ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our June 2019 Encouragement Award promotion.

The topic of our latest competition focused The Museum of Failure located in Sweden which home to a collection of failed products and services from around the world. The museum showcases these failures (e.g Google’s glasses, Sony’s Betamax, Apple’s Newton Messagepad, BIC for her pens and Trump’s monopoly game) to provide a learning experience and a unique insight into the risky business of innovation. We asked our audience to consider other examples of failures that could possibly be included in this Museum and some of the lessons that we could learn from such an apparent failure.

Once again, 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.


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, Stefan Mueller, PhD student at the University of Wollongong, School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience, working under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Antoine Van Oijen.

After finishing his B.Sc. degree in Physics, with a research project on the production of ultra-cold neutrons at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, Stefan decided to shift his interests from pure physics to biology. Driven by his curiosity about how life is actually physically possible, he decided to travel to Australia and join Antoine Van Oijen’s lab, where the team applies physical methods to study biological systems. Stefan’s project focuses on DNA replication, the process of copying the genome prior to cell division. This process is vital for every living organism, defects in this process are associated to a number of diseases, including numerous genetic disorders and cancer. By applying single-molecule microscopy Stefan can visualise DNA replication in vitro, one molecule at a time. He is particularly interested in how UV-damage of the genomes can affect this process on the molecular scale.

“The strong urge to understand the fundamental mechanisms of life, but also the belief that such an understanding will eventually lead to new therapies for diseases is why I want to pursue an academic career. The ATA Scientific Encouragement Award provides me funding that I will use to take part in the Cold Spring Harbor Meeting on Eukaryotic DNA Replication & Genome Maintenance this September in New York, and present my work to renowned researchers of my field”.

Congratulations to our runner up, Nikolai Macnee, PhD candidate at University of Auckland & Plant and Food Research, working under the supervision of Dr Robert Schaffer and Dr Sean Bulley.

Nikolai is completing his PhD studies on the molecular mechanisms that govern fruit skin formation in kiwifruit.  Nikolai is currently approaching the end of his PhD and soon will start a new job which will enable him to continue his developmental plant biology research in the field of medicinal cannabis.  Nikolai uses command line programming to assist in data analysis relevant to plant development but would like to expand his abilities into horticultural biotechnology. Nikolai would like to use his award to assist with a personal project aimed at robotic plant growth systems.  Although his skills focus on molecular plant biology, he is keen to investigate future growing systems and the production of low-cost robots for growing plants, ideally with the implementation of AI for monitoring.

 “It would be a dream to have the funds to prototype my robots, and one day enable others to grow food for themselves even while living busy lives”.


Congratulations to our runner up, Lakshanie Wickramasinghe, PhD student at Monash University, Department of Immunology and Pathology, working under the supervision of Associate Professor Margaret Hibbs.

Her research is focused on understanding the immune mechanisms underlying the development of a severe, yet common lung disease that affects preterm babies known as Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD).  Of particular interest is understanding how it begins in the early neonatal period and how it can lead to long-term damage to vital organs such as the lungs. Lakshanie aspires to become more involved in exploring therapeutics that can reduce, or ultimately prevent premature infants from developing BPD. Lakshanie hopes to be able to use her immunological and scientific knowledge to better understand the mechanisms of action of these therapeutics in the body.  Along with this, Lakshanie also hopes to help improve maternal and neonatal healthcare in Asian and African countries where mortality rates for preterm infants are unacceptably high. Often this is due to limited access to resources and rapid management strategies that can improve preterm birth outcomes. This kind of care is essential to all mothers and babies, and Lakshanie hopes to be a part of the process of making essential pre- and postnatal care more accessible worldwide.

Lakshanie  will be using her award to contribute to the cost of registration and attendance for the Fetal and Neonatal Physiological Society conference, 16 – 19th October 2019 in Marysville, Victoria.

“By attending this conference it will give me to opportunity to hear about current research being undertaken by scientists in the field around the world. It will also give me the opportunity to share my own research with others which may lead to fantastic collaborations in the future”.

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

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