Category Archives: Academic

New Publication with associated Journal Cover Page


The cover image, by Marilyn B. Renfree et al., is based on the Advanced Review The Mammalian Blastocyst, DOI: 10.1002/wdev.220. Marilyn B. Renfree et al. would also like to credit and thank fellow colleague, Geoff Shaw, for his design contribution

Another publication has been distinguished by use of our cover page design.

Frankenberg SR, de Barros FRO, Rossant J and Renfree MB (2016) The mammalian blastocyst. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology.

The full paper is available online at



Why I use Sans-serif fonts like Arial in my PPT files.

A lot of people use fonts like times new roman in their presentations. Times and similar fonts are great for blocks of text on a book page, but there are issues in presentations where you have small amounts of text and want maximum legibility. The Serif fonts tend to get hard to see at small sizes reducing legibility. Here is an example to show how Arial, for example, is easier to read than Times New Roman, especially at smaller font sizes (or large font sizes viewed from the back of a large lecture theatre).

Arial vs Times New Roman

Arial vs Times New Roman


Powerpoint tips: Combining shapes

combine shapes to make a female symbol...

combine shapes to make a female symbol…

Ever wish you could make your own “auto shapes” – want something different like a coloured square with a circular cutout that shows things in layers behind… Powerpoint includes this capacity but Micro$oft hides it from you. This post shows you how to activate this function and use it.




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Focus stacking for photomicroscopy

A common problem with photomicrography is a section that is not totally flat so parts of it are out of the plane of sharp focus. For example here is a section with a wrinkle where a blood vessel altered the consistency of the wax and led to poor flattening of the section on the slide:microscope section with an out of focus wrinkle

When looking through the microscope we can compensate by focusing up and down, and we can do much the same with digital image processing using a “focus stack”. Here are some photos I took of the same section without moving the stage, but with a series of focus steps from furthest to nearest (I am showing every second image, to save space whilst giving you the idea… starting with image 1 above… Continue reading

Public understanding of science in the US

I came across some data from the National Science Foundation in the US. They surveyed ~2000 members of the public in 2012 (but there is also data going back to the 1980s)  with some simple questions assessing basic science knowledge. Here are some of the questions and the proportion of respondents getting them right:

Question % answering correctly
How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun: one day, one month, or one year? 55%
Electrons are smaller than atoms. 53%
Lasers work by focusing sound waves. 47%
Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria. 51%
Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals. 48%

Given these were either true/false or 3 options one might expect a random answer to be correct 50% or 33% of the time. I guess this summarises a dismal failure in the education system.

Converting photos to powerpoint with lines and shading

powerpoint newborn wallaby drawing

drawing of newborn wallaby created in Powerpoint

If you want to create drawings like the one to the right using a program you already know how to use, this tutorial may help you. Powerpoint is not ideal for this sort of drawing, but it is easier than Inkscape (free) or Adobe Illustrator (very expensive), since you already know how to drive powerpoint. No new user interface to learn, just a few tricks and tweaks to get the head around.

My tutorial will take you through the key steps in generating this illustration of a newborn wallaby attached to a teat in the pouch. I will show how to generate the base by tracing the outlines from a photo, and then how to embellish this with fills and shading to get a reasonably 3-D appearance.

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Honours and Masters Flyer 2015

Research interests:

Prof MB Renfree and a furry pouch young.

Prof MB Renfree and a furry pouch young.

Reproduction and development in health and disease, sex determination, sexual differentiation, epigenetics, molecular and hormonal regulation of gonad and phallus development, embryonic diapause, comparative genomics and transcriptomics, innate immunity in developing young, limb development.

More details on the research interests of the group are at

We have a very productive research group with over 80 papers published since 2010 and expect that our MSc and Hons students will be able to publish their research work.

Many of our MSc and Hons graduates have gone on to further study including PhD research, medicine, veterinary science. Others have gone on to a wide variety of life-science related employment.

Potential MSc projects:

  • Regulatory mechanisms of testicular and ovarian development and the role of long non-coding RNAs
  • Marsupials a models for disorders of sexual development including sex reversal and hypospadias
  • Early embryonic development
  • Genomic imprinting

Handouts for Prospective MSc and Honours Students

MB_Renfree_profile_MSc_BioSciences Sep 15 Research projects in repro dev 2015 BioSci_Page_1