ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our May 2017 Encouragement Award.

The topic of our latest competition was focused climate change and how we can develop innovations to minimise the negative effects. Selecting just three winners from the huge number of entries received was not an easy task. After carefully reviewing each one, we soon realised they were all worthy of the prize. While many chose to discuss mitigation strategies including reducing fossil fuel use, planting more trees, reducing waste, others considered quite novel and innovative solutions to achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions. It’s clear there is no single solution to global warming, however the choices we make in our day-to-day life — how we get around, what we eat, how we live — play a major role. Thank you to all those that participated in our competition and sent in their entries.

If you would like to get involved in reducing greenhouse gas emissions too, contact your political representatives and tell them you want immediate action on climate change.


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, Magdalena Kohut, PhD student at the University of Auckland studying Organic Synthetic Chemistry. Magdalena works under the supervision of Associate Professor Jonathan Sperry. Her research is mainly focused on the development of iridium-catalysed C-H activation methodology and its applications in natural product synthesis.

Magdalena recently completed her Master’s project in the labs of GlaxoSmithKline, a major pharmaceutical company. A summer internship in a medicinal chemistry group enabled her to understand the processes involved in drug discovery including the decision pathways used to assess and develop promising candidates. Through this experience, Magdalena was able to explore novel chemical space to further efforts towards a first-in-class therapy for an aggressive cancer cell line.

“My present research interests lie in small molecule synthesis with potential medicinally important activity. Throughout my future career as a broad goal I am determined to carry on searching for applications of science to benefit society, at the same time addressing the challenges of sustainable research and development. I seek a future as part of the bio-economy and am keen to learn about how academic research is commercialised”

Magdalena will use the award to help fund her travel and participation as one of 100 Leaders of Tomorrow at the Gap Summit conference at Georgetown University on 6th – 10th June 2017. The Gap Summit is a prestigious invite-only conference from which Magdalena was selected from a large pool of applicants. It will allow her contribute to discussions regarding the current global bio-economy and the grand challenges within the biotech industry. Listening to and meeting biotech CEOs, policy makers and research pioneers will give her a new perspective to her current and future work.

To read more about this conference visit http://dev.globalbiotechrevolution.com/events/gapsummit-2017/

Congratulations to our runner up, Hasintha Wijesekara, a PhD student to the Global Centre for Environmental Remediation (GCER), The University of Newcastle. Hasintha works under the supervision of Professor Nanthi Bolan, Professor of Environmental Chemistry at The University of Newcastle.

His research is focused on understanding the biogeochemical mechanisms of biosolids application on carbon sequestration in soils. He uses biosolids which is treated sewage sludge to limit greenhouse gas emission and enhance soil carbon sequestration.

In his research, he has been able to modify biosolids with an effective nano-scale stabilisation process with two industrial waste materials: Fly Ash from coal fired power stations and Red Mud from Bauxite refining. These industrial wastes contain certain types of nano-clay minerals. When mixed with biosolids, these tiny minerals bond strongly with carbon through a series of strong chemical and physical associations, protecting it from microbial degradation, and thereby preventing a significant amount of carbon from escaping the soil. The outcomes of this research show the opportunities to implement this strategy in field scale, and thereby “Building Soil Carbon Credits with Nanostabilised Biosoilds” in the future.

Hasintha plans to use his award to attend the International Annual Meeting for the Soil Science Society of America, “Managing Global Resources for a Secure Future”, Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, Florida, USA, October 22-25, 2017.

Congratulations to our runner up, Rahd Youakim, an aspiring second year student, Studying Marine science and majoring in Coastal Physical sciences at Griffith University.

Rahd is an active conservationist. His career goal is to be one of the leading figures in Australia for sustainable fishing aquaculture practices. He plans to establish his own research groups, one in each state along the east coast of Australia exploring different temporal environments and maximising the yield production for each zone with minimal to zero impact.

“A big dream yes I know! But my mum once told me that we are always destined to be the best person we can be and showed me the way to inner-happiness is to give more than you take”.

“All I want ultimately is the world’s oceans to be as healthy as they were 200 years ago. When all this comes together in the next 20 years I hope to use mine and others expertise re-stock the oceans with species that are on the brink of extinction”.

Rahd plans to use his award to contribute to his tuition costs which will assist with achieving his career goals and implementing his ideas in the future. He plans to purchase an aquaculture/ aquaponics system which will consist of a 2ft, 3ft and 4ft fish tank with filters, heaters etc. With the skills and knowledge gained from his studies, he would like to conduct his own experiments so that he can one day present his findings for every type of environment and implement these to ensure the best sustainable practices.

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

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