Dates for 2014 L’Oréal Fellowships; updates on past Fellows; and other news for women in science

Bulletins, L’Oréal bulletins

Posted on behalf of Samantha Hass (Scientific Manager, L’Oréal Australia & New Zealand)

In our last newsletter we introduced the 2013 L’Oréal Australia & New Zealand For Women in Science Fellows. In this issue we catch up with the 2012 Fellows.

  • The leukaemia drug that Kylie Mason and her colleagues have developed has been very successful in trials. She’s also had a series of papers in Nature Medicine, PNAS and Blood and continues to advocate for better outcomes for young people with cancer.
  • NZ kidney specialist Suetonia Palmer has won a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship and is representing early career researchers at her university.
  • Solar cell researcher Baohua Jia has filed three patents this year and was invited to a private lunch with the highest ranking woman in the Chinese government.

Read on for an update on the three 2012 Fellows.

In other news: it’s great to see the Australian Academy of Science supporting women in science with the new Nancy Millis Medal. The Academy has been a supporter of our program and we look forward to seeing more programs and advocates for women in Australian science.

Congratulations to 2012 L’Oreal-UNESCO Laureate Prof Ingrid Scheffer, who won the GlaxoSmithKline Award for Research Excellence.

I was also thrilled to see 2008 Fellow Angela Moles win one of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. Angela is transforming our understanding of the plant world: where plant defence will be most aggressive; why plant seeds range from a speck of dust to the size of a coconut; and how ecosystems will adapt to a changing climate.

And finally, for your diaries, here are the key dates for the 2014 Fellowship program

  • Monday 3 March – nominations open
  • Wednesday April 16 – nominations close
  • Tuesday 12 August – award ceremony in Melbourne

More details will be announced nearer the time at the Fellowship website at

In this bulletin:

Dr Baohua Jia: filing patents for better solar cells

Baohua Jia receives the 2013 Victorian Young Tall Poppy Award

Dr Baohua Jia says “there are many exciting things happening”, and that her L’Oreal Fellowship in 2012 has given her the confidence and visibility to become a leader.

She has begun to commercialise her solar cell research, with three patents filed this year for improving the efficiency of thin-film solar cells by integrating nanomaterials.

Baohua is now developing the world’s first pilot production line for large scale nanophotonics solar cells, with her recent appointment as an Associate Professor and Research Leader for Nanophotonics Solar Technology at the Swinburne University of Technology.
“This strategic appointment provides me with a perfect and unique platform for achieving my exciting and ambitious goals for nanophotonics solar cells,” Baohua says. “It allows me to accelerate my research from laboratory to industry, producing a larger and more immediate impact on our society.”

But the highlight of her Fellowship year was an invitation to Canberra to meet Her Excellency Liu Yandong State Councillor, the highest ranking female official in the Chinese Central Government, during a visit to Australia in December 2012. Baohua was the only scientist and non-government guest at this private lunch, hosted by then Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr.

The significance of Baohua’s work has been recognised and celebrated by the Australian Research Council, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, the Australian Institute of Physics, the Australian Institute of Policy and Science Young Tall Poppy program and by the Victorian Minister for Innovation.

She’s also been invited to speak at conference in Paris, China, New Zealand and back here in Australia, and with her Fellowship funds she’s been free to travel and meet colleagues around the world.

“This has greatly helped me to increase my visibility and promote my research to my communities and my peers. I really appreciate L’Oreal for recognising and promoting my research,” Baohua says.

Baohua now hopes to inspire other young women to pursue a career in science. She’s keen to use the media skills she’s developed through the Fellowship to continue to talk to the media and the general public about her work and her career.

“I hope I can tell the community that science is not about cold hard equations, but about simple and beautiful rules in our daily life,” Baohua says.

Dr Suetonia Palmer: what really works in healthcare

Suetonia Palmer with student Angela Ballinger and Guy Johnson, executive director of the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation

Dr Suetonia Palmer is now pursuing her vision of heading her own research group focussed on evidence synthesis to improve health in New Zealand and Australia.

“Healthcare is now a very complex beast. Like ‘big data’, it is too scattered, too fast, and too complex for individuals to make sense of it in safe and reliable ways, and good medical decisions can lag behind best practice by 10-20 years.” Suetonia says.

“Evidence synthesis untangles this, helping us to understand which complex health policies work and when and for whom.”

She was one of two medical researchers to win a prestigious Rutherford Discovery Fellowship from the Royal Society of New Zealand, a ‘life-changing’ boost to her research, which enables doctors to access better and more current information for treating patients with kidney disease.

