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Nerd Nite Melbourne

Nerd Nite #54

7:00pm, Wed 21 February, 2024

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Three presenters share a topic they are NERDY about while the audience shares a drink.

Welcome to the first Nerd Nite Melbourne show of 2024!! We have a fantastic series of shows lined up for 2024 and are kicking off the season on the 21st of Feb with talks on Scrabble, allergies and … poo? Be there. Be square.

Andrew Fisher

Unleash the word nerds
The world chess scene has occasionally hit the headlines, but what about Scrabble? The stakes might not be high enough for vibrating anal beads as yet, but there are thousands of highly skilled and committed players vying for trophies and undying glory at international tournaments. So, who are the top players and nations, and who is the GOAT? How do people qualify for tournaments and prepare themselves for battle, or even get good enough to thrash their mates? Come equipped with your choicest anagrams, and prepare to rattle your tile bags in unison at Nerd Nite #54.

Bio: Originally a Pom, Andrew was British scrabble champion in 1996 and co-wrote the elusive book ‘How to Win at Scrabble’ before migrating to Melbourne in 2002. So far he has scored Aussie national titles in 2006, 2009 and 2012 - maybe it’s been a while since his last victory but he’s still a contender, having taken out second place no fewer than six times. He has also enjoyed success internationally, with high tournament placings including Singapore, Bangkok, Warsaw (runner-up in the 2011 World Championship) and Las Vegas (fifth in the 2001 and 2023 World Championships, held in the same city). He solves at least three crosswords a day, has set numerous published cryptics, and was also the winner of series one of Letters and Numbers. Yes, that’s where you all know his face from. He can safely be described as a word nerd.

Marina Yakou

“Four eyes” no more- achieving 20-20 vision to cure cancer!

Embark on a microscopic odyssey as we journey to the center of the gut, where immune cells, like intrepid explorers, defend the body's inner realms in a cinematic dance beneath the surface. Join Marina Yakou on a personal and nerdy adventure as she traces her transformative journey from architecture to microbiology and cancer immunology. Motivated by personal loss and being teased ‘four eyes’ at school, Marina delves into the microscopic wonders of the human gastrointestinal microbiome in her quest for a cure. Marina's dream? Achieving 20-20 vision for cancer immunotherapies. If you find yourself captivated, she'll guide you to the frontier of knowledge—where science meets compassion as she shares her fascination with the building blocks of our gut and determination to see a world without cancer.

Bio: Marina Yakou is a PhD candidate with a heart as vast as the oceans she loves to swim in and an adventurous spirit fuelled by her passion for travel. Born in the heart of Detroit, Michigan, and raised amidst the sun-soaked landscapes of California, Marina embodies the free-spirited essence of a true 'Cali girl.' Her journey from the shores of the Pacific to the vibrant streets of Melbourne, 'down under,' mirrors her quest to understand and combat the relentless grip of cancer. Having faced the profound loss of loved ones to cancer, Marina's trajectory shifted dramatically from her initial dream of an architecture career. Now, as a researcher at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, she explores the architecture of our gut in the search for a cure. Beyond the lab, Marina is a storyteller, weaving tales of the microscopic world within us. Her recent publication in Science Immunology stands as a testament to her commitment to the cause. Marina has received recognition from organizations like L'Oréal-UNESCO and Tour de Cure Australia. Join Marina on her deeply personal quest as she envisions a world where cancer bows to the resilience of human knowledge and determination.

X (Twitter): @MarinaYakou

Instagram: @marina.yakou

Catriona Nguyen-Robertson

The Sunscreen Sleuth: An Immunologist Detective's Sun-sational Discovery

Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek…the cause of sunscreen allergies. As Australians, it’s important that we wear sunscreen when we go outdoors, but what if wearing that sunscreen resulted in an allergy? Allergies to sunscreens are uncommon, but they exist – and Catriona found that she is one of the unlucky ones. But that discovery led to a detective journey to identify what exactly caused her reaction and how she could stop it. Hear her story as she uncovers why people get allergies to sunscreens and medicines, and now we can ensure that no one suffers when they slip, slop, slap!

Bio: Dr Catriona Nguyen-Robertson (she/her) is a singing scientist: she sings in laboratories and contemplates science in the shower. In her previous life, she was an immunologist, studying infectious diseases and skin allergies, where she experimented…sometimes even using herself as subject. Now she’s in the science communication and education space. You can often catch her singing and dancing around Scienceworks, or playing her ukulele at The University of Melbourne students, teaching the next generation of scientists science and how to convey complex information. As a side note: she’s an award-winning queer, having been listed among Out for Australia’s 30 Under 30 in 2022. She never stops talking or writing about science – constantly chatting on radio and in schools around Victoria and the world

Socials: @CatrionaNR (twitter/X)