A year of research in pictures

15 December 2022
Striking images of viruses, shell lobbing octopuses and more
2022 was a year of amazing research across science, medicine and engineering at the University of Sydney. Here are some images that caught our imagination and attention.

Octopuses hurl mud at each other

Octopuses caught on camera throwing objects. Credit: Peter Godfrey-Smith et al.

When female octopuses feel harassed they ‘throw’ objects at males courting them, a behaviour previously only seen in mammals. A team led by Professor Peter Godfrey-Smith from the University of Sydney’s School of History and Philosophy of Science and Charles Perkins Centre uncovered the unique behaviour using underwater cameras to observe a species known as the gloomy octopus (Octopus tetricus) in Jervis Bay.

Read more (published November 2022) 

Brain map finds memory puzzle

Image of the ‘wiring diagram’ of a human brain revealing connections

Image of the ‘wiring diagram’ of a human brain revealing connections. Credit: Marshall Dalton.  

The most detailed map of brain’s memory hub, the hippocampus, found something surprising: fewer links than seen in our primate cousins. A team led by Dr Marshall Dalton of the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney found that the number of connections between the hippocampus and key brain areas like the frontal cortical lobes was much lower than in primates but higher for visual processing areas. Could this help explain why some of our primate cousins – especially chimpanzees – are better at short-term memory tasks than humans?

Read more  (published November 2022)

Virus unmasked

Transmission electron micrograph of new variant Hendra virus (HeV-g2). Source: Annand et al.

In 2015, a Queensland horse died an unexpected death, and a sample was taken and archived in a laboratory. Then scientific detective work led by University of Sydney researchers uncovered the death was in fact caused by an unrecognised variant of the Hendra virus, using updated testing methods. The researchers also captured a transmission electron micrograph of the virus.

Read more (published February 2022)

Future of synthetic tissues in surgery

Close up of the structure of the material used to construct the 'living blood vessel'. Source: Wang et al.

This seemingly nondescript image is in fact a close-up of a material used by scientists to construct a 'living blood vessel'. A team led by Professor Tony Weiss based at the Charles Perkins Centre developed the material, which mimics the complex structure of naturally occurring blood vessels in remarkable detail.

Read more (published October 2022)

Sensor bracelet

The 3D printed sensor bracelet designed to give back control to people living with hand-impairment.  Credit: Louise Cooper, University of Sydney

People who lack the ability to use their hands from conditions like motor neurone disease and cerebral palsy may one day be able to play video games that require a handheld controller through the use of customisable, wearable 3D printed bracelet created by Stephen Lin, a researcher and honours student in the School of Computer Science. 

Read more (published May 2022) 

New robot to lend a hand in joint replacements

KOBRA or the Kolling Orthopaedic Biomechanics Robotic Arm will be used to perform experiments to advance surgical techniques.  

Meet KOBRA, a robot which may hold the key to significant improvements in hip and knee replacements. Known also as the Kolling Orthopaedic Biomechanics Robotic Arm, the robot is able to copy human movement and is unique as it can test complex movements such as hip flexing, squatting, walking and throwing,

KOBRA is the largest of its kind in Australia and is now operational at the Kolling Institute, a joint venture between the Northern Sydney Local Health District and the University of Sydney.

Read more (published September 2022)

Flying high

Bluewren soared to a maximum altitude of 29,933 feet, placing first in its division at the 2022 Spaceport America Cup competition, held in New Mexico. Credit: USYD Rocketry Team. 

In July, the USYD Rocketry Team was announced as the overall winner of the Spaceport America Cup intercollegiate rocketry competition, held annually in New Mexico. Competing against 97 student teams from around the globe, the Sydney team placed first in three categories – winning the overall competition with the highest points scored, taking out first place for the launch of their 30,000 feet commercial-off-the-shelf rocket Bluewren and first place for the design of space debris capture payload Callistemon.

Read more (published July 2022)

Graveyard of dead suns

Point-cloud chart of the Milky Way seen side-on, versus the galactic underworld. Credit: University of Sydney

It turns out that our Milky Way galaxy is girdled by a gargantuan necropolis of ancient dead stars that’s bigger than the galaxy itself. In September, astronomers Professor Peter Tuthill and his PhD student David Sweeney unveiled the first map of the ‘galactic underworld’ – a map of the corpses of once massive suns that have since collapsed into black holes and neutron stars. The previously unknown stellar tomb stretches three times the height of the Milky Way, and almost a third of the stars have been flung out from the galaxy altogether.

Read more (published September 2022)

Rogue waves

Research on extreme ocean waves is performed by conducting modelling and experimental demonstrations using the University of Sydney's wave tank. Credit: Louise Cooper, University of Sydney

Research published by the University of Sydney and Kyoto University researchers found that extreme or ‘rogue’ ocean waves could be more frequent in multi-directional wave formations than previously expected. To recreate the sea’s complex conditions, researchers conducted experimental demonstrations in a 30-metre-long wave tank located in the University’s School of Civil Engineering

Read more (published November 2022)

Ivy Shih

Media and PR Adviser (Medicine and Health)

Low Luisa

Media and PR Adviser (Engineering & IT)

Wilson da Silva

Media Adviser (Science)

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