$25,000 Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize goes to young Brisbane researcher
Today one of Australia’s most creative young medical researchers has won a $25,000 prize to help him develop his research into how a common, short piece of DNA affects the operation of the brain.
A/Prof Geoff Faulkner of the Mater Research Institute in Brisbane thinks the differences in the way each human brain functions could be determined by a segment of mobile DNA, known as L1, which has the capacity to insert itself into the genome of individual brain cells. His work may have consequences for how memories form, for brain disorders such as schizophrenia, and even spills over into diseases such as haemophilia, muscular dystrophy and some forms of cancer.
The winner of the $25,000 Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize will be announced on Tuesday 11 November during a lunchtime reception at UBS in Sydney.
“It’s a small step towards recognising that the most creative medical research is usually done by researchers early in their career—at a time when it’s hardest for them to secure funding,” says Centenary Executive Director, Professor Mathew Vadas AO.
The three finalists (in alphabetical order) are:
How a piece of mobile DNA could change your mind
A/Prof Geoff Faulkner of the Mater Research Institute in Brisbane thinks the differences in the way each human brain functions could be determined by a segment of mobile DNA known as L1.
L1 has the capacity to insert itself into the genome of individual brain cells. Just how many L1 sequences are inserted and where they occur is unique to each brain cell and may determine how it operates. Showing the impact of this is the subject of Geoff’s Lawrence Creative Prize proposal. If he’s right, it could have significant consequences for our understanding of memory and of brain disorders such as schizophrenia.
Cellular decisions that affect behaviour
Dr Lucy Palmer from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne wants to know how brain cells in mammals process and integrate the information they receive from the sensory environment and how this information impacts on animal behaviour.
She has been working on the neurons in the rodent brain which receive sensory information from their hind limbs, and has shown that a lot of processing occurs in the dendrites, the long filaments of the cells where information is received. Now she wants to determine how the decisions a cell makes—to pass on information or not—affects what an animal does.
Dr Nicolas Plachta from the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute and EMBL Australia at Monash University is working on developing better and simpler ways of determining the health of the embryos to be implanted in IVF. And he does so by learning more about the very early stages of embryonic life.
Nico has already developed special microscope technology which allows him to study in single living embryonic cells the movement of individual molecules. This has enabled him to determine how the cells making up the embryo differ from those which form the placenta. And he has also documented shape changes in cells which signal the health of early embryos. He now wants to continue that work looking for other molecular and cellular signs of embryo health, and studying the possibilities for medical intervention.
More on each of the finalists below. Read the full article →
The winners of the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are:
- Sam Berkovic and Ingrid Scheffer, the genetics of epilepsy: bringing hope to families, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
- Ryan Lister, regulating genes to treat illness, grow food, and understand the brain, Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
- Matthew Hill, Australian crystals set to take over industry, Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
- Geoff McNamara, a taste of real-world science to take to the real world, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools
- Brian Schiller, combining play, science and language, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools
On this page
- About the award recipients, links to full biographies and photos
- Video footage
- PM’s release and speech
- PM’s Prizes for Science in the media
The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were presented by the Prime Minister and The Minister for Industry at the prize dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House on Wednesday 29 October. Adam Spencer, mathematician and broadcaster, was the m/c for the dinner.
This post includes the winners’ acceptance speeches for the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science award dinner.
- Ingrid Scheffer – Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
- Sam Berkovic – Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
- Ryan Lister – Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
- Matthew Hill – Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
- Geoff McNamara – Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools
- Brian Schiller – Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools
Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and Distinguished Guests.
Thank you for this wonderful honour.
Scientific discovery is about curiosity, critical thinking and above all, passion. It is clear tonight that the winners bring their passion for science to both education and research. Read the full article →