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

The topic of our latest competition focused on the strong link between cognitive behaviour and foods. While studies continue to show evidence that supports the idea that food can influence our thought processes, we asked our readers to consider their own experiences and whether particular foods had any influence on their ability to think and concentrate. Judging by the number of entries received this is certainly a hot topic, particularly for those addicted to coffee and chocolate – yes, you know who you are. Many chose to focus on the science of consuming certain foods and described the chemical pathways leading to changes in brain function. Others noted the social impact and the role food plays in the expression of cultural identity. We were delighted to receive so many high quality responses, all of which were deserving winners. Each entry was scored based on originality, relevance and level of entertainment.


After much deliberation, 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 Samantha Wade, PhD candidate at the Targeted Cancer Therapeutics Laboratory, Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, University Of Wollongong, working under the supervision of Dr Kara L. Vine-Perrow.

Samantha is a third year PhD student working on implantable drug delivery for pancreatic cancer. Her work involves re-purposing FDA approved materials and clinically used drugs to make dual drug eluting structures for implantation and local release in pancreatic tumours. Samantha works with a team of clinicians, material engineers and biologists to cover all aspects of the project, to fabricate implants that are targeted toward clinical use.

For Pancreatic cancer, systemic chemotherapy has been found to be largely ineffective and surgery is not an option for many people because most cases are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Samantha’s work on drug-loaded implants may offer patients a better chance of survival as they can be placed directly into the tumour to shrink it down to a size that can be surgically removed.

Samantha plans to use the award money to help cover the costs of attending the controlled release society annual meeting in Spain next year.

Congratulations to our runner up, Cameron McKnight.

Cameron McKnight is a PhD student based at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in the lab of Prof. David Thorburn. His degree is through paediatrics at the University of Melbourne and he is supported by a Melbourne Research Scholarship. Cameron is also President of the Melbourne Children’s Campus Research Student Association and works with a group of volunteer students to organise networking and educational opportunities for all students studying on the children’s campus.

Working with his supervisor Ann Frazier, Cameron’s research focuses on childhood forms of mitochondrial disease, a group of complex inherited genetic disorders that primarily affect cellular energy production. He is developing pluripotent stem cell models to facilitate preclinical treatment studies and investigation of the underlying cellular mechanisms of disease. Although mitochondrial disease affects approximately 1 in 5000 live births, there is currently no known cures or treatments, a result of the clinical and genetic heterogeneity of the disorders. Still, a number of agents show therapeutic promise. The ultimate goal of Cameron’s project is to identify a potential treatment option using the clinically affected cell types by generating them in culture from his pluripotent stem cell models.

“This award will allow me to present my research at two discipline specific conferences this year, Australian Functional Genomics Conference in September and AussieMit in November, providing me the opportunity to get some valuable input from experts in fields. These conferences are also a great chance to network and potentially foster collaborations that could take my project to the next level! Post PhD, I hope to find a postdoctoral fellowship in stem cell or mitochondrial research. Having already moved from Canada I hope to be able to remain in Melbourne, but I am open to moving across the globe again short-term in order to develop some important long-term connections”.

Congratulations to our runner up, Dr Michal Bartnikowski, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow from the School of Dentistry, at The University of Queensland.  Michal is currently working with supervisor Professor Sašo Ivanovski on the development of 3D printed scaffolds for bone and periodontal regeneration. 

Michal’s work focuses on the development and clinical translation of custom biodegradable tissue engineered scaffold implants for bone regeneration of orofacial defects. These implants are made to fit individual patient’s geometries, and form a supportive structure to help the growth and development of bony tissue. Over the next few years, Michal aims to take a suite of tissue engineering products to the market, delivering affordable custom tissue regeneration solutions to patients in Australia.

Michal will use this award to help fund his trip to Kyoto, Japan this year, where he will present some of his work at the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS) World Congress 2018 conference.

 We would like to thank all those that participated. The final Encouragement Award for 2018 will be posted on our website soon.

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