ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our July 2021 Encouragement Award promotion.

Many believe a picture says a thousand words, but a picture with a caption (known as a meme) goes one step further and transports a message or a story instantly to a target audience. Memes are a very powerful tool that allow us to communicate our thoughts to like-minded people online instantly. This is what gives them their appeal – not a surprise given the average attention span of internet users is about 8 seconds compared to that of a goldfish which is apparently 9 seconds!!  In summary, the simple message is “Say it quick, and say it well”.

Our latest competition invited young scientists to explore their creativity and create a meme based on one or more of the five categories, namely COVID-19/ Quarantine; Scientific research; Life as a scientist/student; Scientists and sport; Animal friends for scientists.


Below is a list of the top ten memes selected to receive our award– first prize at $1000 and 9 runners up at $200 each.

Congratulations to our first prize winner, Cintya Dharmayanti, second year PhD student at UniSA Clinical & Health Sciences, University of South Australia, working under the supervision of Associate Professor Anton Blencowe.

Cintya’s research focuses on the development of a nanoparticle system for ovarian cancer drug delivery, tailored to target key receptors expressed on the surface of ovarian cancer cells. By using specific targeting molecules and pH-responsive polymers, the nanoparticles are designed to seek out and infiltrate ovarian cancer cells to achieve intracellular drug release, leading to improved treatment efficacy and reduced side effects. After my PhD, I would love to continue research in the drug delivery space to help improve the health outcomes of those that need it most. 

The ATA Encouragement Award will support me in attending a pre-doc training program in November 2021 (EMBL), and/or the 17th Pacific Polymer Conference in 2022, which would allow me to disseminate my work and connect with new networks (hopefully, in person)!

Congratulations to our runner up, Anton Nathanson, fourth year PhD student in the Biomedical Image Computing Lab at University of New South Wales, under the supervision of Professor Erik Meijering.

Anton is developing new technologies for designing diagnostics for human degenerative bone diseases, in particular osteoarthritis. His research combines cutting edge imaging, cellular biology, machine learning and big data in order to characterise the health status of human bone for the development of new diagnostic technologies.

Upon completing his PhD, Anton wishes to begin medical school to pursue a career in orthopaedics, whilst also being able to continue clinical research.

This award will be put towards attending ORS 2022 or similar orthopaedic conference to present the final completed work from his PhD.

Congratulations to our runner up, Lilith Caballero Aguilar, Postdoc Researcher, from Swinburne University of Technology; St. Vincent’s Hospital, working under the supervision of Professor Simon Moulton.

Her current research focuses on the development of drug delivery systems to treat cancerous tumors as well as utilising the delivery of bioactive agents for regenerative medicine applications.

Lilith’s career goals are to continue doing research, become a professor one day, and have her own research group to create novel biomedical solutions.

The award will be spent on covering the cost to attend the International Biofabrication Conference which is happening in September 2021, which will help me to present my work and hopefully meet new collaborators and colleagues in my field.

Congratulations to our runner up, Michaela Dobson, PhD Candidate at the University of Auckland, School of Environment, working under the supervision of Professor Kathleen A. Campbell.

Michaela’s research looks at the earliest evidence of terrestrial life on Earth in 3.5-billion-year-old rocks in the Dresser formation, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia. Initially interpreted as a shallow marine environment, recent research has indicated that the Dresser formations are terrestrial hot spring deposits. These hot spring deposits preserve biosignatures representing the earliest evidence of life on land, and aid in our understanding of the origin of life on Earth and possible life on other planets.

I wish to continue researching within the field of Geology and Astrobiology, hoping to refine our understanding of our place in the Universe.  I am hoping to travel across to Australia in October (Covid depending) to finish some of my lab work that I cannot do in NZ. This award will assist me in this travel. Otherwise, I will attend the NZ Geologic Association (GSNZ) yearly conference at the end of the year. This fund will assist with this conference.

Congratulations to our runner up, Maryamsadat Hosseini, PhD student at the University of New South Wales, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, under the supervision of Associate Professor Samsung Lim.

Bushfires may cause extensive damage to the environment and harm humans in populated areas. Bushfire susceptibility mapping helps to predict and provide the required management plans to reduce the adverse impacts from bushfires. Maryam’s research focuses on the use of evolutionary algorithms and statistical methods to create more accurate bushfire susceptibility maps. The result of her research will be useful for policy makers and managers to have better natural hazard management plans.

Maryam plans to attend a conference using this award which will provide opportunities for her to introduce herself as a new researcher in this field.


