Obesity is a ‘wicked’ problem. Because of the complex interdependencies of modern society only a radical change in behavior and thinking seems...

The Obesity Epidemic: can design help?



Event Details

Obesity is a ‘wicked’ problem. Because of the complex interdependencies of modern society only a radical change in behavior and thinking seems to be the solution. The academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are all working together on solutions, but can Art (+design) provide the missing piece of the puzzle? Is STEAM the key?

The Charles Perkins Centre (CPC) at the University of Sydney understands that obesity is a wicked problem, and has brought together researchers from a range of disciplines to explore the interconnectedness of our environment, our food and our health.

Join us for a robust discussion on obesity and all its complexity, as CPC researchers from the disciplines of biology, engineering, IT and physics are joined by a leading design thinker.


  • Professor Stephen Simpson, School of Biological Sciences and Academic Director, Charles Perkins Centre
    Professor Stephen Simpson is Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, leading the development of the Centre's research and education strategies. He is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney, and a world-renowned biologist whose research on nutrition is changing the way we look at diets.  Together with colleague David Raubenheimer, Stephen developed an integrative modelling framework for nutrition, the Geometric Framework, which was devised and tested using insects but has since been applied to a wide range of organisms, from slime moulds to humans, and problems, from aquaculture and conservation biology to the dietary causes of human obesity and ageing. In addition to nutritional biology, Stephen’s research on locusts has led to an understanding of locust swarming that links chemical events in the brains of individual insects to landscape-scale mass migration. He was co-writer, narrator and presenter of the four-part documentary Great Southern Land, for ABC TV, which was aired to critical and viewer acclaim in September 2012.
  • Professor Zdenka Kuncic, Physics and Complex Systems and Modelling, Charles Perkins Centre
    Zdenka Kuncic is Professor of Physics and Theme Leader, Complex Systems and Modelling, at the Charles Perkins Centre. She is also Director of Community and Research at the Australian Institute of Nanoscale Science and Technology, and Director of the Advanced Computing Facility for Cancer Research at the University of Sydney. Professor Kuncic is an international expert in the application of physics to medicine and biology, with specific expertise in theoretical and computational modelling. She leads a highly interdisciplinary research program at the interface between the physical and life sciences. Physics-based strategies (experimental as well as theoretical and computational modelling approaches) and fundamental physical principles are applied to advance our understanding of complex living systems and human diseases. Current areas of research interest include: radiation biophysics, biomedical imaging, nanomedicine and systems biology.
  • Assoc Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, Faculty of Health Sciences & Charles Perkins Centre
    Emmanuel Stamatakis is an Associate Professor of Physical Activity, Exercise, and Health at Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Sydney, and the leader of Lifestyle Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour project node at Charles Perkins Centre. Trained in the UK, he led the development and implementation of physical activity and obesity-measuring components in several large-scale national epidemiological surveillance studies at the University College London, and then he founded and led UCL- PARG (University College London Physical Activity Research Group). He was a UK National Institute for Health Research Fellow between 2007 and 2014. He has been an advisor to the UK Department of Health, the Office for National Statistics UK and Sport England on issues around obesity and population physical activity. His current research program examines the role of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, obesity, and lifestyle in relation to cardiometabolic health and psychosocial wellbeing.
  • David Milne, Positive Computing Lab, Faculty of Engineering and IT and Wireless Wellbeing node of Charles Perkins Centre
    David Milne is a Postdoctoral Researcher with the Positive Computing Laboratory based at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on Text Mining (the process of deriving high-quality information from text) and he is currently collaborating with ReachOut.com to improve how young Australians seek help online. Prior to joining the University of Sydney, David worked at CSIRO, where he collaborated with the Black Dog Institute and Amazon AWS to explore how we express our emotions in social media. He has a well-cited research portfolio in Natural Language Processing, and has won international awards for his work in extracting machine-readable knowledge from Wikipedia and applying it Text Mining tasks. One of the Positive Computing Laboratory’s new projects uses Virtual Reality to help us make better food choices. Don’t worry; it’s a lot more practical than it sounds.
  • Steven Pozel, Director, Object: Australian Design Centre
    Steven Pozel is the Director of Object: Australian Design Centre, which advocates excellence in design nationally and internationally through its diverse creative programs, innovative learning programs, and a national exhibition program. For thirty years, Steven has been a champion of design-led thinking and innovation across areas including: design, visual arts, architecture, digital media, publishing, education and enterprise. He has developed and created design exhibitions for major museums and institutions around the world from Japan’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art to the V&A Museum in London, as well as at the Australian Design Centre, Melbourne Museum and the Sydney Opera House. His most recent research and work in design thinking and innovation has been the catalyst to consult to a broad range of industries - from banking and telecommunications to engineering and property development, and from cultural and community organisations to State and Commonwealth Governments.

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