ATA Scientific would like to thank all those who participated in our Oct 2023 Encouragement Award promotion.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can provide enormous benefits but equally pose huge dangers. Robotics and AI have a lot in common as they both were initially intended to assist humans. The Three Laws of Robotics written by Isaac Asimov in 1942 are iconic in the science fiction world and have become a symbol within the AI and robotics community of how difficult it is to properly design a system that is foolproof.

Our latest competition asked the question:

In Asimov’s three laws, imagine substituting the term “robot” with the term “AI”. Do you think this would make a good set of principles for the further development of AI? If not, can you propose other laws or principles that would ensure the development of AI will be a benefit not a disaster for humanity?


Three entries were selected to receive our award– first prize at $1500 and 2 runners-up at $750 each.

Congratulations to Tony Xu, PhD student working with the Anne Bruestle Lab at The John Curtin School of Medical Research Division at the Australian National University. His project is looking to utilise artificial intelligence (AI) on flow cytometry to help detect and monitor diseases in their pre-symptomatic or latent stages, particularly that of Multiple Sclerosis.

After his PhD, he will continue his medical studies at the UWA, and as noted by Tony, “with the aim of finishing before his hair starts greying!” The prize will enable Tony to attend two conferences and purchase some computational components allowing for him to train his AIs with greater ease. In his spare time, Tony enjoys beekeeping, volunteer firefighting (awesome photo Tony!) and playing hockey.

Tony plans to spend his award on a combination of conferences, attending Progress in MS research conference (29 Nov-1 Dec 2023) and Supercomputing Asia (19-22 February 2024).

Congratulations to Michael O’Dea, a PhD student at the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales, supervised by Dr Kate Quinlan.

Michael’s lab (Crossley/Quinlan at UNSW) studies the developmental regulation of haemoglobin switching. At six months of age the human body switches from gamma to beta-globin, and reversing this switch is key to therapies for sickle cell anaemia, the most common monogenic disorder in the world. Michael’s project uses base editors (more precise version of CRISPR) to study the role that nucleosome positioning plays in this regulation. 

“While I’m still relatively early in my PhD, long-term I’d like to use my background in genetics and AI to push the frontiers of precision medicine and gain a better understanding of genetic disorders such as Sickle Cell Anaemia and Parkinson’s disease “ said Michael.

“I’m very thankful to ATA Scientific for supporting this award since chances to communicate your research are so valuable for young scientists. I enjoyed the style of prompt – it was a lot of fun to brainstorm and write about a benevolent AI future – and would strongly encourage other students to apply for future awards.”

The award money will go towards attending and presenting at BioHorizons 2024 in Melbourne (22-26 September 2024).

Congratulations to Shivam Vora, PhD student at Mater Research Institute, University of Queensland under the supervision of Professor Brian Gabrielli.

Shivam Vora is a PhD student in the Smiling for Smiddy Cancer Cell Cycle Group at Mater Research. Shivam completed his Master’s in Biotechnology and graduated with a Dean’s Commendation for Academic Excellence.  His work focuses on polyploidy induced by the inhibition of Aurora Kinase B and the genetic background that determines the outcomes of this inhibition. Shivam hopes to pursue post-doctoral positions in the field of cancer biology with a focus on small molecule inhibitors.

Shrivam plans to spend this award on travel to the Lorne Cancer Conference in February 2024 where he will present an update of his research.

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

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