Congratulations to our runner up, Thomas Adams, PhD Candidate at the University of Newcastle, School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, working under the supervision of Dr Roger Liang.

Thomas works on novel nanomedicines for use in viral-induced respiratory disease, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). His group use a combination of chemical and biological techniques to bridge the gap between formulation science and biomedical science.

It’s an exciting time to be working in the respiratory and drug-delivery space; the long-term goal is to design and optimise formulations that are brought to clinical trial. They could be useful for patients in the acute care setting and in the community alike, so there is incredible potential for clinical translation!

Thomas plans on using the award to attend and present his work at the CRS international conference 2022. This will allow Thomas to make valuable connections with like-minded scientists and promote their work to the wider scientific and medical community.


Congratulations to our runner up, Joshua Marlow, Postdoc Researcher, at the University of Sydney, School of Chemistry, working under the supervision with Professor Greg Warr.

Joshua is investigating ‘hybrid liquids’, new solvents which combine the best aspects of ionic liquids and deep eutectic solvents for applications such as novel lubricants and solvents.

This is my first postdoctoral position and I’d love to continue in academia, continuing to research soft matter systems such as these.

The award will be spent towards registration, travel, or accommodation to attend either IACIS 2022 in Brisbane or an upcoming ANSTO User Meeting to promote his research and learn from others in the field.


Congratulations to our runner up, Sofia Dahlman, third year PhD student at Monash University, School of Biological Science, working under the supervision of Dr Jeremy Barr.

Sofia’s research investigates the diversity of bacteriophages, viruses that infects bacteria, in the human gut microbiome. More specifically Sofia is interested in temperate phages that can integrate into the host genome and cause phenotypical changes, for example increased fitness or virulence of the host. Now it is very much at the discovery phase, but downstream it could lead to increased understanding of what makes a healthy gut microbiome. In the future Sofia hopes to continue her research in this field either in industry or at a post-doc position.

The award will be used to attend the Viruses of Microbe (iVOM) conference hopefully in person in Portugal 2022.

Congratulations to our runner up, Laura Kate Inglis, first year PhD student, Flinders University, School of Biological Sciences, working under the supervision of Professor Robert Edwards.

Laura’s project involves creating an ontology to group metagenomes by their isolation source and examining whether the taxonomy or functional profile of a metagenome can be used to predict the isolation source. She is also examining how the number of prophages in a bacterial genome differs with different isolation sources.

I would like to continue with a career in research after I finish my PhD, but it’s still fairly early in my PhD so a different opportunity may come along, you never know. I like to keep my options open.

Laura plans to spend her prize money to go to the combined ABACBS and Phylomania 2021 hybrid conference in November 2021.

Congratulations to our runner up, Ferran Nadal-Bufi, PhD student at Queensland University of Technology, School of Biomedical sciences, based at the Translational Research Institute, working under the supervision of Dr Sónia Troeira Henriques.

Ferran’s research is focused on developing peptide-based drugs that modulate protein-protein interactions as a target to inhibit intracellular cancer pathways. His project includes peptide design and synthesis, cell-penetrating peptides, cell-based assays, and proteomics.

Ferran would like to pursue a career in academia after finishing his PhD, in the field of medicinal chemistry.

The award money will be used to pay registration fees to attend the 14th Australian Peptide Conference in Gold Coast, Queensland. At the final year of my PhD, this conference would be a great opportunity to share and discuss my research, and network with top scientists in my field to progress my career after completing my PhD.



But wait there is more!

We would like to thank all those that participated. The next Encouragement Award will be posted on our website soon.

For more information or to stay informed of other upcoming promotions please ‘Like us” on Facebook or contact us.

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ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our April 2021 Encouragement Award promotion.

The theme of our latest competition focused on vaccine hesitancy.  Vaccines have been proven to offer the best defence against deadly infections, yet, there is still a sizeable percentage of people, many from higher-income regions, who are hesitant to receive them. Anti-vaccination was identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019. Diseases, such as measles, are making a resurgence and experts say people are avoiding vaccines due to fear and misinformation.

Why do some people believe such devious misinformation? How can we counter this misinformation to restore vaccine confidence as we start to vaccinate the world population against COVID-19?


Three entries were selected to receive our award– first prize at $1500 and 2 runners up at $600 each.

Congratulations to our first prize winner, Carolyn Wang, PhD Candidate at the School of Human Sciences, University of Western Australia, working under the supervision of Dr Kimberley Wang.

