UniSA scientist Dr Melanie MacGregor has been named a “Superstar of STEM” for her ground-breaking work to help develop a diagnostic device for bladder cancer.
Dr MacGregor is among 60 female scientists recognised nationally by Science & Technology Australia to celebrate the country’s most inspiring women working in STEM, who are smashing the stereotype of “an old man in a white lab coat”.
The 33-year-old has led a team of scientists, engineers and doctors in developing a commercial, non-invasive microfluidic device to diagnose bladder cancer and potentially save thousands of lives each year.
Dr MacGregor, a Santos-UCL Research Fellow at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute, is renowned for her work in materials nano-design, building tiny devices using plasma coatings to capture cancer cells, grow stem cells and to help recover oil and gas for the mining sector.
Dr MacGregor earned her Master of Chemical Engineering in France before moving to Australia in 2008 as an intern. She is now an Australian citizen, has completed her PhD, married, and started a family.
The quality of her research, innovation and science communication has been recognised through several awards, including the 2017 Winnovation awards in the Engineering category, a 2018 Young Tall Poppy Science Award and the 2013 Ian Wark Medal for best PhD thesis.
UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Professor Tanya Monro, says Dr MacGregor is “an outstanding young scientist, who is undertaking game-changing research into the future of engineering and inspiring the next generation to pursue science”.
“Since joining UniSA in 2008, Melanie has excelled, first as a student and now a researcher specialising in an exciting new field that combines engineering, chemistry, physics and biology,” Prof Monro says.
Twelve UniSA researchers have collectively been awarded almost $12 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for projects in 2019 which tackle Australia’s most serious health challenges.
Among the successful applicants is Professor Alex Brown, who will use a $2.5 million grant to develop and deliver a model of culturally-appropriate health and social services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in order to improve social and emotional wellbeing and chronic disease outcomes.
Prof Brown, a Deputy Director of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and global leader in Aboriginal health, says “the award is recognition of the critical role that social factors play in driving disparate health outcomes for Aboriginal individuals, families and communities”.
“Only if we can adequately deal with some of the root causes of chronic conditions like diabetes, can we hope to see meaningful improvements in the lives of our people,” he says.
Funding has also been awarded for continuing research into cancer, dementia, obesity, kidney disease and melanoma.
UniSA’s other successful applicants for the 2019 project grants include:
Professor Sharad Kumar: $751,653 to investigate the impact of dietary salt on kidney disease severity and how a lack of a specific protein called Nedd4-2 leads to kidney disease; and $422,127 to better understand how cancer cells survive and can be targeted;
Dr Tasha Stanton: $1.19 million to pilot a new pain-relieving treatment for people with knee osteoarthritis;
Associate Professor Nicole Pratt: $1.16 million to investigate the use and safety of biologic medicines (immune-based drugs made inside living cells) and their potential side effects;
Dr Christopher Hahn: $1.3 million to use new DNA sequencing techniques to screen families with genetic mutations and explore their role in blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma;
Associate Professor Claudine Bonder: $805,249 to help control the spread of melanoma cells in the body and provide new options to combat skin cancer;
Dr Philip Gregory: $782,078 to explore the role of an RNA splicing protein called QKI-5 in driving the spread of prostate cancer;
Associate Professor Carol Maher: $737,127 to tackle Australia’s obesity crisis, tracking obese adults over 12 months to find out high-risk times for weight gain and the impact of diet, lifestyle, exercise, culture and sleeping patterns on weight;
Associate Professor Paul Anderson: $681,653 to develop a drug that prevents Vitamin D degradation and use it to treat bone disorders associated with chronic kidney disease;
Professor Elina Hypponen: $447,599 to identify metabolic pathways which lead to dementia and to develop new prevention strategies and drugs to target the disease;
Professor Benjamin Thierry: $432,192 to use immuno-PET imaging to detect metastatic deposits in regional lymph nodes in head and neck cancer, sparing patients unnecessary surgery and improving treatment.
