LFTL 2020

In our inaugural Live From The Lab (LFTL) for Australian National Science Week 2020, we partnered 6 local artists with researchers from each of the 6 inaugural Sydney Nano Institute Grand Challenges. The Grand Challenges aim to discover ground-breaking solutions to the world’s greatest challenges that are of social, economic and scientific significance. Each participating musician met their scientist collaborator(s) for just 90 minutes and then had two weeks to compose an original piece of music in response to the nanoscience research discussed in their meeting.

Each weekday morning of National Science Week (14-21 August 2020), on FBi Radio we played the new tracks inspired by their science for the very first time *live* on the radio and heard the reactions from the scientists. We then followed up with two Listening Party events so that we could revisit the tracks and their inspiration in conversation with musicians and scientists.

Meet the Musicians and Scientists

#1: CO2 Zero

Sean Conran and Tamara Issa of Obscura Hail

Melbourne via Wollongong musician Sean Conran (Obscura Hail) is externalising memory for the sake of preservation.

Over countless late-night recording sessions in an evolving ad-hoc home studio, Conran has amassed a rich musical archive of alternating styles and an obsessive commitment to songwriting as a craft.

Joined by the irreplaceable Tamara Issa and Kaelan Emond, whose dynamic contribution perpetuates the routine.

Wenjie Yang and A/Prof Jun Huang

from CO2 Zero: Reducing CO2 emissions in manufacturing processes and converting CO2 into commercial products through nanocatalysis.

#2: Unlocking the Neural Interface

Gemma Navarrete

Singer/songwriter Gemma Navarrete is a Western Sydney based musician who creates pop/ RnB infused music with concise, poetic lyrics and catchy, intricate melodies that intend to educate and tell detailed stories. At 10 years old, she decided that music was her calling after realising that nothing else seemed to be as fulfilling.

Beginning her musical journey at ten years old, she began to partake in singing lessons and compete in local talent quests which led to multiple setbacks, leaving the young songstress confused and distraught, as any ten-year-old who faced rejection would. Continuing her musical journey as a teen, she was reminded of her love for writing lyrics and likeable melodies at a young age and reconnected with her favourite pastime as a child. Older and wiser, Gemma has begun taking necessary steps towards ensuring creative growth and the improvement of her skills in order to pursue a career in the music industry.

In February (2020), Gemma participated in the first APRA Song Generations writing camp and is currently studying a Bachelor of Music with a Major in Contemporary Music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where she intends to collaborate and immerse herself further into her music.

Dr Shiyang (Shayna) Jia

from Unlocking the Neural Interface: Rethinking the means of intervention into the human nervous system to make untreatable neurological diseases treatable, and to transform treatments into comprehensive cures.

#3: Computational Materials Discovery

Flower Boy 卓颖贤

At the heart of her hazy songwriting is a duality of melancholic love songs and odes to identity and heritage. Born in Sydney to Chinese and Lebanese parents, Non Chalant aka flower boy 卓颖贤 paints emotional images with her classically-trained background combined with forward-thinking production.

Unafraid to play with textures, her soundscapes are anxious, ambient, and affecting in the extreme. Atmospheric beats and experimental percussion are pieced together to form visceral and unrelenting electronica, overlaid with emotive and expressive melodies. The vulnerability, intimacy, and rawness of flower boy 卓颖贤’s art is clear from the start. Inspired by her life and surroundings, she utilises music as a form of emotional expression in response to her experiences. Refusing to cater to trends or adhere to particular genre ‘rules’, there is a certain power she brings to her music by knowing who she is and what she’s about. Flower Boy 卓颖贤 treats her life like a movie; she’s simply soundtracking it.

Photo Credit: Darren Luk

Dr Lamiae Azizi

from Computational Materials Discovery: Grand Challenge: Simulating new materials from a single atom to fully functioning devices using quantum computers, multiscale simulation, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

#4: Nanorobotics for Health

Luke Davis

Sydney based musician, performer and creative, Luke Davis, produces original songs featuring lavish soundscapes and soaring vocals, along with imaginative visuals to express his yearning curiosity for life and how things come to be. What We Will Become is his debut 2019 record that explores the bittersweet nostalgia and reluctance of moving into a new stage in life, and coming into one’s own.