Carolyn is a third-year PhD student in the Respiratory Physiology Laboratory at The University of Western Australia, under the supervision of Dr Kimberley Wang and A/Prof Peter Noble. Her PhD project looks at the mechanisms underlying the association between obesity and asthma, following the novel discovery of adipose tissue in the airway wall. Her mission is to explore the role of this airway-associated adipose tissue and how it can contribute to the development of asthma. Understanding the structural and functional implications of adipose tissue within the airway wall may direct future therapeutic interventions for obese asthmatic patients, who experience more severe asthma symptoms and are less responsive to current therapies.

“I hope to continue my career in research by undertaking a post-doc after my PhD. I’m excited to follow the emerging discoveries in respiratory research and hope to contribute to these findings.

This award will be used to attend The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand’s Annual Scientific Meeting in 2022. I look forward to the opportunity to attending this conference in person, where I can network and share my work with my peers and collaborators”.

Congratulations to our runner up, Farley Kwok van der Giezen, PhD Researcher, at the University of Western Australia, School of Molecular Sciences,  under the supervision of Professor Ian Small.

In collaboration with the ARC CoE Plant Energy Biology group, Farley’s research investigates RNA binding proteins in plants, particularly in early branching plants like ferns. A set of these ancient plants have a unique type of RNA editing which converts uridine to cytidine in their chloroplast and mitochondria. This type of reaction is energetically unfavourable, but these plants have found a way. Uncovering these mechanisms will aid further understanding of how plants actually achieve this. As part of this work, Farley is developing synthetic RNA editing proteins with the goal of developing a molecular tool for improving plant energy production, and possibly even treating human mitochondrial disease.

“My aspirations post-PhD are to work in the Australian synthetic biology space, either in research or industry. I am also passionate about education, outreach, and communication. I would also love to work in government to inform science policy and help bridge the gap between science and the public”.

The award will help Farley attend the 2021 Synthetic Biology Australasia conference later this year.

“The pandemic has stolen the opportunity for all of us to travel to international conferences to share our research and network with the global science community. The opportunity to attend the SBA 2021 conference will be an invaluable experience to present work, share ideas and connect with national colleagues”.

Congratulations to our runner up,  Santhni Subramaniam, third year PhD candidate at the Clinical and Health Sciences, University of South Australia under the supervision of Professor Clive Prestidge.

Santhni’s project focusses on the use of nanoparticles as drug delivery strategies against intracellular infection, in which bacteria have found a nice for survival within immune cells that were programmed to kill them. Santhni has shown some preliminary results to prove her hypothesis and currently is further understanding on the limitation posed by nanoparticles for these infections.

As in-person conferences remain limited, Santhni plans to spend her award money on the next experimental techniques and methods to further validate her current results.

Congratulations to our 3 winners!

But wait there is more!

A surprise $500 prize for significant contribution to our award was given to Armin Kavehei, PhD student at Macquarie University, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, working under supervision of Professor Damian Gore and Professor Grant Hose.

Armin’s project focuses on new methods for the assessment of contaminated sites, using base metal legacy mines as an example. Assessments are usually conducted via soil, sediment and water chemistry, and less commonly using invertebrate assemblages. The responses of whole biological communities provide a better understanding of contamination in soil, sediment and water. Armin seeks to determine whether or not soil and streams near mines are impacted by analysing the presence or absence of biota via measurement of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) they shed in the environment (i.e., environmental DNA or ‘eDNA’). Similarly, the impacts of contaminants may also be observed in the biota downstream using eDNA. The outcomes of his research will provide tangible benefits for the environment and communities near and downstream of contaminated areas.

Armin plans to use the award to attend ALGA’s 2021 New Zealand Land & Groundwater Conference. “Attending this conference will provide opportunities for me to expand my network of expert collaborators, and introduce myself as a new researcher in this field”. 

We would like to thank all those that participated. The next Encouragement Award will be posted on our website soon.

For more information or to stay informed of other upcoming promotions please ‘Like us” on Facebook or contact us.

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ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our December 2020 Encouragement Award promotion.

The topic of our latest competition focused on the Eurovision song contest and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to compose songs.  Since most songs are related to human personal interactions such as love songs we asked our participants to consider how they would feel about an affectionate song dedicated to them composed by a robot. Some argued that we are already using intelligent software to create compelling music, with an intention directly aimed at driving more sales. The question then arises, will music composed using AI eventually all sound the same? As AI increasingly becomes part of our daily lives and builds into creative practice, many artists see it as a useful tool, not unlike a camera or a paintbrush.