UniSA’s success rate for NHMRC project applications this year was 21.67 per cent, compared to a national average of 17.29 per cent, a result applauded by UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd.
“These projects demonstrate the breadth and depth of research at UniSA in areas that have been identified as the most crucial health issues facing Australia,” Prof Lloyd says.
“Winning NHMRC grants is incredibly competitive and requires world-class research with the best chances of success, focusing on the most pressing health challenges in society. It is an extremely good result for our researchers and we are proud of their achievements.”
UniSA pharmaceutical expert Professor Michael Roberts has been awarded $AUS2.5 million by the United States’ leading food and drug agency to help develop superior dermatological products.
Prof Roberts, an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, is affiliated with both UniSA and the University of Queensland (UQ), with each institution playing a large role in two projects, announced in November by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The UniSA-led project, worth $1.79 million, will focus on gaining a better understanding of how variations in topical drug composition can influence how well they are absorbed into the skin.
The other UQ-led $687,000 project, in collaboration with UniSA and one of the world’s leading drug development companies, Certara, will investigate how different products interact with different skin types.
“A key goal is to accurately predict how specific skin products perform and therefore reduce the costs of any clinical trials in future,” Prof Roberts says.
Prof Roberts is Research Chair in Therapeutics and Pharmaceutical Science at UniSA, and Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Queensland.
The UniSA grant will be managed by Dr Lorraine Mackenzie, Research Manager in UniSA’s School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, with input from Dr Azadeh Alinaghi, Dr Amy Holmes, Dr Tom Robertson and Associate Professor John van der Hoek.
Prof Roberts is one of only a handful of researchers from outside the United States who have won funding this year from the FDA, which awarded 23 international collaborative research grants in November.
In late November Sandy Verschoor was sworn in as the 63rd Lord Mayor of Adelaide – only the third female to fill the role in the council’s 178-year-history and the first in almost 20 years.
Vershoor is an Adjunct Fellow in UniSA’s School of Management, serving as a guest lecturer across tourism and arts management programs and using her extensive professional network to foster connections between industry and the university.
Her wide-ranging experience and insight have made Vershoor a valuable part of the School of Management team, and she will apply the same talents to the Lord Mayor role, driving creativity and innovation in Adelaide.
"I would like to think we could be the epicentre for screen industries and food and wine culture," she says. "We are already punching well above our weight. It’s about bringing the right people together at the right time."
Eight of UniSA’s top PhD candidates were presented scholarships at a special ceremony in November.
The Vice Chancellor and President’s Scholarships are awarded to the top two commencing PhD candidates from each of the four divisions, valued at $10,000 each in support of their research projects.
UniSA Information Technology & Mathematical Sciences PhD candidate Vu Viet Hoang Pham says the scholarship will further his research to personalise medicine for cancer patients to increase their chances of survival.
“Cancer is a fatal disease which causes a high rate of death worldwide,” Hoang says.
“The funding will allow me to attend a symposium about cancer data by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) network.”
Candidates’ research needs to demonstrate the objectives of the Transformed PhD (tPhD) program including engaging with end users from government, industry or the community, working with the support of a supervisory panel, and undertaking skills development opportunities.
“My project is shaped to produce real-world results and will help to understand the needs of the industry and broaden my network,” Hoang says.
The scholarships allow recipients to gain a global perspective by connecting them with other researchers worldwide and to attend international programs.
Fellow UniSA scholarship recipient Ramin Hassankhani Gharagozlou is excited to take his cancer research abroad — developing communication with researchers and scientists overseas.
UniSA Urban and Regional Planning PhD candidate Thi Minh Phoung Nguyen says she’s grateful for the travel opportunities granted by the scholarship.
“I will travel to collect data and meet end-users in both New York and Melbourne,” Minh says.
Recipients have an ambassadorial role in promoting the significance of their research as well as UniSA’s tPhD program.
