Michael Edmonds

Dr Michael Edmonds has 20 years research experience in organic and analytical chemistry most of which has involved the synthesis and analysis of biological molecules with interesting properties. Some of this work involved developing a new approach to preparing novel fluorinated organic compounds. Since 2010 he has been in a management role and is currently Head of Engineering & Architectural Studies at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. Over the past few years he has also realised the importance of science communication, and as such started this blog along with giving a range of public talks. Science communication is important for not only encouraging the public to understand and enjoy the benefits of science, but also to immunise them against the purveyors of pseudoscience and anti-scientific sentiments.

New Year’s Honours – Who is being recognised? - Molecular Matters

Jan 15, 2017

Each year when the list of New Year’s Honours recipients is announced I eagerly look to see if any scientists and engineers are among the recipients. And usually I am disappointed to see a sparse representation. More often awards seem to go to sportspeople, politicians and business people, or at least that is the impression I get, particularly from the media. But is this a fair comment or just my cognitive bias kicking in? To answer this I decided to do an analysis on the recent 2017 New Years Honours list, the data for which is represented in the Table and Graphs below. In order to analyse the information, I had to make a few judgement calls regarding categorising the different awards which it is reasonable to explain up front. First, I simplified the award categories – for example, those awarded for activities … Read More

John Key rejects inconvenient research (again) - Molecular Matters

Jun 19, 2016

On Friday, the New Zealand Herald reported that John Key has yet again rejected research that contradicted what the governments’ position is – in this case on the lack of effectiveness of 90 day trial employments. John Keys’ response to the Motu funded report, which found that 90 day employment trials result in no statistically significant increase in employees being hiring by employers was: “You can have a piece of academic research but it’s quite different from the small cafe owner whose money is on the line, who is taking the risks and who actually rely on this kind of policy. “We are very comfortable that the law is working, we think it is effective, and we just fundamentally disagree with the research.” Mr Key seems to miss the point of research – that it is supposed to help us avoid making erroneous decisions … Read More

Are children natural scientists? - Molecular Matters

Apr 28, 2016

Earlier in the week I attended the New Zealand Association of Scientists conference in Wellington. The theme of the conference was “The Future for Scientists in New Zealand”. It was a very interesting conference with a diverse range of thoughtful and thought-provoking talks. During the conference the idea that young children are natural scientists was mentioned several times – an idea that bothered me a bit at the time but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Children are certainly very curious, in the same way many researchers are curious – about how and why things work. It later occurred to me that the answer is obvious; science is more than curiosity – it imposes specific frameworks on what we observe around us so that we can make better sense of what we are seeing – so that we can … Read More

Should degrees be taught mainly by research active staff? - Molecular Matters

Mar 28, 2016

Should degrees be taught mainly by research active staff?* is one of the many questions being asked in the “New models of tertiary education” issues paper released for comment in February of this year. Looking at the various regulations currently embedded in New Zealand there appears to an assumption that degrees benefit from being taught by research active staff. For example, New Zealand’s Education Act states of universities that “their research and teaching are closely interdependent and most of their teaching is done by people who are active in advancing knowledge” Also, NZQA states in its Guidelines for Degree Approval and Accreditation states that “most staff teaching on the degree programme will be engaged in research, in a field that supports the delivery of the degree programme and underpins its theoretical framework.” However, in practice does being … Read More

Exploring the Blended/Distance Delivery Landscape – A Learners’ Perspective - Molecular Matters

Mar 26, 2016

One of the things I love about the summer break is that it gives me time to learn new things. Normally this means working my way through as many books as I can read before I have to go back to work (when my time for recreational reading evaporates). In summer 2015/2016 I decided to direct my learning in a different direction and explore the blended and distance delivery landscape. For those not familiar with these terms, blended delivery refers to education programs where at least part of the content is delivered other than face to face, typically using digital or online media. Distance delivery, as the name suggests, is where students learn at a distance from the physical campus of the learning institution. In both cases the student typically has some control and freedom over when, where, and at … Read More

Skeptics Conference 2015 – Should I become a vegan? - Molecular Matters

Nov 23, 2015

Over the weekend (20-22nd November I attended (and MC’d) the 2015 NZ Skeptics Conference in Christchurch. The theme of the conference was Apocalypse How? with many of the speakers talking about ways the world/humankind might end. Some talked about fictional/fantastical ways we might meet our demise while others provided scenarios much more possible. Given the topics and the great line up of speakers, I knew the conference would raise some interesting questions, but I was not expecting to end up asking myself “Should I become a vegan?” as the result of four speakers presentations. The first speaker to make me consider this question was Professor Kim Socha from Normandale Community College in Minnesota who spoke about “Science, Religion and Speciesism”. Her advocacy of veganism fairly straightforward and was based around the ethical issues of mistreating animals and causing them pain. The second speaker, Dr Mike Joy spoke … Read More

Social media’s dark side - Molecular Matters

Nov 08, 2015

Social media has become an integral part of many peoples lives and provide many benefits – wider access to information, an introduction  to those with similar interests, and exposure to new ideas. However, it also has a dark side which can be seen in the vicious and cruel comments which appear on Twitter as well as platforms such as Facebook and Youtube. Many such comments are those few would dare to say face to face, so what is it about social media that brings out our dark side? Is it simply that anonymity makes us “braver” or is there more to it? On TV3’s the Nation yesterday there was a fascinating interview by Jon Ronson, a journalist and documentary maker who was at the forefront of some examples of Twitter “shaming” where Twitter was used to bludgeon those who were perceived … Read More

Star Talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson - Molecular Matters

Apr 28, 2015

I saw the first episode of Star Talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson this week and it was really fascinating. It played on the National Geographic channel (72) on Sky, however, it can also be seen via youtube. This week the science and other aspects of Star Trek (e.g. social change) was discussed with guest star George Takei. Definitely worth a watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf3tgIBrw8I … Read More

The Tricorder – the Next Star Trek Inspired Device to Come True? - Molecular Matters

Apr 28, 2015

Most Star Trek fans point to the Star Trek communicator as an example of yesterday’s science fiction becoming today’s science fact, in the development of the mobile phone. With the warp drive and transporter still out of reach, the next Star Trek inspired device is likely to be the tricorder, thanks to a competition currently being run by Qualcomm. I was surprised to find out that this competition has been running since 2013 and that the ten finalist teams are now working towards judging at the end of this year. Unfortunately (but not unsurprisingly) the website has few details regarding each teams devices so we may have to wait until the end of the year to find out how close they get to producing a tricorder.   … Read More

Becoming a Scientist – My story - Molecular Matters

Apr 27, 2015

My parents have recently moved house and in the process of downsizing have shipped me some of my old stuff (books, old report cards, photos). It has been very interesting going through it, particularly looking at some of the item  which I think influenced my choice to become a scientist. Previously, my fellow blogger Grant Jacobs asked readers “What motivated you to study science?” and readers may offer one or two ideas about why they became a scientist. Here, I’m going to explore various points in my life which I think nudged me towards a scientific career (and a few which could have discouraged it). I have always been a voracious reader and at the age of about 11 or 12 my parents gave me a Pears Encyclopedia (at the time probably a reasonable substitute for Google). I remember … Read More