Three entries were selected to receive our award– first prize at $1500 and 2 runners up at $600 each.

Congratulations to our first prize winner, Dr Ben Vezina, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Monash University, Department of Infectious Diseases, working under the supervision of Dr Kelly Wyres.

‘Research science revolves around spending time problem-solving, discovering and working out new concepts with some of the most creative, clever, curious and educated people in the world, so it’s one of my favourite spaces to be. More specifically, I want to help resolve issues around antibiotic resistance as well as continue basic research into bacteria, which are curious microscopic life forms with incredible complexity.’

Ben’s current research project focuses on disease-causing bacteria called Klebsiella pneumoniae, which causes a variety of infections in humans. While it inhabits a diverse range of environments and hosts, we don’t yet understand how this is related to its ability to cause disease, or how it spreads within human populations. Ben’s research team believes it may have something to do with the genetic diversity of Klebsiella pneumoniae’s DNA, which allows different populations of the bacteria to survive in different environments. To work this out, Ben uses computer software to study DNA of Klebsiella pneumoniae to determine which compounds they require for survival. This may help explain whether or not Klebsiella pneumoniae found in the environment are contributing to the spread of human infections.

Ben plans to spend his award on attending the evolutionary/microbiological conference SMBE 2021. ‘Having an opportunity to meet with international researchers is important for me to develop ideas, collaborations and continue contributing to the field.’

Congratulations to our runner up, Jiayue Clara Jiang, a final-year PhD candidate at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, the University of Queensland, under the supervision of Dr Kyle Upton and Associate Professor Joe Rothnagel.

Clara’s project focuses on the genetic mechanisms behind breast cancer, the most common type of cancer affecting Australian women. By combining bioinformatics with molecular approaches, Clara seeks to understand the role of transposons, or “jumping genes”, in the transcriptional regulation of breast cancer. Clara employs various bioinformatic tools to analyse transcriptomics and epigenetics data, such as RNA-seq and ChIP-seq, and to identify transposons with putative regulatory roles in breast cancer. She then validates the activities of these transposons using wet-lab approaches, and investigate the effects of transposon-derived regulatory activities on oncogene expression and cancer phenotypes. The identification of transposon-driven oncogene activation events in cancer provides additional insights into the cancer genome, and potentially provides novel biomarkers for disease diagnosis and targets for treatments.

After her PhD, Clara plans to continue her research career in the fields of cancer biology, genomics or transcriptomics as a post-doc. In addition, Clara is a member of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee at her School, and intends to continuously advocate for workplace equity and diversity in the future.

‘I plan to use the award to attend the ComBio2022 conference, or other bioinformatics/ cancer-related conferences. The opportunity to present my findings at these events will help me increase the impact of my research, and to broaden my network.’

Congratulations to our runner up, Callum Verdonk, PhD Candidate, The University of Western Australia, Protein Production and Structure Facility, under the supervision of Prof. Charlie Bond and Dr. Josh Ramsay.

Callum’s project focusses on bacterial DNA transfer – specifically how a particular type of protein is involved in mobile DNA excision and transfer.

‘My career goals are to continue in the research field, investigating further bacterial studies, particularly focusing on mobile DNA elements and bacterial evolution. I have a particular interest in continuing my knowledge of biochemistry and genetic manipulation techniques.’

Callum uses biophysical techniques such as surface plasmon resonance and microscale thermophoresis to investigate protein-DNA interactions, as well as structural biology techniques such as X-ray crystallography and small-angle X-ray scattering to elucidate protein and complex molecular structures.

‘I would’ve loved to go to Lorne proteins 2021!’

Given the limitation on in-person conferences, Callum plans to spend his award money on purchasing equipment for sequencing-related work to help investigate a new exciting discovery!

We would like to thank all those that participated. The next Encouragement Award will be posted on our website soon.

For more information or to stay informed of other upcoming promotions please ‘Like us” on Facebook or contact us.

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August 2020 Encouragement Award winners

ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our August 2020 Encouragement Award promotion.

Funding Research amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Given the COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of life this year, we decided to focus our August competition on the importance of consistent funding for scientific research. Multiple sources can confirm that Australian spending on research (including government and industry) has declined over the last few years. This is only expected to fall further as Governments face huge economic downturns following lockdown.  Most research facilities not involved in vaccine development may not be high on the list of funding priorities, but the COVID-19 pandemic may provide a unique opportunity to fundamentally rethink the priorities of economic policy.

