The 2017 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Australian Fellows were announced at a ceremony honouring these five outstanding early-career female researchers on Tuesday 31st October in Sydney. The program is to support female scientists and to encourage younger women to enter the profession and assist them with their science careers. In 2017, L’Oréal Australia is proud to announce the addition of a fourth $25,000 Australian Fellowship.
The ceremony was hosted by writer and broadcaster Charlie Pickering, himself a strong advocate for gender equality. The $25,000 Fellowships will be presented by Rodrigo Pizarro, Managing Director, L’Oréal Australia & New Zealand.
MEET THE SCIENTISTS
DR STEPHANIE SIMONDS
Discovering the link between Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and obesity
Did you know that CVD is the leading cause of death in Australia and it is more prevalent in obese patients? Stephanie has discovered during her research that the fat-derived hormone, leptin, is the culprit in informing the brain to increase blood pressure in obesity. One intriguing finding by Stephanie is that, in women, the development of CVD was delayed compared to men until after menopause, despite comparable leptin concentrations. Stephanie has recently discovered that this unique protection granted to females is a result of oestrogen.
Stephanie aims to understand the role of oestrogen in the brain to decrease blood pressure pre-menopausally in obese females. Her work will critically aid in the development of new therapeutic opportunities for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases in obesity.
DR JACLYN PEARSON
Understanding the most critical contributing factors to IBD
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is becoming more prevalent, more complex and more severe. I know a lot about this having been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease nearly 20 years ago. Luckily for me, I have only been hospitalised twice and have not suffered anywhere near as many others have. Pain and tiredness are my main symptoms. Some people live with far worse symptoms.
Many studies have tried to identify the underlying mechanisms of IBD, but given the complexity of immune response in the gut environment, much remains unknown and current treatments are only partially successful. Many treatments just alleviate the symptoms. At time of writing this post, there is no cure for Crohn's and many other IBD's. Therefore, IBD is becoming a major health concern worldwide. Jaclyn’s research will investigate the dysregulated immune response seen in IBD and characterise the specific microorganisms within the gut during infection. By determining the specific host immune responses critical in fighting bacterial infection, and understanding how microorganisms within the gut influence disease severity, this research will improve our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of IBD. Her work will contribute to the development of novel disease interventions for people suffering from IBD and inform future therapeutic development.
Dr MATIRE HARWOOD
Improving the health for indigenous communities
UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND
Inequities are the next big health issue, and recently Australia and New Zealand were highlighted as having significant inequities in health-related outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Indigenous health and well-being is an international priority, with long-term conditions existing as the biggest contributor to life expectancy gaps worldwide. Achieving equity within health and well-being will have a positive impact on the lives of patients, as well as for the community, the nation, and the world over.
Dr Matire Harwood plans to review the effects of indigenous-led interventions for long-term conditions including cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, respiratory conditions, obesity and smoking. The project proposes to weave together past projects and current activities to improve the well-being of indigenous people, and her research suggests that indigenous-led interventions contribute to better outcomes for both indigenous people and the nation.
Working with large collaborative teams, Matire develops novel approaches to the health of indigenous communities. This includes the implementation of individualised programs for those suffering long-term health conditions, where indigenous people develop a health care approach that works best for them. Matire also works closely with drug development researchers, to develop different methods of medication and drug delivery, specific for indigenous communities. These novel approaches to health are key solutions to a very important problem, in which Matire is leading the way and transforming people’s lives.
DR DEBORAH WILLIAMSON
Tackling the threat of antibacterial resistance
How many times have you heard that antibiotics are becoming resistant to treat infectious disease? It's a massive issue, and currently one of the major man-made health threats of the modern age is antibacterial resistance.
The ability of bacteria to resist the effects of antibacterial treatments is leaving health care professionals with limited or, in some instances, no available treatment options for common infections. That's pretty scary right? Especially when you hear the horror stories of infections that can happen to patients in hospital.
Deborah hypothesises that the widespread use of antibiotics and antiseptics is causing the increased development of bacteria that are co-resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics, leading to the clinical failure of antibiotic therapy. Deborah’s research will determine the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, and importantly develop a framework crucial for investigating antibiotic resistance in other bacteria. These research findings will have direct implications for informing the most appropriate ways to use antibiotics and antiseptics (in both community and hospital settings) and ultimately help to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance.
DR JACQ ROMERO Understanding the world in quantum UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND
Give me a story on quantum physics and I'll probably read it! That's why I think the work of Jacq’s is something like that of Christopher Columbus; a whole new world to explore.
Jacq's research lies within the mysterious world of quantum physics and the intriguing theory of entanglement – that information is shared between particles regardless of how far apart they are (even existing in different universes!).
The quantum world is relatively unknown, but already physicists are predicting that it has incredible potential to increase transmission of information, improve security and lead to exciting new technological advancements. Currently, we have limited knowledge to how quantum information works, and are therefore unable to take advantage of what the quantum world has to offer.
Jacq’s work will provide the first experimental evidence to an existing theory to verify the fundamental differences in the way information works for larger quantum alphabets, compared to the classical encoding system we use today. Jacq’s findings will provide critical knowledge as we start to access more benefits of the quantum world.
Well done to all these ladies for their valuable input into making the world a better place. You can find out more about For Women in Science here.