ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our Nov 2021 Encouragement Award promotion.

Most people are aware of the impact the pandemic has had on the general economy, but we don’t hear much from students themselves on how it has impacted their life. The shift to hybrid learning has become the norm, so now it is time for us to reconnect with all students and see the world from their point of view.

Our latest competition invited young scientists to explore their creativity and create a short 60 second video that showcased a typical day in their life as a student. Some chose to create a ‘tiktok’ style video of work in their lab, other presented a “60 second thesis” style talk to describe their research project.

We were overwhelmed by the response and received so many great entries that we decided to increase the number of prizes from six to nine $500 awards!!!


Below is a list of the top nine video entries selected to receive $500 each.








Congratulations to Airah Javorsky, third year PhD student at the Department of Biochemistry & Genetics, La Trobe University, under the supervision of Professor Marc Kvansakul.

Airah’s PhD is focused on the subversion of a cell signaling pathway called cell polarity and how it’s hijacked by viral proteins. Airah is studying a range of viral proteins from the Coronavirus, influenza A virus through to Human t-cell lymphotropic virus and Tick-born encephalitis virus and how they interact with cell polarity proteins called Scribble and PALS1. Recent work has shown that when these proteins interact, viral pathogenesis appears worse than usual. By understanding the molecular pathways, the research group can be better equipped to combat these infections.

“My career goals focus on sticking with further understanding viruses and hopefully an overseas position in either America, Canada or Europe. Especially since the pandemic, it has made me appreciate viruses and travel even more. The award will be spent on covering the cost to attend and present at the 47th Lorne Conference on Protein Structure and Function, taking place February 6-10 to develop my presentation skills, facilitate collaboration and networking to allow me to reach my research goals.”

Airah’s video

Congratulations to Lim Jing Ting Vernise, second year PhD student at LIMS La Trobe University working under the supervision of Dr Jacqueline Orian. Her PhD project focuses on how platelets play an important role in multiple sclerosis (MS). In collaboration with the Baker Institute, the group is testing the efficacy of a novel anticoagulant drug in-vivo. Vernise plans to carry on in her current research field and to hopefully play a part in the development of a novel MS drug.

The prize money will be used to attend the Progress in MS research scientific conference that will be held in Tasmania on the 3rd-5th April 2022, hopefully in person. “Sharing findings and learning from others in the field is always an important part for growth in your own research”.

Vernise’s video

Congratulations to Rudrarup Bhattacharjee, PhD Candidate at the University of Adelaide, Neurogenetics Group, Adelaide Medical School, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, working under the supervision of Dr Raman Sharma, Prof Jozef Gecz and Prof Paul Thomas.

Rudra’s current project aims to identify the molecular basis of X-linked Intellectual disability arising due to mutations in the THOC2 gene, which is a part of highly conserved TREX complex, mediating mRNA export. Subtle insults in such a fundamental pathway leads to catastrophic consequences for the patients and understanding the biology behind development of this disease could potentially unlock the therapeutic targets to help the patient lead a better life.

Rudra endeavours to continue with his studies contributing to cutting edge molecular biology research to further his career with the ultimate goal of helping patients suffering from rare genetic diseases. Rudra intends to use the award money to attend the Lorne Genome Conference 2022 ( to present his work and to also gain further insight of the current state of research in Genome Biology.

Rudra’s video

Congratulations to Emily McKaige, PhD student at Monash University, School of Biological Sciences, under the supervision of A/Professor Robert Bryson-Richardson.

Emily’s PhD research focuses on limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, a life-threatening condition caused by muscle wasting. Currently, very little is known about this disease and no treatment options are available to patients. Emily’s project aims to address this gap in knowledge and identify the very first effective treatment. After her PhD, Emily plans to take up a postdoctoral research position in a leading-edge laboratory overseas and eventually hopes to become a group leader.

“This award will allow me to attend and present my work at the International Zebrafish Conference 2022 or the Australia and New Zealand Zebrafish Meeting 2022, this will be an invaluable networking opportunity”.