We asked our participants to compose a letter to the Federal Treasurer outlining what they believe are compelling reasons to provide significant ongoing funding for Science education and research.


Three entries were selected to receive our award– first prize at $1500 and 2 runners up at $600 each.

Congratulations to our first prize winner, Dr Tushar Kumeria, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), School of Materials Science and Engineering.

Tushar recently moved from the University of Queensland to take up a position as Scientia Senior Lecturer in the growing field of Biomaterials. His current research and teaching focus is on porous nanomaterials and composites for drug delivery, sensing, and tissue engineering. Tushar is an Early Career Researcher funded by NHMRC and ARC. His projects interface novel materials with biology to create advanced nanomedicine and biosensing tools.

“As an academic with international experience, my long-term career goal is to create new materials and devices for biomedical applications, promote STEM education, and train the future generation of researchers”.

Tushar would like to use his award to purchase small tools for a new lab in progress at UNSW.

“I’ve seen drastic reductions in my startup-funds (more than 50 %) due to COVID-19. The small tools from this award will help me set up two optical sensing rigs that will be useful in the development of smart optical sensors using our porous photonic crystals”.

Congratulations to our runner up, Jasmine Francis, PhD candidate at RMIT University, Department of Biotechnology, working under the supervision of Prof Peter Smooker.

Jasmine’s PhD project is focussed on the development of lipid nanomaterials for DNA vaccine delivery, with a particular emphasis on nanoparticle-based adjuvant strategies. DNA vaccines are a promising vaccine strategy which involves using host cells to express vaccine antigens, which reduces the cost and time required for vaccine development. Jasmines’s PhD has involved the development of a novel adjuvanted lipid nanocarrier for a DNA vaccine against a human gastric pathogen, Helicobacter pylori, which infects approximately 50% of the global population and is the only human pathogen classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Agency.

I am very grateful for this award which I plan to use to purchase a FlowJo software subscription to perform flow cytometry analysis from home during COVID-19 restrictions, which will significantly improve my research capabilities during this lockdown”.

Outside of her research, Jasmine has a strong interest in science and technology policy in Australia, and advocacy around diversity and inclusion in STEM.

Congratulations to our runner up, Daniel Urrutia Cabrera, PhD candidate from the University of Melbourne, Centre for Eye Research Australia working under the supervision of Dr Raymond Wong. The research group is working to unravel the mysteries of the retina and develop treatments for eye disease using cellular reprogramming and stem cell technologies.

Photoreceptors are light sensing neurons within the retina essential for vision. Therefore, the damage to these cells has a severe and irreversible impact in the quality of vision and can even lead to complete blindness. Currently, there are no effective treatments to restore vision once the photoreceptors are lost.

Daniel’s project aims to regenerate the lost photoreceptors to restore the affected vision. In particular, Daniel provokes a supporting type of cells within the retina with stem cell characteristics, called Müller glia, to transform into new photoreceptors. He employs a variation of the CRISPR technology, called CRISPR activation, to switch on specific genes that would enable the reprogramming of an already established “cell identity” into a photoreceptor.

“I hope that my project could someday improve the lives of patients with impaired vision.”

We would like to thank all those that participated. The next Encouragement Award will be posted on our website soon.

For more information or to stay informed of other upcoming promotions please ‘Like us” on Facebook or contact us.


Winning entries are below

Federal Treasurer of Australia,

Re: “Jobs of the Future” Depend on Education and Research Funding Today.

Dear Treasurer,

I want to start this letter with a statement from Prof. Mark Biggs (formerly, Head of School of Chemical  Engineering, University of Adelaide) that has stuck with me since the early days of my PhD “We cannot prosper as a society by digging and exporting our dirt (mineral and ores) for too long. Wealth comes from here (pointing to his brain) and not from the ground”. This statement underpins the importance of education and research for Australia.

Advanced economies like the Israel (4.8 %), Korea (4.2 %), Germany (3.0 %), USA (2.8 %), and others invest heavily (more than the OECD average; 2.34 % of GDP) in education, and research and development. While Australia spends considerably less, only 1.79 % (2017 data) of the GDP. A further reduction in these number would mean flight of talent to other countries and further loss of high-skilled job in addition to the already 7700 research jobs that are under threat at Australian universities due to the loss of revenue because of COVID-19.

