  • With the vision of making the world a better place to live, Swinburne students pitched their STEMM based ideas as part of the 2021 Start Talking competition
  • The science communication presentations develops a student’s skill in breaking down complex STEMM concepts and communicating them to large audiences 
  • Matthew Schipper won first place for his presentation ‘Mmm…Plastics…’ while Celestina Jillian-Mae was voted People’s Choice for her presentation ‘Malaysia, Electricity and the Ocean’. 

Swinburne’s science communication competition Start Talking was held virtually on 14 October with the vision of making the world a better place to live.

Matthew Schipper was crowned the winner of the $400 prize by the judges for his presentation ‘Mmm…Plastics’ and Celestina Jillian-Mae was awarded People’s Choice and $100 for her presentation ‘Malaysia, Electricity and the Ocean’.

The competition aims to develop students’ progression from science communication theory to professional practice and forms part of Swinburne’s Shaping STEMM Futures Initiative. All Swinburne students can submit a STEMM based idea and work with staff and Adobe Digital Coaches to record a four-minute video presentation.

For the first time students from Swinburne’s Sarawak campus competed, and they were well represented, with more than 100 registrations and 10 semi-finalists presenting at the virtual ceremony.

‘I believe community knowledge is a powerful force, my aim is to empower students to act as science communicators to lead, shape and make a difference to communities and the future of STEMM,’ says convenor of Swinburne’s Communication for Scientists unit and event organiser, Dr Bita Zaferanloo

Reducing plastic waste

Mr Schipper is a third year Bachelor of Science (Professional) student who felt inspired by the little known fact that particular types of bacteria can break down plastic.

His presentation ‘Mmm…Plastics…’, based off Homer Simpson’s iconic quote in The Simpsons ‘Mmm…Donuts…’, discusses how certain bacteria found on plastic can actually eat the plastic and be used strategically to minimise the environmental impact of plastic waste. 

‘Plastic isn’t something anything alive should be able to eat, that’s part of why plastic waste is an issue. And yet here we are, with an actual living organism that isn’t just able to digest plastic but can do so in a way that’s not only advantageous to itself, but literally everyone involved.’


Matthew Schipper’s presentation ‘Mmm…Plastics…’ breaks down an environmentally friendly way of using bacteria to eat plastic

Mr Schipper was able to create his presentation through applications and software such as Photoshop. He was surprised about how time consuming the process was, although it was ‘worth it without a doubt’. 

'It's insane how much time, focus and skill is required to make a high quality, professional presentation. Finishing this now makes me realise how vaguely I understood that, watching these things from afar.'

‘It goes without saying, I didn’t expect to win at all!’

Improving hydroelectricity

Ms Jillian-Mae is in her second year of the Bachelor of Science majoring in Biotechnology at Swinburne Sarawak and joined the competition to push herself out of her comfort zone.

‘It had been quite some time since our studies went online, and I have been raring for a challenge. While I was still anxious as it had been my first competition in a long time, I liked that it required us to convey information for everyone, which, in truth, is quite challenging.’

Her presentation ‘Malaysia, Electricity and the Ocean’, discusses how hydroelectricity can be used more efficiently though the use of the ocean’s heat to power turbines that produce energy (known as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversation).

'Malaysia, Electricity and the Ocean'

Celestina Jillian-Mae’s presentation ‘Malaysia, Electricity and the Ocean’ helps to boost renewable energy usage

Winning People’s Choice was ‘surprising’ for Ms Jillian-Mae. ‘It inspires me to want to learn even more about STEMM so I can convey it to others,’ she says.

‘It’s exciting to be involved in these events - there is so much more that I can do as a STEMM student to spread knowledge.’

Related articles