2013 Victoria Fellows

The 2013 Victoria Fellowships were awarded to:

Physical sciences

Life sciences

2013 Victoria Fellowships - physical sciences

Dr Meenakshi Arora

Melbourne and other major cities throughout the world continue to face a range of water-related challenges. With the population expected to exceed seven million by 2050, retrofitting centralised water facilities is not sustainable and alternative water sources are needed.

The aim of Dr Meenakshi Arora’s Victoria Fellowship study mission is to develop a triple-bottom-line framework for integrating decentralised water supply systems using existing water service infrastructure, with minimal financial, environmental and social impacts.

Few studies have taken into account the challenges that need to be overcome in Victoria. It’s a similar situation in California, where Dr Arora will visit three locations to facilitate joint research and knowledge sharing. She will assess water security, technology options, and system configuration, along with social, environmental and economic viability of centralised-decentralised hybrid systems.


Dr Nishar Hameed

Early detection is key to treating a range of chronic diseases, such as cancer. Unfortunately, MRI and ultrasound technologies often fail to detect the disease until it’s too late.

Dr Nishar Hameed aims to use the Victoria Fellowship to develop a solution – highly sensitive medical imaging agents which diagnose and distinguish diseased tissue from normal tissue, provide information on a disease state and monitor the effect of a treatment.

He will build on his BioNanotechnology research at BioGeelong and bring together the world-class research expertise of Deakin University, Imperial College London, University of Cambridge and CNRS at the Institut Charles Gerhardt.


Associate Professor Bradley Ladewig

Despite water treatment and desalination technologies becoming increasingly widespread, they are not reducing in price or becoming more efficient.

Associate Professor Bradley Ladewig’s study mission as a Victoria Fellow will build a multinational, multidisciplinary research effort to develop and commercialise technology that delivers water more efficiently to Australians.

If successful, Associate Professor Ladewig’s work could spark a significant high-tech industry for Victoria, with development, manufacturing, sales and support. Core scientific and engineering collaboration and development will be the focus of Associate Professor Ladewig’s study tour.

He will also review activity in Berlin, Europe’s high-tech startup epicentre, to identify how best to stimulate the translation of research discoveries into commercial startups back in Victoria.


Dr Xiangping Li

The Internet is producing more data than ever and accelerating the development of storage devices with capacities never before dreamed about.

The most promising is all-optical magnetic recording, but development is hindered by a lack of sophisticated light or nanophotonic-manipulation techniques and is limited to a few wavelengths. Dr Xiangping Li will investigate a new approach to large capacity data storage, using nanophotonics-enabled super-resolution all-optical magnetic recording.

This Victoria Fellowship study mission aims to integrate cutting-edge knowledge in: nanophotonics at Swinburne University, part of Nanotechnology Victoria; nanofabrication at Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication; nanoplasmonics at Imperial College London; opto-magnetic material sciences at York University; and data storage commercialisation at Anwell Ltd, to tackle the bottlenecks of all-optical magnetic recording.


Associate Professor Timothy Rawling

Global extraction of oil, gas and coal over several decades has put extreme pressure on the Earth’s sedimentary basins.

Associate Professor Tim Rawling is trying to address this situation through the development of a Sedimentary Basin Management Co-operative Research Centre. The Centre will develop sophisticated geological models and simulation tools to predict the Earth’s response to meeting the challenges of present and future energy demand.

The Victoria Fellowship is critical to the development of the Centre, with visits to world-leading developers of 3-D geological models. He will establish ongoing research partnerships and return to the Centre with cutting-edge modelling technologies.

Associate Professor Rawling’s mission will also include presenting at the Sustainable Earth Sciences Conference in Paris, showcasing technologies for ‘Sustainable Use of the Deep Sub-surface’.


Dr Jin Zhang

Silkworms could hold the answer to advanced materials like bulletproof vests and artificial tendons.

Dr Jin Zhang will use the Victoria Fellowship to understand how these extremely light-weight, thin cocoons protect the wild silkworms from physical attacks and extreme weather. She wants to create and develop new lightweight materials for personal protection, load bearing and energy absorbing purposes.

This study mission will focus on understanding the mechanics of silk fibres and their biological structure to allow the biomimicry of this natural composite. It will also provide a valuable opportunity for Dr Zhang to visit and work in the world’s most prestigious silk research organisations.