In the long-term, rapid developments in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) threaten loss of millions of low-skilled jobs (e.g. driving, data analysis, etc.) in the next decade. Unlike the technologies of the past that created more jobs than they destroyed, AI- and ML-based smart and self-learning technologies will create considerably less jobs. To prepare our economy and society for the changes brought upon by AI and ML, we need to prepare our future generation for the “Jobs of the Future” by investing heavily in the STEM education that will result in new innovations and high-tech jobs. Our ally countries like the USA, Korea, and Japan, through heavy investment in education and research over the last century, have created an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship. More recently, the world has observed China to become a leader in complex high-technologies and manufacturing through continuing investment in education and research, and now challenges countries the USA and Germany in innovation and entrepreneurship. This is also recognized by Australian Parliament with statement “There is a high correlation between the wealth of nations, in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and R&D intensity (R&D/GDP)”.

Being an early career researcher (ECR) who just started a new position (8/06/2020) at UNSW in the middle of this pandemic, I’ve seen drastic reduction in my research funding. Like me, many other researchers rely on funding from the university and government for their cutting-edge research and training the next generation of leaders. It is scary to imagine more cuts in education and research funding by the government, under current times when Industrial funding is a the all-time low. Australian R&D, despite years of funding reductions, returns as high as $7/$1 of investment in some sectors. Therefore, to compete at global stage and create the “Jobs of the Future”, Australia needs increased education and research funds today.


Dr Tushar Kumeria, PhD

School of Materials Science and Engineering

University of New South Wales-Sydney

New South Wales-2052, Australia


https://data.oecd.org/rd/gross-domestic-spending-on-r-d.htm; https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/RP9697/97rp18; https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/research-and-development; https://www.crdc.com.au/research-development


Dear Mr Frydenberg,

The economic impacts of COVID-19 on Australia are significant, and we will likely see these impacts extend across the next 3-5 years. Understandably, there are a number of important economic initiatives to support Australia’s economy to bounce back from COVID-19 that require immediate economic support, including infrastructure projects, childcare subsidies and wage support initiatives such as JobKeeper. While these initiatives are critical to the immediate support of Australian’s and to prevent a recession, long-term economic recovery will only be possible if Australia supports its knowledge industries, namely research and development in science, engineering and technology.

Australia has a world-class research and development sector producing high quality, high impact research. This sector provides significant economic returns through the development of life-saving medicines, advanced digital technologies, and novel materials. Not only does this sector provide increasingly strong economic returns, but a thriving R&D sector also puts Australia in a strong position in terms of future epidemic preparedness. Australia’s best immunologists and infectious disease experts are currently at the forefront of the race to develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine, and are contributing globally to the work to develop suitable treatments and other lifesaving interventions, including high capacity medical equipment and PPE.
Unfortunately, Australia’s research workforce will be severely impacted by COVID-19, and these effects are likely to continue to be felt for several years. Australia’s Universities are already suffering economically from the loss of international student fees, and research centres from limited access to conduct research to meet grant funding and project deadlines. Overall, the economic outlook for the sector is concerning. Industry sectors are likely to experiences reduced capacity to innovate, and this decline in innovation will impact Australia’s economic growth by reducing our capacity to develop new technology, limit the advancement of our skilled workforce, and overall reduced production of valuable products and materials.

There is strong evidence to support the argument that Australia’s research and development sector should be considered crucial to our post-COVID economic recovery, and there is now an important opportunity for the Federal Government to ensure that this sector continues to operate in the face of COVID-19 related challenges. Australia’s path to economic and social recovery must be led by a thriving and innovative knowledge industry, which will not only position us as world leaders in research and development but will also drive a skilled workforce and innovation across all industries. By providing significant and ongoing funding for scientific education and research, Australia will be well-positioned for a strong economic recovery from COVID-19.

Kind regards,
Jasmine Francis
PhD Candidate, Biotech
RMIT University


Dear Treasurer,

I would like to make a plea in favour of Australia’s welfare, progress and international competitiveness. I acknowledge that it has been a devastating year, with an unprecedented bushfire disaster, the lingering drought and the worldwide health crisis of COVID-19. I hereby propose that we make research Australia’s beacon hope, to provide solutions for these daunting challenges and to build the foundations of economic prosperity. A clear proof of the importance of research is how scientists from all around the world, including Australia, work tirelessly to understand COVID-19 and develop treatments for this devastating disease.

