Celebrating eight years of innovation and research
Researchers and innovators from across the region celebrated the eighth annual Researcher of the Year Awards on 26 October.
Thirteen local researchers from a variety of backgrounds including health medicine, animal health, textile design and environmental studies were in contention as finalists for the $40,000 prize pool.
CSIRO AAHL researcher Johanna Dups took out the overall Researcher of the Year award for her research around the development of drugs to treat and prevent Hendra and Nipah virus in humans.
The Researcher of the Year Awards dinner is a key event in the Smart Geelong Network Research and Learning Expo. The expo encompasses a week of events that celebrate research excellence and recognises talent in the region.
Chair of the Smart Geelong Network, Sue De Gilio said the expo and the awards highlighted the work being done to re-shape Geelong's future.
“This year’s award entries were of an exceptionally high calibre, which made the judges’ job difficult with so many worthy entries. This is a real sign of the depth and important contribution Geelong makes to research not only nationally, but globally,” Ms De Gilio said.
Researchers come from across the region and showcase work in many industries and disciplines. For those that won, their award provides funding for continued research.
“People who work in research spend a lot of time applying for grants and writing submissions and often they’re not very successful. These awards, while they may not sound like much to some people, are significant in terms of what is needed to fund research,” Ms De Gilio said.
“Just getting the community and some of the business organisations to be involved in research is a big thing and gradually we’ve had more and more people come on board with sponsorship; Karingal is one of our new sponsors this year.”
Ms De Gilio said event organisers are hoping to get the big corporates on board and start investing too.
“By building upon our manufacturing past we can embrace a future driven by a broader knowledge economy,” Ms De Gilio said.
“Looking at big attractors of people at the moment, Deakin, Barwon Health, CSIRO, they are the big ones that have research going on and they are attracting a different sort of people who will spend their money here and they do so for quite a long time. This changes the way Geelong operates. We’ve also got to make sure Geelong has the upmarket facilities to keep those sorts of people.”
The Smart Geelong Network was established by the Geelong Chamber of Commerce and comprises a small group of local agencies committed to profiling and developing research and lifelong learning in the Geelong Region.
Researcher of the Year Awards list of winners
Johanna Dups: Winner CSIRO AAHL - One Health Award & RESEARCHER OF THE YEAR
Hendra and Nipah virus belong to the genus Henipvirus and cause severe and often fatal disease in humans. As we continue to encroach on the habitats of bat species that harbour henipaviruses, the risk of human exposure and disease increases.
There are no commercially available therapeutics or preventative therapies against human henipavirus infection.
The purpose of this project is to develop a mouse model of infection to improve our understanding of the mechanisms by which henipaviruses cause disease. This information will allow us to optimise and accelerate drug development to treat and prevent human infections in the future.
Helen Larkin: Winner Karingal - Living with Disability Award & HIGHLY COMMENDED AWARD
Universal design (or design for all) aims to ensure that built environments are accessible for all people, regardless of their abilities. It is an area of mutual concern for both architects (who design built environments) and occupational therapists (who modify them according to the needs of people with disability).
This project aimed to develop and trial innovative teaching and learning practices with undergraduate occupational therapy and architecture students in order to better prepare graduates for the growing need to design built environments that promote participation for all in what is becoming an area of increasing inter-professional collaboration.
Peter Stapleton: Winner City of Greater Geelong Save The Planet Award
The Northern Water plant has taken a decade to develop from inception. Several factors came into play that brought about the opportunity.
In the mid-1990s, Barwon Water identified a need to develop a long-term sewerage management strategy to cater for future growth in the Northern Suburbs.
In addition Barwon Water was experiencing increasing levels of hydrocarbons in the sewer network. In addition to designing their own treatment plant, Shell was developing strategies to reduce water use and increase recycling. Transferring recycled water from Barwon Water’s main treatment plant located 35 km to the south was not viable.
In 2002, against a backdrop of a growing drought, the Australian Government was implementing policies to encourage investment in water recycling. This saw Barwon Water in discussions with Shell Geelong Refinery with a view to improving the quality of Shell’s trade waste during which a joint project to generate recycled water was borne – The Northern Water Plant.
Such a project would void the need to duplicate of the trunk sewers through central Geelong. It would also void the need for Shell to build its own plant.
The Northern Water Plant will take Shell’s trade waste and most of the sewage from Geelong’s northern suburbs and treat it to a very high standard. This recycled water will replace the drinking water currently used by Shell for process purposes. The NWP will free up nearly 2,000 million litres of water every year for use by the community.
It has brought a public and private party to a joint project that solves individual infrastructure problems while delivering additional benefit to the community. It was the additional community benefit that attracted significant funding from State and Federal Government which made the project viable.
Professor Svetha Venkatesh: Winner Geelong Chamber of Commerce Smart Technology Award
Autism Spectrum Disorder affects one in every 100 individuals. Parents are marooned in waiting lists for therapy, wasting crucial early intervention time.
TOBY Playpad is an innovative iPad app providing an educational framework for therapy. It targets social, language, sensory and cognitive skills. Adjusting to child’s responses, it allows progression at their own pace. It is novel in scope of skills taught, the ability to teach skills both on and off the iPad, and is unprecedented in the level of reporting. Critically it teaches the parent to teach the child, fulfilling a critical gap when parents are waiting for therapy.
Eileen Moore: Winner Barwon Health Population Health & Lifestyle Award
Over 300 million people have type 2 diabetes world-wide; a debilitating illness that causes damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Metformin has been used since 1958 to treat diabetes, but is associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vitamin B12 deficiency.
This study reviewed the medical histories of over 3,000 older adults here in the Barwon region and elsewhere in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. Patients with diabetes were at increased risk of cognitive impairment. This risk was two-fold higher in those who used metformin. High vitamin B12 levels appeared to ameliorate this risk, so future intervention studies should address whether vitamin B12 given in adjunct therapy improves the cognitive outcomes of older adults who are treated with metformin.
Dr Sharon Brennan: Winner Deakin University - Early Researcher Award
Musculoskeletal diseases (MSK) cause a significant reduction in quality of life and are long-term causes in the ability to self-care. Increasing focus is now being directed toward understanding the impact of social disadvantage upon public health outcomes. Social disadvantage is a complex concept and the relationship between disadvantage and MSK has been little understood, meaning that we have been limited in our ability to intervene effectively to improve health for those at greatest risk. This body of work represents a significant addition to knowledge, and informs health policy and practice related to disease intervention or prevention.
Meagan Gillespie: Winner Shell Geelong Refinery – Biotechnology Award
This study has provided evidence to suggest that pigeon ‘milk’ is functionally similar to mammalian milk, and contains bioactive molecules that could be of therapeutic benefit to the poultry industry.
Both male and female pigeons produce a special substance for their young, which has been named pigeon ‘milk’. If the young are given a replacement food they do very poorly or die, which suggests that like mammalian milk, pigeons ‘milk’ contains components that enhance the growth and development of the young.
This project aims to characterise this unusual process to identify bioactive molecules that could be used as natural antibiotic alternatives in the poultry industry.
2014 Graduate Nurse intake
Monday, 06 May 2013
Applications for Barwon Health's 2014 Graduate Nurse and Graduate Midwife program will open on 1 June. Please click here for further information....