“It will allow me to clear my desk and focus even more on research over the next five years, growing on what I have been able to achieve with the support of the L’Oreal Fellowship program,” Suetonia says.

She says her application was better for the opportunities her L’Oréal Fellowship provided to talk about her science – with the media, with school groups and with science leaders.

Suetonia was also named a “Top 10 Game Changer in Nephrology” by Medscape, a news site for health professionals, which said her work had the potential to change or influence medical practice. And she has been elected chair of the influential Royal Australasian College of Physicians Specialist Advisory committee for Nephrology, which oversees the training of all nephrologists in New Zealand.

Aside from research, Suetonia’s working to support other young researchers, as a member of the University of Otago Ozone Research Group, a group of high-performing young researchers to provide feedback on University policy and direction.

“We are hoping to be the movers and shakers in our University with direct connections to our own leaders and those in the funding sphere,” she says.

She’s now been awarded full tenure in her position at the University of Otago, and her Fellowship funds have allowed her to employ a full-time research assistant. Building on her connections with policy makers and key clinicians, she’s working to build leadership structures and capacity in her research field.

“I look forward to telling you about these when they start producing concrete outcomes,” she says. “Exciting times. Watch this space!”

Suetonia says she values the faith placed in her by the L’Oreal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship program.

“The L’Oreal was a big springboard for these next steps in my career. I absolutely recommend this experience to other women scientists without hesitation,” she says. “I am encouraging other women to put their best foot forward to apply.”

Dr Kylie Mason: improving care for young people with cancer

Kylie Mason talks about a new leukaemia drug on The Project

You might have spotted Dr Kylie Mason in the news last week representing the team which announced a new leukaemia drug. In trials it cleared cancer in 23 per cent of patients and led to partial remission in another 61 per cent. She was everywhere from 3AW to The Project.

“It was a very busy day!” says Kylie, with typical understatement. And it’s been a busy year: she has also been published in Nature Medicine, PNAS and Blood, and is principal investigator on eight current clinical trials in the areas of leukaemia, lymphoma, and adolescent and young adult cancer.

Her stem cell project, which was supported by her L’Oréal Fellowship, is nearly finished, and in the final stages of preparation for publication. Her lymphoma research continues.

“We are working to understand why there is a difference in lymphoma progression in mice related to the platelet count and the receptor for Thrombopoetin, a hormone which regulates platelet production,” Kylie says.

She’s also busy at the Royal Melbourne Hospital with her work as a Clinical Haematologist: Kylie is a leader in clinical trials for blood cancers and adolescent cancer treatments.

Kylie sits on Cancer Council Victoria’s Clinical Network’s Haemato-oncology committee, forging links across the health care sector and with government. She’s also part of the Adolescent and Young Adult interest group of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, which addresses the unique needs of adolescent and young adult cancer patients and their caregivers.

Kylie was one of only two Australian haematologists to attend the Clinical Research Education Workshops in Vienna and Paris, and has been appointed principal investigator on clinical trials of a new BH3 mimetic agent, due to start in early 2014.

“My clinical trial load continues to increase,” Kylie says. “So I’m proud to have secured funding for a new position – a Clinical Nurse Co-ordinator in Adolescent and Young Adult Haematology at Royal Melbourne Hospital for the next four years”.

And Kylie still finds the time to act as an advocate for medical research. In August, she spoke at the Susan Alberti Medical Research Foundation’s annual ball, a glamorous event which this year raised $400,000 for medical research.

She described her work but also shared her personal story – she is herself a leukaemia survivor, which drives her passion for research into cancers which affect young people. She continues to support the Leukaemia Foundation’s fundraising and outreach efforts and spoke at the annual ball of My Room, a children’s cancer charity.

Kylie’s now based at the University of Melbourne in the Department of Medicine.

“It has been a slow transition from my work at WEHI and I still maintain an honorary appointment and close association with WEHI,” she says.

The 2013 L’Oréal Fellows: a quick update

All three 2013 Fellows have been successful in the latest grant rounds: Misty and Kat have won funding from the NHMRC, and Jo won a DECRA grant from the ARC.

Misty Jenkins

Misty Jenkins headed to New Zealand for the Australasian Immunology Conference in Wellington, and was interviewed by the local paper.

Misty also spoke at the Aboriginal Health Symposium on ‘Closing the Credibility Gap’, which focussed on health and wellbeing in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

And she was named best speaker at the Immunology Group of Victoria conference in September.

Kat Holt

Kat Holt’s becoming a local leader in the emerging discipline of systems biology, running a day workshop on cell signalling and metagenomics at the Bio21 Institute.

Kat also shared her work using big picture science to understand tiny organisms at an SBI Australia Victorian Systems Biology Collaborative on understanding pathogens.

