How do we unlock the secret to a happier life during a cost-of-living crisis? Can legalised psychedelics provide the answers to managing complex mental health?

The UNSW x National Science Week 2023 program has been released and UNSW scientists and researchers will feature prominently on these topics, and many more, in a week-long celebration of science, medicine and engineering.

These events are presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas, UNSW Medicine & Health, UNSW Engineering, and UNSW Science as a part of National Science Week and will be headlined by Meganne Christian, a UNSW alumna, who is poised to become one of the first Australian women in space.

The flagship event on August 15, titled Meganne Christian: An Evening with a Future Astronaut, will also include the Chief Technology Officer of the Australian Space Agency, Aude Vignelles. They will discuss Dr Christian’s inspiring journey from being an engineering student at UNSW to becoming a member of the European Space Agency astronaut reserve. Dr Christian will delve into the rigorous selection process and physical and mental training required, and the importance of space research and its impact on our everyday lives.  

National Science Week, which runs from 12 – 20 August, is Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology. UNSW will host a range of in-person and digital events, along with a selection of on-demand content, as part of its 2023 program.

UNSW Dean of Science, Scientia Professor Sven Rogge, said the University played a crucial role in this year’s National Science Week.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us to celebrate the contributions of our researchers and academics to the groundbreaking advancements in science, medicine, technology, and engineering,” Prof. Rogge said.

“This year’s National Science Week demonstrates how our scientists are leading the way in the fight against climate change on our environment, space exploration and mental health research.”

The UNSW x National Science Week program kicks off on August 14 with Rewilding. UNSW Sydney’s Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science, Professor Richard Kingsford, Principal Ecologist for the Wild Deserts project, Dr Rebecca West, Scientia Fellow and Associate Professor Katherine Moseby, and Lead Researcher for the Platypus Conservation Initiative, Dr Gilad Bino, will lead a panel discussion on saving Australia’s threatened and declining native species through rewilding.

The fascinating Unlocking the Secret to Happiness event on August 16 draws on extensive 85-year research, led by distinguished Harvard researcher (and TED talk celebrity) Robert Waldinger, exploring the theme that the key to a fulfilled life lies not in financial wealth or our work, but rather in the power of our relationships.

The 2023 UNSW x National Science Week program will wrap up on August 17 with Psychedelics: From ‘magic’ to medicinal, a session featuring UNSW research fellow and psychiatrist Dr Adam Bayes and UNSW alum Wayne Hall, among others, who will unpack the stigma, the myths, the benefits of legal psychedelics, and the path forward for our mental health treatments in a conversation chaired by the ABC’s Sana Qadar.

For more details about UNSW-related events see the UNSW Science Week events website. This year, on-demand content including podcasts, videos, articles will also be available.

Rewilding Monday 14 August, 6.30pm – 7.45pm Roundhouse, UNSW Sydney

Meganne Christian: An Evening with a Future Astronaut Tuesday 15 August, 6.30pm – 7.30pm Roundhouse, UNSW Sydney

Robert Waldinger: Unlocking the Secret to Happiness Wednesday 16 August, 6.30pm – 7.30pm Science Theatre, UNSW Sydney

Psychedelics: From ‘magic’ to medicinal Thursday 17 August, 6.30pm – 7.30pm Science Theatre, UNSW Sydney