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.

Lego Research Institute Now Out - Molecular Matters

Aug 10, 2014

Last year Sciblogs Siouxsie Wiles pointed out in an open letter to Lego that they could do a better job with regards to overcoming gender stereotyping. It appears that Siouxsie’s suggestion coincided with other similar complaints and that Lego have now done something towards that – excitingly in the area of science by producing an all female Lego Research Institute. It is so cool. The Lego chemistry lab looks awesome. Also by combining three different areas of science it may also encourage children to see science as involving collaboration between different fields. So with a single set Lego are promoting science, women in science, and collaboration in science. Fantastic.   … Read More

Family First on "Supporting" Transgender Students in Schools - Molecular Matters

Aug 05, 2014

I used to think that it was the irrational arguments of religious conservative groups that bugged me the most, but on watching this clip from Breakfast television I find it is the lack of empathy for those that do not fit into their little box of “normal” that is even more irritating. The clip is in response to an earlier interview on Breakfast where researchers have suggested that  transgender students at schools could be better supported by the having unisex bathrooms and more lenient rules around school uniforms. However, Bob McCoskrie from Family First disagrees, suggesting that this would lead to more confusion. The implication in his interview is that there is something wrong with transgender students and if they would just stick with the gender that matches their biological sex everything will be just fine. A pity that … Read More

Taking an Experimental Approach to Weight Loss - Molecular Matters

Aug 03, 2014

I need to lose some weight. The was the conclusion I came to on a Friday night just over a week ago when my bathroom scales told me I weighed 92.2 kg, which according to a BMI calculation for my height and weight puts me into the “overweight” category. Not the best place for someone who has a family history of heart disease and who is already exhibiting early signs of osteoarthritis. Of course, I have known this for a while – prior to the Christchurch quakes I weighed around 85 kg, however, when the quakes stuck and took out my gym (and most of the others around Christchurch) for 6 months my weight increased, helped along with the comfort food consumed during this time. Even though I still go to the gym 3-4 times a week, I’ve never lost … Read More

Let's Talk Politics - Molecular Matters

Jul 23, 2014

Well it is less than two months until the next general election in New Zealand and I must admit I feel more unsure than ever about who I will vote for. Traditionally I have tended to vote Labour because they have always seemed to have a good social conscience while avoiding what I used to interpret as the anti-science attitude of the Greens. However of late I’ve found the Greens support of science reassuring. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to research the various policies (science and otherwise) of the different political parties, so what I thought I would do is open this up to readers to provide arguments they have for who to vote for. However, I would like this to be an informed discussion which focuses on policies and evidence and avoids the personal attacks and innuendo … Read More

New Campaign to Boost Engineering Numbers at Polytechnics - Molecular Matters

Jul 23, 2014

Yesterday, an new initiative to encourage enrolments into engineering qualifications at polytechnics was launched by Steven Joyce, a move welcomed across the polytechnic and industry sectors. Graduates of the three year Bachelor of Engineering Technology and the two year New Zealand Diploma of Engineering are in demand in industry – according to the National Engineering Education Plan produced in 2010 by IPENZ, the national body for engineers in New Zealand, we need to double the number of graduates completing these qualifications, however, over the past few years there has been little growth in the number of graduates in these qualifications. One reason for the lower than desirable numbers of graduates in these programmes is the limited understanding of what engineering involves, and the perception that all engineering occurs at universities as a four year Bachelor of Engineering programme which … Read More

Why Skeptics shouldn't have Heroes - Molecular Matters

Jul 21, 2014

While there are some skeptics who I admire for their contribution to skepticism there are none who I would describe as my heroes. Assigning someone “hero status” implies that they can do no wrong, and more importantly, that their decisions or behaviour is beyond question.  This is not a valid skeptical position, as we are all capable of making mistakes. The danger of treating prominent skeptics as heroes is that they(and their fans) may start to believe they are beyond reproach. And this has caused issues in skeptical communities overseas, as is well described in the following video.   … Read More

Egyptian Army Claims Cure for HIV and Hepatitis C - Molecular Matters

Jun 30, 2014

Apparently the Egyptian army has developed a new cure for hepatitis C and HIV, described in the following video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2plhq-VqDbI#t=146 The claims about this device contain many of the trappings of pseudoscience – a secretly developed device using “electromagnetic waves”, a conspiracy to suppress the invention, however, the obvious giveaway in this story is the inclusion of a device “invented” by the Egyptian military in 2010 to detect carriers of hepatitis C in a crowd. This detector, looks suspiciously like a device that previously has been sold as a bomb and drug detection device, despite the fact that it is little more than a modern dowsing rod (made up of a hinged aerial that waves from side to side). Why the Egyptian military would be involved in such devices, I don’t know, but the potential harm is immense. Read More

What do we expect of scientists … and is it too much? - Molecular Matters

Jun 18, 2014

Depending on your point of view there are many things that are expected of scientists excellence in research great teacher effective administrator skillful grant proposal writer good mentor and research group co-ordinator media savvy science communicator All up this is quite a wide ranging and challenging list, so much so that I would suggest that there would be very few scientists who could tick off every aspect of this list. But then, it is not necessary for any scientist to achieve all of the above – it is often possible to find jobs where they can focus on their strongest skills – for example, passionate researchers may find positions with no teaching, while passionate teachers may choose positions where research is a small part of their day. And those with a bubbling enthusiasm for science communication may spend … Read More

Linwood College becomes first official STEM school in New Zealand - Molecular Matters

Jun 15, 2014

On Friday afternoon I attended the launch of Linwood College’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) education initiative. This initiative has a wide range of supporters and collaborators including local tertiary institutions (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, University of Canterbury, Lincoln University) local government and businesses (including Downer and David Reid Homes) Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and of course the staff, students and community associated with Linwood College The philosophy of the day, and the initiative, is captured in the words of Sir Paul Callaghan “the key idea is partnership”. The launch was accompanied by a comprehensive booklet outlining why STEM education is important, who is involved and how it will be achieved. The booklet was put together by Elizabeth Connor, the first winner of the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize in 2009. The … Read More