Around the universities

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja15.1116C3
Published online: 16 November 2015

Six University of Queensland researchers will receive a total of almost $3.6 million in federal funding over 4 years to continue their work on dementia. The six were announced as fellows in the joint Research Development Scheme run by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). The new fellows are: Dr Gabriela Bodea, from the Mater Research Institute-UQ, who is researching Parkinson’s disease; Dr Sean Coakley(1), at the Queensland Brain Institute, who is researching degeneration of the axon, the longest process of a neuron, a key early pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias; Dr Daniel Croker, from UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences, who will work on research titled Targeting neuroinflammatory pathways as novel treatments for dementia; the School of Medicine’s Dr Paul Gardiner(2), who is researching recently identified links between older adults’ sitting time, poorer cognitive health and Alzheimer’s disease; Dr Rajesh Ghai from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, who will use his fellowship to investigate how mutations in key proteins cause Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases; and, Dr Theresa Scott(3) from the School of Medicine, who is researching dementia and driving.'s-multi-pronged-approach-dementia

The University of Melbourne’s Professor John Hopper, a genetic epidemiologist, has been awarded the Victorian Government’s prestigious Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation. The award recognises the important role innovation plays in Victoria’s economic future and the need for people to be skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Professor Hopper, the Director (Research) at the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, and a NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow with a PhD in Mathematical Statistics, won the Life Sciences category. Since 1990, Professor Hopper has been the Director of the Australian Twin Registry (ATR), which connects researchers with twins to undertake studies on environmental and genetic factors in health and disease to benefit the whole population. Under his leadership, the ATR has facilitated over 400 twin studies Australia-wide, contributing transformative insights into health conditions such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mental health.

For the second year running, a University of Queensland researcher has been recognised by Life Sciences Queensland for their work into regenerative medicine. Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology’s Professor Justin Cooper-White received the 2015 Aon Risk Solutions Regenerative Medicine Award for his research at the interface of engineering and biology. Professor Cooper-White’s work is centred on understanding the cues from the body that stem cells use to regulate their behaviour and define what type of cells they become. The Regenerative Medicine Award recognises the work of Life Sciences Queensland members in the area of regenerative medicine who have significantly advanced the field. In 2014, AIBN’s Professor Ernst Wolvetang won the same award for his pioneering work into stem cell research and its potential applications for regenerative medicine. Professor Cooper-White holds a joint appointment with the UQ Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology and is a CSIRO Office of the Chief Executive Science Leader.

University of Newcastle researcher Dr Nikola Bowden has been named one of Australia’s ‘Tall Poppies’ in science at the prestigious NSW Young Tall Poppy Science Awards. Honouring Australia’s brightest young scientific researchers and communicators, the award recognises both scientific achievement and engagement with the community to raise awareness of science. A molecular biologist, Dr Bowden’s breakthrough research interest is DNA repair in cancer; particularly melanoma and ovarian cancer. Her research project is supported by the Cure Cancer Australia Foundation and the Hunter Medical Research Institute. Dr Bowden was the first to report on the relationship between DNA repair pathways and chemotherapy resistance in melanoma and uses next-generation profiling techniques to unlock the mysteries of melanoma. A prolific science communicator, Dr Bowden uses social media as a platform for promoting and fostering interest in science.

Molecular biologist Associate Professor Andrew Lonie, from the University of Melbourne, has been appointed Director of the Victorian Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI). With a background in molecular biology and computer science, Associate Professor Lonie was appointed Head of the VLSCI’s Life Sciences Computation Centre in 2010 to create a multi-disciplinary centre of expertise in life sciences offering best practice analyses, training and education. He now supervises a team of 20 bioinformaticians working on over 50 research projects in key institutions across Victoria. He has also grown the University of Melbourne Masters of Science (Bioinformatics) course from four students in 2010 to 40 students in 2015.

University of NSW refugee advocate Anne Bunde-Birouste and emergency medicine leader Gordian Fulde have been named as state finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards. Dr Bunde-Birouste, Convener of the Health Promotion program at UNSW’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine, has been named as a Local Hero state finalist in the Australian of the Year Awards for her innovative approach to welcoming some of our nation’s newest and youngest citizens. Associate Professor Gordian Fulde, from UNSW’s St Vincent’s Clinical School, is a NSW finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year category for his work leading the emergency department at Sydney’s St Vincent Hospital.

The University of Queensland has opened medical training centres at Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. The UQ Rural Clinical School (UQRCS) officially opened the $2.4 million UQ Health Sciences Learning and Discovery Centre at Bundaberg and the $1.9 million centre at Hervey Bay – both featuring state-of-the-art interactive clinical simulation facilities. UQ Rural Clinical School Head Associate Professor Riitta Partanen said rurally-trained medical students got a taste of the diversity of the rural lifestyle, clinical hands-on experience, smaller classes, greater one-on-one exposure to specialists and trainers, and had the chance to become part of a working clinical team.

Nine academics from Bond University’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine have won an Australian Awards for University Teaching for preparing medical students to work with, and improve the health of, Indigenous Australians through an innovative program incorporating cultural immersion. The academics who were awarded the Indigenous Medical Education accolade were Professor Janie Smith(1), Associate Professor Shannon Springer(2), Associate Professor Mary Martin, Associate Professor Bradley Murphy(3), Assistant Professor Sally Sargeant(4), Professor Katrina Bramstedt(5), Associate Professor John Togno(6), Associate Professor David Waynforth(7) and Associate Professor Christina Wolfe.

  • Cate Swannell



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