The University of Western Australia is an academic powerhouse with an internationally famous Business School and one of the world’s leading faculties of Science – a focus of research at the very highest level.



But the University of Western Australia is making its presence felt way beyond our world, with UWA scientists helping reveal the secrets of Mars.


When Perth was rebranded as ‘education city’, it was a move acknowledging the region’s high concentration of universities together with its significance in Australian academic life. That reputation has been built in part by the University of Western Australia, a member of the prestigious Group of Eight top institutions. A focus of scientific activity and research, UWA has some of the world’s best known specialist centres dedicated to Physical and Life Sciences. One such facility, known as the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis (CMCA), has been helping set the high standards expected of Australian science. What’s more, the impact of CMCA research is being felt far beyond its host city of Perth. Next, an example of high-profile research work that has achieved global recognition and has led to cooperation on an international scale. Read on!



Science at the University of Western Australia – revealing the secrets of Mars.

西澳大學的科學研究 – 揭露火星的秘密


Truly awe-inspiring news came this summer, when NASA announced that their team had successfully landed the Curiosity rover on Mars. Few of us could ever be directly involved in a project like this but thanks to an almost constant stream of high-resolution images sent back to earth from the roverʼs onboard cameras, it has been much easier for us all – experts and science newbies alike – to share in NASAʼs success and also to feel a connection with the project.



If youʼre looking to see whatʼs on offer in Australian universities, you may be interested to know how much more closely the University of Western Australia has been involved, and the part UWA research plays in international projects like this latest Mars mission.



On August 8th Curiosity touched down. One of the priorities of its mission is collecting soil samples from the surface of Mars, which it will carefully analyse using the roverʼs mini-laboratory. Like picking up a fistful of earth, Curiosityʼs robotic arm has been busy scooping up bits of Martian rock and soil, then sorting and feeding them into its sophisticated onboard equipment. These instruments use a range of analysis methods to produce the soil data. Curiosity can use heat, gravity, vibrations and other techniques such as light spectrum analysis to see what the samples contain.



Of course the data sent back after those experiments on the red planet provide an opportunity to understand what exists on Mars now, but they are also a way to see what may have existed a long time before now, in Martian history.



8 years ago a key discovery was made on Mars. Scientists saw a distinctive geological formation – shaped like small berries of fruit – which is also found on Earth. Once experts had seen these formations on Mars, it was clear they could compare what they knew about similar kinds on Earth. Knowledge about these berry-like forms embodied the theory that they are made by water as it moves inside rock. It seemed to show that at some time in its history Mars was a wet environment. Then came new discoveries back on earth that have suggested some even more exciting possibilities, and that is where work at UWA comes in.



The University of Western Australia is a focus of global scientific activity and research – UWA has some of the world’s best known specialist centres dedicated to Science, and they are supported by facilities like the university’s Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis (CMCA). The CMCA is available to students and researchers working in a very wide range of disciplines – regularly leading to discoveries in medicine, technology, in plant biology, and in geology.



And that includes the geology of Mars. Those berry-like soil formations that we mentioned a little earlier were the subject of CMCA studies by two geoscience researchers, who produced new work that could help elucidate whether Mars could ever have supported life.



Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech


Sophisticated tools at the centre, such as electron microscopes and advanced

computer-based imaging, enabled UWA professors Matt Kilburn and David Wacey to show how tiny life forms can also be present when those berry-like materials take shape. The team has demonstrated that, when they are found on Earth, these ballshaped materials form because living microbes are in existence.

研究中心的精密工具如電子顯微鏡及進階電腦顯影讓UWA的Matt Kilburn 與 Davied Wacey 能夠指出那些果實狀地質形成時可能有微小生命形態存在。研究團隊已經模擬出地球上的同樣球狀地質是經由微生物活動形成。



That work has been extended from the context of our Earth to speculating about how the same processes might have taken place on Mars. In the search for Martian life, this is a tantalising possibility! It’s a well-supported hypothesis that has been convincing enough to grab the attention of the world’s scientific community and the news media. And while it’s true that Curiosity carries no special instruments designed to detect life directly, it is surely on a quest to find conditions that in the past could have been suitable for life.

Science at the University of Western Australia may have taken us a step closer to the answer.

這些研究工作的內容已經從地球歷史延伸到觀察火星是否有同樣的發展過程。對火星生命的研究學者來說,這是個誘人的可能性! 這個理論具備足夠證據,已經引起全球科學專家及新聞媒體的注目。雖然好奇號並未配備能夠直接偵測生命的功能,它仍然背負著重大任務,必須尋找過往火星曾是適合生命環境的證據。


At the University of Western Australia, who can use facilities like the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis (CMCA)?



The objective of the centre is to provide the Australian research community with access to high-end instruments and analytical techniques. The facilities are used by students and researchers through a wide range of programs. You might be a student of materials science, Earth and planetary science, biology and biomedical science, chemistry or physics. All UWA staff and students can register and pay fees to access the CMCA Bayliss facilities. UWA offers access to its neighbours in Perth – Curtin, Murdoch and Edith Cowan Universities.

此中心的目標是提供澳洲研究團隊使用高階設備及分析技術的機會。這些設施由各學科的老師及研究人員使用。你可能是研究材質科學、地球及行星科學、生物及生物醫學、化學或物理的學生。所有的UWA的師資及學生都能登記並付費使用CMCA的設施。UWA也提供其他位於伯斯市的大學使用權 – 包括科廷、梅鐸及艾帝斯考恩大學。


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