UniSA Commerce PhD candidate Christa Viljoen says the scholarship links PhD candidates with leading scholars in both Australia and overseas.
“The funding will allow me to reach older women in remote and rural areas to obtain more complete and comprehensive results,” Christa says.
Candidates who meet the eligibility criteria to apply for the Vice Chancellor and President’s Scholarship will be identified by the University and invited to apply in June 2019, with applications closing 31 July 2019.
UniSA student Catherine Hughes was named the South Australian Tourism Student of the Year at the 2018 SA Tourism Awards, collecting her prize during a gala event at the Adelaide Convention Centre in November.
Catherine is the president of USASA’s Tourism and Event Management Club and is studying a double degree, combining Bachelor of Business (Tourism and Event Management) and Bachelor of Business (Marketing).
Originally from Mypolonga, a small town on the banks of the lower Murray River, Catherine’s passion for tourism is strongly influenced by her regional upbringing and she is interested in developing international opportunities for ecotourism and destination marketing.
The award is recognition of the passion and commitment Catherine has demonstrated within her field, including undertaking a student exchange to the University of Strathclyde, during which she visited nine European nations to study their tourism industries.
UniSA business graduate Mary Hadgis has been named Australia’s top financial planning student.
The Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) presented Hadgis with the University Student of the Year Award at its annual conference in Sydney.
The award recognises Hadgis’s academic achievements and commitment to forging her own path in her career as a financial planner.
Hadgis says her passion is helping people, and financial planning allows her to pursue this by guiding clients to achieve their monetary goals.
“I aspire to be the best possible planner I can be and put my skills to good use in order to put people in a better position,” she says.
“I am incredibly grateful and honoured to accept this award.
“This acknowledgement is a strong foundation for my development within an industry I hope to make a name for myself in.”
Hadgis credits supportive lecturers throughout her Bachelor of Business for fostering her academic success.
“UniSA has been exceptional in providing advice, support and opportunities for me to get the best possible outcomes and experiences from my time in university,” she says.
“I have had some of the most dedicated and passionate lecturers which have stimulated my mind and passion for finance.”
Hadgis hopes to complement her skills with postgraduate studies in the future and eventually obtain her Certified Financial Planner credentials.
Seven UniSA researchers have collectively been awarded $2.9 million by the Australian Research Council to further their work in a range of areas, from manufacturing to workplace stress, fetal health and fibre optics.
The successful 2019 ARC Discovery Project recipients are:
Professor Janna Morrison, $550,000 grant to investigate the complex delivery of oxygen and glucose to the fetal brain, hopefully leading to new tools for monitoring and supporting fetal development;
Professor Maureen Dollard, $480,000 grant to examine the impact of email load on the wellbeing of employees, including work pressure, health, sleep and recovery;
Dr Hong Lee, $404,000 grant to develop a statistical model which can be applied to a wide range of genome data sets with applications for multiple industries;
Dr Cameron Bracken, $402,000 grant to investigate how microRNAs control gene expression and regulation;
Associate Professor Ivan Kempson, $400,000 grant to better understand how our ecosystem can be fundamentally impacted by nanoscale materials;
Associate Professor Terence Chan, $370,000 grant to improve fibre optic communication speed and capacity in Australia;
Professor Susan Luckman, $333,000 grant to map how craft skills can be embedded in industry as Australia looks to develop high-end advanced manufacturing industries.
UniSA’s success rate for the Discovery Projects was 22.6 per cent, slightly above the national average of 22.4 per cent, with 653 applications approved across the country from 2921 submitted.
Staff from across UniSA have been recognised for excellence in teaching through the 2018 UniSA Teaching Awards.
The annual awards cover two categories.
2018 Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (Digital Learning)
Team Lt UniSA: Prof Sandra Orgeig; Dr Emma Parkinson-Lawrence; Dr Sarah List; Assoc Prof Gabrielle Todd; Dr Bronwen Mayo; Dr Andrea Stringer – School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences
For the creation and implementation of innovative resources to deliver a digitally-enriched health science curriculum to improve student engagement, outcomes and learning experience.
