ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our Oct-Nov 2018 Encouragement Award promotion.

The topic of our latest competition focused on the possible existence of a highly advanced extra-terrestrial civilisation observing us on earth and whether they should impose on us a fair and sustainable civilisation or keep well away. While Hollywood might have led us to think that an alien encounter would be greeted with guns and missiles, many of our applicants felt that in reality we humans would act in a far more positive manner. In fact a new study has supported this view and proposed “if we find out we’re not alone, we’ll take the news rather well”. Ultimately the mere fact that we’ve endeavoured to send a record of our presence into space (NASA’s Golden record launched in 1977) shows something about our humanity.

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, Miss Caroline Holley, second year PhD student at the Institute of Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland working under the supervision of Associate Professor Kate Schroder. “Being curious about the natural sciences from an early age, it was inevitable that I would eventually end up in research. I became fascinated with how our bodies defend themselves against pathogenic infection and joined A/Prof. Kate Schroder’s lab to develop my knowledge in this area”.

Caroline’s project is focused on the inflammasome, which is the major driver of many neuro-inflammatory diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease). Research in this area is becoming increasingly important given our aging population and an increase in lifestyle-related disease across the world (such as neurodegeneration, diabetes and persistent pathogenic infections). Current therapeutics for these diseases focus on stabilising the cognitive symptoms, but do not prevent further neuronal damage. The aim of Caroline’s project is to elucidate the role of mitochondria in inflammasome signalling, and use this knowledge to control inflammation in mouse models of neuro-inflammation. Eventually Caroline hopes to apply her research to patients living with chronic inflammatory diseases.

In addition to her PhD lab work, Caroline is an active member of her student society’s executive, and has coordinated several career development and social events for her fellow PhD students this year.

Caroline plans to use her award to present her research at the Lorne Infection & Immunology Conference in Melbourne (http://www.lorneinfectionimmunity.org) and the ASI Annual Scientific Meeting in Adelaide (http://www.immunology.org.au) next year.

 “These conferences attract many domestic and international immunology heavyweights, and I’m so excited to broaden my network and collaborations. This will undoubtedly be invaluable for my post-PhD prospects, as I hope to secure a postdoctoral position in Germany after my thesis is accepted”.  

Congratulations to our runner up, Ms Sabrina Schönborn, international Master student at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, working under the supervision of Dr Elena M. De-Juan-Pardo.

Sabrina is originally from RWTH Aachen, Germany and currently working at IHBI in the Regenerative Medicine Group as part of her Master Thesis. The team that Sabrina works with is attempting to develop a tissue engineered heart valve replacement using Melt Electrospinning Writing (MEW). In the photo attached Sabrina is standing next to one of the MEW machines in her lab being used to develop the new heart valve. Sabrina’s project is mainly focused on creating a scaffold for a replacement of the aortic root which encloses the aortic valve. Following her graduation, Sabrina would like to continue her career in research and development working with medical products, preferably implants.

Sabrina plans to use the prize money to attend the Australia-China Conference of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (ACCTERM), November 22-24, 2018 being held in Cairns this year.

Congratulations to our runner up, Mr Terence Tieu. Terence is a joint PhD candidate between Monash University and CSIRO, working under the supervision of Dr Anna Cifuentes-Rius, Dr Helmut Thissen and Prof. Nico Voelcker.

His research is focused on the development of Nano carriers, namely, porous silicon nanoparticles for efficient delivery of oligonucleotides.

The award will be used to contribute towards the costs of attending the Controlled Release Society conference in Valencia, Spain next year where he aims to share his research with an international audience.”

We would like to thank all those that participated. The next Encouragement Award will be posted on our website early 2019.

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