Education is an essential driver of progress and sustainability. Universities do not only prepare Australia’s future workforce, but they also provide thousands of jobs, research and an economic contribution estimated to be more than 40 billion dollars (1). Sadly, the unemployment and decrease in GDP caused by this year’s harsh conditions, did not spare our education system. However, it is through teaching, research and innovation how we can rebuild, and even strengthen, Australian economy.

Particularly, research products can be commercialised, which would result in economic growth and the generation of new job opportunities for Australians. Research and development (R&D) have the potential to become a solid foundation of economic development; it is estimated that every $1 invested in R&D returns $5 to our economy (1). According to UNESCO’s published data from 2017, countries like Israel, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland have identified the broad benefits of research, thus having invested 4.6%, 4.6% and 3.4% of their GDP, respectively (2). Conversely, Australia’s investment in R&D was only 1.9% of GDP, therefore it was ranked the 18th country within the OECD in this category. These data suggest that Australia could increase the support for research, and that the productivity of research would help Australia to thrive during these harsh times.

Beyond the social and economic benefits of research, it also creates a sense of pride and nationalism. Australia takes pride in being the country that invented the Wi-Fi, the curative effects of penicillin and polymer bank notes, to mention some; nonetheless, with the proper funding there could be many more developments yet to come. Research interests are also endemic, which means that Australia’s problems and environment largely influence research projects. We cannot just wait and hope for other countries to address our issues. The solutions for skin cancer, the Great Barrier Reef deterioration and the droughts affecting our farmers, lie in the brilliant minds of Australian scientists. However, these and many more valuable projects are at risk, and a greater national commitment is vital for our research to progress.

The welfare and resilience of Australia’s scientists, teachers, students and society in general, can be secured through the support for research and education. Moreover, increasing our investment in research and development would be a sensible strategy towards the recovery and prosperity of this great nation.

Yours faithfully,

Daniel Urrutia Cabrera, PhD Candidate,

Cellular Reprogramming Unit

Center for Eye Research Australia

University of Melbourne, Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery

  1. Home – Universities Australia [Internet]. [cited 2020 Aug 30]. Available from: https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/ 2. New UIS Data for SDG 9.5 on Research and Development [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2020 Aug 30]. Available from: http://uis.unesco.org/en/news/new-uis-data-sdg-9-5-research-and-development
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ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our March 2020 Encouragement Award promotion.

The topic of our latest competition asked the question “Should intelligent robots have the same rights and freedoms that we have?”  As robots develop more advanced artificial intelligence empowering them to think and act like humans, do our legal standards need to change? Some of our participants argued that only those who have living and independently viable human bodies are worthy of moral consideration. Others raised concerns with the advent of ‘deep learning’ and the use of algorithms by their creators as a covert way to absolve themselves of responsibility. Some believe a potential AI takeover is imminent where robots will become “an existential threat” to humans – just like in the movies I,Robot and The Terminator. So, by giving AI full human rights, are we quite literally handing AI the key to our own doom? Only the future holds the answers.…


Three entries were selected to receive our award– first prize at $1500 and 2 runners up at $600 each.

Congratulations to our first prize winner, Xavier John Reid, PhD student at the University of Sydney, School of Life and Environmental Sciences working under the supervision of Prof. Joel Mackay.

“I would like to be able to contribute to society as much as possible, and for me the way of doing this that makes the most sense is through research”.

The broad focus of Xavier’s project involves looking into how chromatin remodelling leads to certain genes being turned on or off. In particular, how chromatin remodelling complexes like the Nucleosome Remodelling and Deacetylase complex achieve substrate specificity through a combination of switching out paralogous subunits, and recognition of particular post translational modifications on histone proteins. Ultimately this will allow better understanding of how aberrant behaviour of these complexes leads to a variety of diseases.

Xavier plans to use his prize to attend either Lorne Proteins 2021 or ComBio 2022 depending on the COVID-19 situation, where he can learn more about the wider fields surrounding his project.

Congratulations to our runner up, Tom Saunders, PhD student at the University of Auckland, School of Biological Sciences in New Zealand. Tom is working under the supervision of Associate Professor Greg Holwell, and Dr Gonzalo Avila from Plant & Food Research.

“I plan to spend the award on a biocontrol-related conference in 2021, such as the second International Congress of Biological Control (ICBC2) in Davos, Switzerland. I’m looking forward to meeting other biocontrol researchers and forging international collaborations. This would certainly help my research and my career enormously”.

