Mr Will Palmer
Office - DVC (Research and Innovation)
Science innovator and inventor
William Palmer didn’t follow a traditional path to research. After managing bars and nightclubs for a couple of years William came to the University of Newcastle when he was 25 to enrol in Open Foundation, continuing his education where he’d left off.
After completing Open Foundation, William spent another year working before enrolling in Uni at the age of 27 to study a Bachelor of Biotechnology degree. The next step was honours in plant sciences, followed by a PhD in Molecular Biology – which he’s just about to submit. As well as studying, Wiliam’s kept himself busy with research and collaboration. This collaboration has occurred with the Medical Sciences and a technique known as CLARITY.
Upon hearing of this new way to image mammalian tissue in 3D, Will immediately saw the potential for research in the plant sciences.
This was the start of a three-year expedition into the murky world of 3D imaging of plants. The work (PEA-CLARITY) was completed and published in 2015 with acclaim and has since been used by groups all around the world trying to answer fundamental questions in plant biology that was not possible without the third dimension.
This interdisciplinary collaboration then led to an imaging bottleneck that commercially available microscopes could not overcome. William explains; “We started experimenting and got the Clarity protocol working in plants (after a couple of years) but once I did that we hit a bottleneck, which was imaging. So that’s when we decided to build the lightsheet microscope. But because we’d never built a microscope before nobody was willing to give us any funding for it.”
Philanthropy funded innovation
Together with colleagues Antony Martin and Jamie Flynn, William met with Jennie Thomas AM, the Philanthropist, who donated funding to build a lightsheet microscope that retails for around $1 million, for only $70 000. This has led to the formation of the Lightsheet Microscope core facility, servicing many and diverse research groups at UON, HMRI and around Australia.
During this time, William has also founded a Company based on rapid screening of agricultural products called Rapid Phenotyping along with inventing processes and products such as material grinders that are now covered by patents.
“Innovation and invention are an exciting place to be although there are many failures along the way it just makes the little successes that much sweeter”. William plans to work in both the R&D and business worlds over the next couple of years to see where his already established platform of innovation will lead.
March 2, 2016
Three young University of Newcastle (UON) biologists have hand-built a state-of-the-art laser microscope at HMRI that delivers clear three-dimensional cellular images with unparalleled speed and precision.