Dr Zhang will build on her recent discovery that some wild silkworm silks exhibit strain-hardening behaviour and large extensibility.



2013 Victoria Fellows – life sciences


Dr Anil Kumar Asthana

Victorians suffering from inflammatory bowel disease will benefit from increased use of intestinal ultrasound scans.

Dr Anil Asthana will travel to Denmark and Italy as part of his Victoria Fellowship to develop skills to establish a Melbourne based service. The new service will address the significant productivity losses and premature death caused by the disease, and make Victoria a centre for training Australian gastroenterologists.

Intestinal ultrasound is a non-invasive and low cost way of monitoring the disease’s activities, with fewer people requiring hospitalization.

Dr Asthana’s study mission will begin with attendance at the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation conference. He will then train for ten weeks in Milan where he will see patients on a daily basis alongside a world-leading authority in the area.


Dr Ross Clark

Falls remain Australia’s most common cause of hospitalisation due to injury.

Given the greying population, and with each fall costing the health system more than $3,000, Dr Ross Clark wants to create a system to accurately identify those at risk of falling and implement falls-prevention programs.

These programs, often consisting of balance and strength training, work in a range of healthy and clinical populations however, they are expensive and require a clinician to train and supervise the participant. Inexpensive, portable and simple-to-use technologies are a feasible alternative for clinical use and are already widely available.

The Victoria Fellowship will allow Dr Clark to travel and meet with key collaborators throughout the world and investigate portable technologies to bring back to Victoria.


Dr Natasha Holmes

People continue to die from Golden Staph and other serious bacterial infections in spite of effective antibiotic treatments.

Dr Natasha Holmes is investigating the immune system response in patients who have developed Golden Staph, with the aim of being able to predict which individuals may benefit from a more tailored treatment.

While overseas, as part of her Victoria Fellowship, Dr Holmes will spend time at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam to obtain practical experience in performing multiplex bead arrays for anti-staphylococcal antibodies, as well as develop her skills in analysis of the data.

Dr Holmes has established a unique study of patients with Golden Staph in Australia, with almost 1,000 individual samples forming an important part of her work. She will benefit from new knowledge the Victoria Fellowship will enable her to bring back to Victoria.


Dr Simon James

Victoria’s key piece of science infrastructure, the Australian Synchrotron, could help tackle Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Simon James’ Victoria Fellowship study mission will allow him to attend international workshops and conferences supporting his use of the Synchrotron.

Upon his return, he will continue investigating how a small protein called amyloid-β interacts with metals, building on research that links age-related changes in our metabolism of metals with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy at the Australian Synchrotron allows researchers to watch specific chemical reactions occurring inside cells or tissues. This new technique can be used to ‘map’ a particular reaction to sub-regions of a cell or tissue and can provide insight into how drugs interact with disease-causing molecules in real biological systems.


Dr Arthur Nasis

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, affecting at least 300,000 people annually.

A common cause is cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle becomes inflamed and eventually scarred by a process called fibrosis.

For his Victoria Fellowship, Dr Arthur Nasis will inspect a cutting-edge cardiac MRI technique called equilibrium-contrast imaging, a world-first, non-invasive method to detect and quantify heart fibrosis. This could mean earlier and more accurate diagnosis and targeted treatment.

His research will be undertaken at the Heart Hospital at University College London. Dr Nasis will develop specific cardiac MRI imaging techniques to share widely through lectures and training for other Australian cardiologists, enhancing Victoria’s already-strong reputation in cardiac imaging research.


Dr Jennifer Pilgrim

With an increasing number of prescription-drug-related deaths worldwide, accurately determining their safety is paramount.

Despite much research and testing, many pharmacological treatments still fail, causing undesirable side effects or death, and diagnosing fatal drug intoxication as a cause of death remains challenging.

Dr Jennifer Pilgrim will use her Victoria Fellowship to take advantage of the similarities between Australia and Sweden’s nation-wide coronial case databases. Her aim is to establish the world’s first international, evidence-based resource for toxic concentrations of drugs in humans.

The combination of data from Sweden and Australia will vastly improve the interpretation of drug analysis results, and the estimation of the prevalence of drug toxicity deaths, thereby aiding in prevention and improved public health.

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