Dr Sandra Barker – School of Management
For sustained leadership in the use of digital technologies to deliver engaging and digitally rich student learning environments and innovative teaching approaches.
2018 Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
Dr Amie Albrecht – School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences
For innovative course design and teaching that fosters a climate of exploration in which students develop a richer understanding of mathematics.
Hannah Harvey – School of Education
For innovation to develop and sustain interactive, experiential learning activities across courses in an Education program, for the purpose of enhancing practical skills in graduates.
Program Director team: Dr Sarah Hattam; Tanya Weiler; Tristan King – UniSA College
For sustained leadership of tutor professional development in inclusive and enabling pedagogy to enhance teaching at UniSA College.
Academic Integrity Officer team: Tamra Ulpen; Dr Anthea Fudge; Dr Snjezana Bilic – UniSA College
For the development of supportive resources to enhance student learning of academic integrity (AI) which has influenced a significant reduction of AI cases at UniSA College.
Distinguished Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney from UniSA’s School of Education has received a 2018 SA Pride of Australia Award for his immense contribution to Indigenous education spanning the past two decades.
One of five recipients, the awards acknowledge community-minded South Australians whose work has helped or saved others.
Prof Rigney is a nationally and internationally recognised expert in Aboriginal education and has led numerous research teams in policy development for agencies such as the United Nations and the Office of the South Australian Premier.
A descendant of the Narungga, Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri peoples of South Australia, Prof Rigney has worked in Aboriginal education for more than 20 years.
British comedian, filmmaker, musician and member of the Monty Python creative team, Eric Idle, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from UniSA in late November.
The award was presented during a special event, ABC science presenter Robyn Williams In Conversation with Eric Idle, at the Adelaide Convention Centre.
Born in the UK in 1943, Idle attended Pembroke College, Cambridge to study English. He became president of the university’s Footlights Dramatic Club where he met some of the team who would become co-writers and performers in Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam.
Pursuing his career after Monty Python, Idle has appeared in 28 television production in the US and the UK, six stage shows and contributed as a writer, actor and/or voice artist in 37 films.
UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd says he is delighted to welcome such an enormous creative talent to the University community.
“There is no greater gift than to be able to make people laugh, and to do that with the wit that Eric does in his music and his comedy, is something special,” Prof Lloyd says.
“His career has been forged through the pursuit of a driving creativity. Curious, insightful, communicative, he continues to seize every opportunity to think, write and perform and to share with us his marvellous passion for life with all of its ironies.”
UniSA is working to become an employer of choice for Aboriginal peoples as part of a new Aboriginal Employment Action Plan.
UniSA’s new Aboriginal Employment Action Plan (AEAP) for 2018-2021, Yaitya Warpulai Tappa (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander work path), builds on the Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan, Enterprise25 and University Australia’s Indigenous Strategy 2017-2020.
The plan contains four overarching commitments:
For 3 per cent of the University’s workforce to be Aboriginal people by 2025;
To position UniSA as an employer of choice for Aboriginal people by 2025;
to develop UniSA as a culturally competent University; and
to build a connected community, sharing knowledges and ways of seeing and knowing so all staff thrive.
The Stretch RAP supports Aboriginal students to achieve success by providing a culturally safe and appropriate environment — and shows UniSA’s dedication to a two-way relationship with Aboriginal peoples.
A number of UniSA’s early career researchers got to meet and talk to Professor of Quantum Physics and 2018 Australian of the Year Professor Michelle Simmons, at a recent event organised by UniSA.
In addition, UniSA sponsored the Australian of the Year Luncheon, which also took place in late November at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Prof Simmons was the keynote speaker at the event, which was attended by hundreds of people.
One of the world’s top scientists, Prof Simmons has pioneered research that could lead to a quantum leap in computing.