2016 finalists

Dominic McAffee
Macquarie University

Preserving our marine biodiversity...the world is our oyster!

Investigating over 1000km of Australian coastline, Dominic McAfee has found that oysters not only reduce the influence climate plays in determining invertebrate communities but that oysters can reduce heat stress under hotter conditions. This could mean that oyster restoration could be used as a climate adaptation strategy, allowing reef inhabitants more time to adapt with climate change. 

Erin Walsh
Australian National University

Sweet brains

With instances of diseases like diabetes rising at alarming rates, Erin Walsh is researching what effects rising blood sugar levels have on our brains.  Knowing that parts of the brain will shrink with age, Erin is using data collected from thousands of Australians over 16 years to examine how much of this can be attributed to blood sugar levels. Erin is finding that Higher blood glucose may affect our concentration, mood and memory and not just in those with diabetes. 

Natalie McKirdy
University of Queensland

Using silk to save your sight

Silkworms spin cocoons made of strong fibres surrounded by a sticky, glue-like coating that holds the structure together. Silk threads, whether they’re being made into medical sutures or scarves, have the glue-like coating removed, leaving only the strong fibres for dyeing and weaving. Natalie McKirdy is investigating this protective coating as a potential treatment for macular degeneration.

 

Toby Brown
University of Western Australia / Swinburne University of Technology

Chasing shadows: How dark matter shapes our Universe

Toby’s research addresses how the influence of dark matter manifests itself in galaxies, disentangling this from the complex mash-up of physical processes that drive galaxy evolution. Using unprecedented statistics and state-of-the-art techniques to look at gas within galaxies, Toby is exploring how these huge fuel reservoirs trace the recent history of a galaxy and are often the first observable to be impacted by the dark matter.

 

Barbara Hadley
Griffith University

Sweet solution to the bitter war on cancer

Sialic acid is a special type of sugar involved in the normal, healthy functioning of our cells. This sugar, however, also plays a cruel role in many devastating diseases, including cancer. Barbara studies the ‘transporter’ that is responsible for ferrying sialic acid into a membrane enclosed compartment where the sugar is able to be attached to the cell surface.

Lucy Weaver
CSIRO

Smart polymers cleaning up salty wastewater

Water is important for all forms of life but it is a resource that is fast running out. Many industries use a lot of water in their daily operations but it is ending up as salty wastewater. To re-use this water, we must somehow remove the salt content. Traditionally, the methods of removing salt are very expensive and consume a lot of energy. Lucy is making a new material to help solve this problem, by using things called ‘stimuli-responsive polymers’.

Mahmoud Bassal
University of South Australia

What do DNA mutations got to do with it?

Mahmoud Bassal is studying the genetic and metabolic changes in Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. Investigations in the last decade have revealed that the main mechanism by which leukaemia cells generate energy appears to be damaged/inhibited. By better understanding what changes occur, we will be in a better position to understand this disease, leading to further investigations of better, more targeted therapies to improve patient survival and quality of life.

Noushin Nasiri
Australian National University

Just a puff of breath!

Non-invasive detection of disease by breath analysis is a fast, economically viable and simple alternative to blood analysis and endoscopy.The breath marker concentration difference between healthy people and patients is about parts per billion. By developing fingerprint sized biosensors covered in nanoparticles, Noushin Nasiri has been able to pick up difference in concentrations in certain compounds which can be used to test for disease.

 

Jordan Goezte
University of Western Australia / Curtin University

Size matters when it comes to fish

Jordan Goetze is providing the first comprehensive assessment of Tabu areas as a fisheries management system and is developing management guidelines that can be used to assess and improve the conservation benefits of this system. This study is allowing the thousands of local communities that are currently using these areas to better manage their fisheries. 

 

Krishneel Singh
University of Technology

From belly to bone

Australia has an aging society and bone fractures and fragility place the elderly community at risk due to their decreased metabolism and healing rate. The ‘gold standard’ of utilising permanent metallic implants further implicates this issue. Krishneel’s research provides an alternative to metallic implants by using a biodegradable implant seeded with a patient’s stem cells to regenerate their bone fractures.

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