Tom’s research focuses on improving the way classical biological control agents are screened for their risks to non-target species before they are released. Tom is using chemical ecology to understand why a biocontrol agent will attack some species and not others, and in particular, how volatile compounds associated with different hosts mediate this host-specificty. His case study is Trissolcus japonicus (or the samurai wasp), the most promising natural enemy of the brown marmorated stink bug, which is a devastating crop pest invasive in Europe and North America, and likely to spread to other regions in the near future. Tom is investigating how the samurai wasp will respond to the stink bug fauna in New Zealand if it were to be introduced there. Tom would like to continue research in this area after his PhD and in the future, be involved in the sustainable development of horticulture in different regions.

Congratulations to our runner up, Cameron McKnight, 3rd year PhD student based at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in the Brain and Mitochondrial Research group, studying under Dr Ann Frazier, Prof. David Thorburn, and Dr David Elliott.

Cameron is using human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) models to study mitochondrial disease, a group of complex inherited genetic disorders that affect 1 in 5000 live births by adversely impacting cellular energy generation. Despite a number of treatments showing therapeutic promise, none are currently certified for clinical use in mitochondrial disease. To address this issue, Cameron has genetically engineered a panel of hPSC models that mimic mutations known to cause mitochondrial disease in patients. Using disease relevant human heart muscle cells generated from his cell lines, Cameron is performing high-throughput drug screens with several promising compounds. This work could provide the preliminary evidence needed to support a personalised medicine approach to mitochondrial disease by linking targeted therapies to specific genetic causes.

“This award will allow me to make the most of the current situation while working from home, financing subscriptions to Adobe Cloud and BioRender as I use this time to develop some new technical skills and generate figures for my thesis. These funds will also help support my registration fees for EuroMit next year. Although the meeting has been pushed to 2021, I am excited to be able to share what will be my completed PhD work at the largest mitochondrial conference in the world!”

 We would like to thank all those that participated. The next Encouragement Award will be posted on our website soon.

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Announcing our winner Ms Pritam Sharma recipient of our $2000 SPIN to WIN prize during ICONN2020

  Our annual ‘SPIN TO WIN” Young Scientist competition was hosted during the 8th International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICONN 2020), held at the Brisbane Convention Centre, 9-13 February 2020. Featuring a diverse array of multidisciplinary talks, the meeting connected world leading scientists, students and industry participants working in the field of nanoscale science and technology and facilitated discussions of new and exciting advances.

This year we invited all delegates that visited our trade booth the opportunity to participate in our spinning wheel competition. We offered a number of different prizes including timers, pens and wireless chargers, but the most appealing prize on the board, as expected, was our $2000 Young Scientist Award. The crowd’s energy intensified with anticipation after a number of participants progressed through to the final round. Cheers and gasps filled the room as everyone who had gathered supported one another until finally the winner was announced!

Congratulations to Ms Pritam Sharma – winner of the $2000 ‘Spin to Win’ Prize!

Pritam Sharma is a research student at The University of Western Australia, part of the Microelectronics research group working under the supervision of A/Prof Adrian Keating.

The group focuses on porous silicon and it’s use as a platform to create micromachined sensors. The porous nature of the films created allows the optical, electrical, thermal and mechanical properties of these films to be engineered. Current focus is on achieving a better understanding of the suitability of this material to be used in next generation thermal imaging sensors, which can be operated at room temperature. As the structural material and the release layer are all based on silicon, many of the material compatibility issues associated with multi-material systems and sensors can be avoided.

This award will help Pritam further her research training and improve dissemination of the concepts that she is currently working on.

“Ultimately, getting our students and our projects better known in the research community, helps us as a group to develop a stronger reputation, which assists with drawing in high caliber students who can take the work further, and provides the potential for additional funding support” said A/Prof Adrian Keating.

This award will support Ms. Pritam Sharma to attend Prof. Sailor’s summer school for Silicon nanotechnology at UCSD to further to develop skills in the field of both nanotechnology and Porous Silicon. More than just technical skill development, this is an excellent networking opportunity for Ms. Sharma as Prof. Sailor is extremely well known in the area of porous silicon.

The SPIN to WIN award is part of the ATA Scientific Encouragement award program that started in 2011. The intent is to provide scientists access to financial assistance to enable them to collaborate with peers at scientific meetings and to launch their careers within their field of study. The awards are run at least four times a year which has so far awarded over 60 winners from multiple Universities and research organisations around Australia and New Zealand. We plan to continue posting these awards into the future and encourage all students to enter. 

For more information regarding our award or to enter the next promotion contact us or visit our webpage at www.atascientific.com.au/awards-events-training/




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