Supporting great artists like Ocean Alley, Luke has played an array of venues between Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth and New Zealand as a solo artist as well as with his band Bermuda Bloom. He is fascinated by the interdisciplinary study of music and physics; evident in the relationships of harmonies, rhythm and time, and is a keen learner of the theories and systems put in place in order to understand more. Through enquiry of scientific research, and of the ‘self’ through mindful meditation, Luke endeavours to reflect his journey of constant rediscovery in his future music creations. He hopes to spark interest and enchantment with the world we live in, ultimately bringing joy to the people he interacts with, and to those his music and videos reach.

Photo Credit: Mark Clinton

Dr Taylor Szyszka and Minh Tri Luu

from Nanorobotics for Health: Building autonomous, programmable nanorobots to navigate through the body to detect and treat early disease.

#5: Safe-by-Design Nanotechnology


Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Ptwiggs otherwise known as Phoebe Twigg is a producer and qualified audio engineer. Morphing audio into pulsing waves of emotion, Ptwiggs delivers a sound that is delicately detailed yet powerfully destructive, swinging between constant poles of tranquility and turmoil. Weaving an organically forming tapestry between the external and internal world, Ptwiggs smothers the senses leaving drippings of various genres, references and styles. 

Dr Hien Duong

from Safe-by-Design Nanotechnology: Developing a regulation framework to assess safety, efficacy and toxicity, and guiding the future development of nanomaterials – across drug formulations, food additives and biosensors.

#6: Advanced Capture of Water from the Atmosphere (ACWA)


Born and bred in Sydney’s west to an Egyptian family, Nardean began her musical exploration at the age of 22. After a few short years of exploring her voice, she has cemented herself as a force to be reckoned with.

Nardean effortlessly traverses rap, singing and poetry in a genre she describes as “post-hop;” influenced by hip hop, while also drawing on elements of neo-soul, electronica, glitch and RnB.

After releasing her debut record “Creatress” in 2019 to a resounding round of industry applause, she has recently released her second EP ‘THE NEW ERA’, with support from Campbelltown Art Centre and CreateNSW.

Professor Chiara Neto

from Advanced Capture of Water from the Atmosphere (ACWA) Developing a low-cost method to capture enough water from the atmosphere to alleviate the effect of drought by providing water for consumption by humans and animals, and for irrigating plants.

Production Team – 2020

LIVE FROM THE LAB 2020 was hosted by Courtney Ammenhauser and Alice Motion. Podcast editing and production is by Bernadette Nguyen, video editing and production by James Brennan and sting creation by Will Ryan. The producer is Issy Phillips and executive producer Alice Motion. Original artwork has been created by Karina Aslikyan.

Meet some of the team!

The obligatory zoom photo – TL to TR: Issy Phillips, Alice Motion, Bernadette Nguen; BL to BR: James Brennan and Courtney Ammenhauser

Issy Phillips
Issy Phillips is a creative producer, climate communicator and performer originally from regional NSW. She’s been described as an exciting new voice in Australian Comedy and was named one of GQ’s three brightest millennial comics.

Last year Issy gave a Ted Talk on how we can use the arts as a medium to inspire action on climate change and is the co-founder of social enterprise Hiccup that advocates for using music and art as a medium for climate justice.

She is currently the Executive Producer of FBi’s flagship breakfast program Up For It and hosts beloved segment Am I The Asshole. She previously worked at the Sydney Opera House as a publicist.

Bernadette Nguyen

Bernadette Nguyen is a producer, writer and editor working across audio and film. She is currently a podcast producer at Audiocraft, as well as producing the Breakfast program on FBi Radio and has produced stories for All The Best Radio that have been broadcast on ABC Radio. Her experience across the media landscape has developed a strong understanding of the craft of storytelling. She is passionate about diverse stories in the Australian landscape and making audiences learn and laugh.

James Brennan 

James is an independent multimedia artist with a keen focus on video, music and radio. Tangentially speaking, science doesn’t fall under these categories, and believe me… he knows. But James believes that much like science, putting passionate and tangible effort into work within these spaces has undeniable results. 

James started his work in broadcast working the overnight editing shift for SBS and SBS Viceland in 2016, which his sleep pattern is arguably yet to recover from.

James currently hosts Midnights on FBi Radio, manages his own music career and is working as a video producer for digital. Please swipe right.

Karina Aslikyan

Karina Aslikyan is a Sydney-based Graphic Designer for music. Originally from Russia, she has a background in international relations, communication, and interactive multimedia. Her work builds on universal emotions and experiences on the border between nature and technology. Karina’s biggest inspirations are space, art, and computers. Presently, she is working on a sci-fi comic book about a female astronaut. 

Website: https://karinaaslikyan.com Instagram: @karina.aslikyan

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