And Kat is on the lookout for a bright postdoc to join her group at the University of Melbourne. Read more at her blog:

Jo Whittaker

Jo Whittaker is busy planning her next research voyage on the new Marine National Facility Vessel, the RV Investigator.

She’s also been to San Francisco for the annual American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, where she presented a talk: “interactions among plumes, mantle circulation and mid-ocean ridges”.

And The Age featured Jo in their education section.

Clinical insights into epilepsy: Ingrid Scheffer wins GSK Award for Research Excellence

Ingrid Scheffer

Ingrid Scheffer accepts her award at the 2013 Research Australia Awards Night

2012 L’Oréal-UNESCO Laureate Professor Ingrid Scheffer has won the 2013 GSK Award for Research Excellence for helping to transform the diagnosis of epilepsy.

The award includes an $80,000 grant and has been awarded annually since 1980, specifically recognising clinical researchers. Professor Scheffer studied for 13 years to become a paediatric neurologist followed by three years of her PhD to be trained as a clinical scientist.

The award is one of Australia’s oldest awards for medical research and specifically recognises clinical researchers.

Professor Scheffer studied for 13 years to become a paediatric neurologist followed by three years of her PhD to be trained as a clinical scientist.

“I had always thought of myself as a doctor, not a scientist and even now I don’t do research in a lab, I do it with patients and my large team of researchers at The Florey Institute and the University of Melbourne,” Ingrid said.

“Our work is making a real difference. If someone was tested with a similar disorder and we know a specific gene responds to a drug, a doctor can prescribe a drug that works.”

Read more at:

For more information about the award, visit: 

It’s not a jungle out there: 2008 L’Oréal Fellow Angela Moles rocking the ecological boat


Angela Moles (credit: UNSW/ Peter Morris)

2008 L’Oréal Fellow Angela Moles wins $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year

Five years after winning a L’Oréal Fellowship, ecologist Angela Moles has been awarded one of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

She received the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year at a black tie dinner in Canberra hosted by the Prime Minister in the Great Hall of Parliament House.

If you were a pharmaceutical company searching for a natural plant compound to use as the basis for a new line of drugs, where would you begin?

Until recently, this question was a no-brainer. Everyone knows that tropical forests contain the widest diversity of species, all fighting for survival and defending themselves physically and chemically against being invaded or eaten. So the tropics should naturally provide the greatest selection of biologically active compounds.

“No,” says Angela Moles, a pioneering young ecologist from the University of New South Wales, who is transforming our understanding of the plant world and overturning some of the dogmas of ecology.

“Up in the Arctic tundra are 100-year-old willow trees that are just a few centimetres tall. They get to grow just a few leaves each year and they can’t afford to lose them. So, as you get closer to the poles the chemical warfare intensifies.”

Angela doesn’t just look at one or two plants or ecosystems. By searching the world’s scientific databases she can study thousands of species at the same time. But she’s not tied to the computer. In one study, she visited 75 different ecosystems, from African and Central American jungles to the tundras of Patagonia and Greenland. With an army of global collaborators she measures everything and then, back in Sydney, she crunches numbers and changes paradigms.

She has investigated issues such as why plant seeds vary from the size of a coconut to a speck of dust; how introduced plants evolve and “go native”; and how ecosystems adapt as the climate changes.

For her work in establishing Big Ecology-the study of ecology at a global level-Associate Professor Angela Moles has been awarded the 2013 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year.

Read more from the Department of Industry website.

New Academy award for women in science: the Nancy Millis Medal

The Australian Academy of Science launches the Nancy Millis Medal for early- to mid- careers women in science

  • new medal for women up to 15 years post PhD
  • any branch of the natural sciences
  • deadline for nominations 10 February 2014

The Academy’s medal will particularly recognise emerging leaders – the recipient will be a woman who has established her own independent research program.

Nominations for the Academy’s Nancy Millis Medal close Monday 10 February 2014. You can find out more about the medal at

The medal honours the late Professor Nancy Millis, an Australian microbiologist who set up the country’s first biotechnology course at the University of Melbourne. She was a leader in research and in forging links between academia and industry.

From the start, she was a pioneering woman in science. After missing a place in the Bachelor of Science, she joined the boys in the Faculty of Agriculture, one of only three women in her cohort. After her Masters, she headed off to work with locals in Papua New Guinea, where women do most of the agricultural work.

Later in her career, she often found herself the only woman in the room as she helped to build international collaborations and build the profile of biotechnology.

For a bit of Christmas reading: the Academy chatted with the late Nancy Millis as part of their interview series.