ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our April 2022 Encouragement Award promotion.

Most University students can take part in anonymous surveys to rate the “quality” of their teachers and the course they take. Unfortunately, these surveys have also become a platform for increasingly abusive comments that have nothing to do with teaching quality. The impacts on teaching staff can be serious and highly traumatising.  Early career academics, casual staff, women and minorities are especially affected. Positive ratings and comments are often required to ensure their continued employment or promotion.

Our latest competition asked the question: Should universities persist in employing anonymous surveys? Can you suggest better ways to assess the quality of teaching and courses?


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

Congratulations to Ashleigh Louise Dale, PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Stuart Cordwell at the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney.

Ashleigh’s PhD research is primarily in proteomics, biochemistry, and microbiology. Ashleigh focuses on the use of cross-linking mass spectrometry to define proteome-wide protein-protein interactions in the enteric bacteria Campylobacter jejuni. Ashleigh also aims to investigate how post-translational modifications impact these interactions to elucidate mechanisms of pathogenesis. To date, Ashleigh has optimised and employed various cross-linking mass spectrometry methods to study these protein interactions. The award will be spent at the 70th ASMS Conference on Mass spectrometry and Allied Topics in Minneapolis, Minnesota in June this year. Here she will get to listen to and potentially network with several researchers who have developed the mass spectrometry-based methods she has been using throughout her PhD.

After completing her PhD at the University of Sydney, Ashleigh plans to pursue a career in academia, where hopefully she will carry out mass spectrometry-based research and applications.

Congratulations to Lucy Fitschen, PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong, based in Molecular Horizons and working under the supervision of Dr Gökhan Tolun.

Lucy’s project uses cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to investigate the structure of annealase proteins in viruses. Annealases form a complex with their partner exonucleases, and function as a two-component recombinase called an EATR (Exonuclease Annealase Two-component recombinase). EATRs catalyse the single-strand annealing homologous DNA recombination reaction, which is used for the repair of double strand DNA breaks. In particular, Lucy is investigating the structure of the bacteriophage lambda annealase as a part of the EATR complex, aiming to deduce its detailed molecular mechanisms from its structure.

After completing a year-long honours project, I have now moved onto my PhD studies. I am passionate about research and cryo-EM, with plans to continue in these fields after getting my degree.

Lucy hopes to use the award money to attend the Australian Society for Microbiology Annual National Meeting 2022. This will be an invaluable experience which will allow her to present her scientific findings while networking with other researchers and learning what’s new in this field of research.

Congratulations to Claudia Pedulla, graduate research assistant currently working at the University of Western Australia under the supervision of Professor Jane Pillow.

Claudia recently completed an Honours degree with Professor Pillow where she used a fetal ovine model of chorioamnionitis to explore the development of the circadian rhythm. Chorioamnionitis is a leading cause of extremely preterm birth and impacts many developmental processes in utero. Furthermore, very little is known about the timing of circadian rhythm development in utero, allowing this research to address this gap in knowledge and better understand the fetal circadian timing system.

Claudia will present her work at the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) Annual Congress, held in Adelaide on the 16th-18th of May 2022. She will use the prize money to attend the congress in person, which will be an invaluable opportunity to present her research and facilitate networking.

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

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