Celebrating women in science with the 2013 L’Oréal Fellowships

Bulletins, L’Oréal bulletins

Posted on behalf of Samantha Hass, Scientific Manager, L’Oréal Australia

It was lovely to see so many of Australia’s leaders (and future leaders) in science gathered at the National Gallery of Victoria last month for our 7th annual celebration of women in science.

The three 2013 Fellows – Dr Kathryn Holt, Dr Joanne Whittaker, and Dr Misty Jenkins – featured widely in the media: on the ABC and commercial TV, on prime-time radio and in newspapers across in the country.

Read more about their work in this bulletin: they’re stopping the spread of superbugs; piecing together the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle; and spying on cancer-fighting serial-killers.

Past L’Oréal Fellows have gone on to win other prestigious prizes:

  • 2010 Fellow Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat won a Eureka Prize in 2012 and the 2011 Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize –applications for that award are now open so if you know suitable candidates put them forward – more below.
  • 2009 Fellow Angela Moles went on to win a Eureka Prize in 2012
  • 2008 Fellow Amanda Barnard won the 2009 Malcolm McIntosh Award from the Prime Minister of Australia and a Eureka Prize. 

Please consider whether you know any outstanding women scientists who you can encourage to apply for awards. Most winners of science prizes don’t self-nominate; they’re usually pushed forward by their peers and supervisors.

And of course, don’t forget that nominations for the 2014 L’Oréal Fellowships will open in March next year. We’ll alert you closer to the time via this bulletin.

In this bulletin:

Tracking the spread of deadly diseases

Dr Kathryn Holt, Bio21 Institute, The University of Melbourne

Dr Kathryn (Kat) Holt is using genetics, maths and supercomputers to study the whole genome of deadly bacteria and work out how they spread. Looking at a typhoid epidemic in Kathmandu, she found that it didn’t spread in the way we thought epidemics did. Her research, published in Nature Genetics, will change how we respond to epidemics.

Kat will use her L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellowship to understand how antibiotic-resistant bacteria spread in Melbourne hospitals.

Are people catching these superbugs in hospital, or are they bringing the bugs into hospital with them? Can we give the intensive care clinicians early warning of a drug-resistant bacteria in their patients?

Read Kat’s full profile including images and a short video.

How Australia and India broke up—100 million years ago

Dr Joanne Whittaker, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart

Dr Joanne (Jo) Whittaker likes to solve jigsaw puzzles. Now this marine geoscientist is tackling the biggest puzzle on the planet—the formation of continents.

With the help of Australia’s national marine research vessels, and now her L’Oréal Fellowship, Jo is reconstructing how the Indian, Australian and Antarctic tectonic plates separated over the past 200 million years, forming the Indian Ocean and the continents as we see them today.

This information will help us model climate change better, find new gas resources, and understand the dynamics of the land in which we live.

Read Jo’s full profile including images and a short video.

When killing saves lives: our immune system at work

Dr Misty Jenkins, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne

Dr Misty Jenkins spends a lot of her time watching killers at work: the white blood cells of the body that eliminate infected and cancerous cells. She can already tell you a great deal about how they develop into assassins and arm themselves.

Now with the support of her L’Oréal For Women in Science Fellowship Misty is exploring how they become efficient serial killers—killing one cancer cell in minutes and moving on to hunt down others.

Her work will give us a greater understanding of our immune system and open the way to better manage T cells to defeat disease.

Read Misty’s full profile including images and a short video.

L’Oréal Girls in Science Forum – Inspiring the next generation

After the award ceremony at the National Gallery of Victoria, the Fellows headed out to The Australian Synchrotron for the L’Oréal Girls in Science Forum.

This annual event gives girls in year 11 and 12 from across Victoria the opportunity to question the Fellows on what it’s like to be a woman at the top of her game in science.

Between tours of the Synchrotron, the girls eagerly asked the Fellows about choosing university subjects, what it’s like to work in a male-dominated environment, and how to juggle family life with a competitive career in scientific research.

It was fantastic to receive positive feedback on the forum from some of the teachers who accompanied their students on the day.

Earlier this week I attended the girls in science forum at the Australian Synchrotron and I really enjoyed it. The fellows who spoke about their work were inspirational and I found the tour of the synchrotron fascinating. I would like to thank everyone who worked to organise the event.

Thank you so much

Michaela, John Monash Science School

Thanks so much for yesterday’s talks and tour at the synchrotron.

That sort of activity goes a long way towards making girls appreciate that a career in science is possible for them – seeing and hearing from young female scientists who are so inspiring. They were also really impressed by the synchrotron itself as I was. But of course the take home package at the end of the day was the talk of the bus all the way back to school.

Thanks so much for your efforts to arrange such a great day

Jo, Presentation College Windsor

Thank you to Michaela and Jo for the feedback, and to the Synchrotron for hosting this event to inspire the next generation of women in science.

Parliamentary Friendship Group for Women in Maths, Science and Engineering

This week, MPs Kelly O’Dwyer and Amanda Rishworth will hold the second gathering of the Parliamentary Friendship Group for Women in Maths, Science and Engineering.

The group was launched in 2012 to encourage more women to consider careers in science by promoting the achievements of women scientists and looking at the barriers which block women from building strong careers in research.
This week’s event will feature:

  • Prof Nadia Rosenthal, director of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute and head of EMBL Australia
  • Prof Ana Deletic, Director of Monash Water for Liveability and first woman to win the Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation
  • Dr Rosemary Mardling, an astronomer who splits her time between Monash University and the University of Geneva

Kelly O’Dwyer, the member for Higgins in Melbourne, says she decided to form the Friendship Group after hearing from a constituent about the struggle she faced in her scientific career.

“She explained to me that she could not apply for a NHMRC grant part time, as many women would prefer, but could only apply full time and then switch to part time,” she says.

“This seemed like a peculiar anomaly to me and acted as a barrier to women who could only work on a part time basis.”

The group will hold future meetings around the country bringing together women in science to share their concerns and success stories.

Creative young scientists: apply now for the $25,000 Centenary Prize

Applications are now open for the $25,000 Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize for early-career biomedical researchers.

The Centenary Institute is looking for early-career scientists in biomedical research with a uniquely creative way of significantly contributing to their chosen field.

2009 L’Oréal Fellow Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat is a past winner of this relatively new award. Working at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, Marie-Liesse has moved from looking at how and why breast stem cells contribute to the progression of breast cancer, to lung stem cells and their role in cancer.

The online application form is now open, and closes at 5pm on Friday 4 October 2013.

For full details of the eligibility criteria and how to nominate on the Centenary Institute’s website.