Emily’s video

Congratulations to Drew Min Su Cylinder, second year PhD student at the Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, working under the supervision of Professor Bruno van Swinderen.

Drew’s research focuses on the mechanisms underlying general anaesthesia. Doctors have been using general anaesthetics on patients for over 150 years but how these drugs work has yet to be explained. Drew’s project uses C. elegans, a species of nematode worm, to investigate how the communication between neurons breaks down under general anaesthesia. A particular interest is if general anaesthetics have different effects on various neurotransmitter systems.

“I hope to use the money from the ATA Encouragement Award to travel overseas for a conference once borders open again.”

Drew’s video

Congratulations to Ilizel Retita, PhD candidate at the School of Materials Science & Engineering, University of New South Wales, under the supervision of Honorary Professor Sammy Chan.

Passionate about innovation, Ilizel has experience in developing and testing a novel material, designing new processes, and failure analysis of materials. Ilizel is currently developing novel hydrogen storage materials and wishes to pursue a profession that will advance hydrogen energy and related technologies. I propose to use the award of $500 to enrol in the UNSW Quantitave X-Ray Diffraction Analysis Short Course and Hydrogen Energy Conferences in 2022.

Ilizel’s video

Congratulations to Marium Khaleque, PhD student from the School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, working under the supervision with Associate Professor Benjamin Schulz.

Marium is working on the regulation of protein N-linked glycosylation. N-glycosylation is an essential post-translational modification of eukaryotic proteins that directly affects protein folding and plays important roles in protein function, stability, solubility, secretion, resistance to proteases and temperature, and enhancing half-life. Deeper understanding of how this molecular pathway is regulated will help in improving the quality of therapeutic proteins, the diagnosis of diseases like cancer, and the development of vaccines. I am interested to work on the role of N-glycosylation in cancer development and diagnosis. Marium plans to use her award to attend ComBio2022 being hosted at the  Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC).

Marium’s video

Congratulations to Jennifer Ton, Honours student at the Research School of Chemistry, The Australian National University, working under the supervision of Prof. Colin Jackson.

Jennifer’s current project focuses on identifying inhibitors for the CHIKV nsP2 protease which is a drug target for the treatment of Chikungunya fever. Using computational methods Jennifer is able to virtually screen libraries of small molecules and select the top hits which may potentially have high affinity to the active site of the protease of interest. Currently, there is only a crystal structure of the apo-protease. Jennifer attempted to co-crystallise the mutant with the substrate to have a better understanding of how a ligand interacts at the active site, which would provide a better template for molecular docking. She used a FRET-based assay to test the top hits identified from molecular docking with CHIKV nsP2 protease. She then tested the top three inhibitors for CHIKV nsP2 protease with other alphaviruses (viruses within the same family of CHIKV nsP2pro) to identify a ‘general’ inhibitor for alphavirus cysteine proteases. Jennifer is currently writing up her thesis.

Jennifers video

Congratulations to Andrew Quattrocchi, honours student at the Centenary Institute – Vascular Biology Program and the University of Sydney, working under the supervision of Professor Jennifer Gamble.

Andrew’s current research is focussed on a population of immune cells that surround and contact blood vessels, known as perivascular macrophages. This research is trying to understand the role of perivascular macrophages in the dysfunction in the blood brain barrier seen in Alzheimer’s Disease.

I plan to continue in research in Alzheimer’s Disease and the dementias, as I have always been driven to better understand the pathogenesis of this devastating neurological disease.

The prize money will go towards travelling to an ‘in person’ conference, either the Australian Vascular Biology Society Annual Conference or the Cerebrovascular Biology Australasia symposium in 2022.  By attending these conferences Andrews will be able to connect with Australia’s leading experts in vascular and neuroscience research, and further broaden his perspective on different research approaches, methodologies and focuses.

Andrew’s video

But wait there is more!

We would like to thank all those that participated. The next Encouragement Award will be posted on our website early 2022.

For more information or to stay informed of other upcoming promotions please ‘Like us” on Facebook or contact us.