L'Oreal Australia 2010 Fellows Announced

25 August

The L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellows were announced on Tuesday 24 August 2010.

The 2010 Fellows are:

  • investigating how breast cancer starts and why it can reappear years after treatment: Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne
  • inventing ways of capturing and releasing carbon dioxide, hydrogen and other gases using molecular sponges: Deanna D’Alessandro, University of Sydney
  • giving new life to old drugs in the global fight against malaria: Rowena Martin, The Australian National University, Canberra/The University of Melbourne.

They received their Fellowships from Johan Berg, Managing Director of L’Oréal Australia, at a ceremony at Melbourne Museum on Tuesday 24 August.

“These three young women are excellent examples of our L’Oréal For Women in Science program. They are researchers building their careers in fields which are so important to society – the difficult battle against cancer and malaria, and the challenge of climate change,” says Johan Berg.

“They have already proven with their remarkable research, that they can take us forward in these areas, step by step, and we hope that this Fellowship will support them in the most challenging part of their career – the transition from PhD to independent researcher,” he says.

This is the fourth year of the L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowships. The Fellows were chosen from 160 applicants by a panel of eminent scientists. The Fellowship funds are intended to further their research and may be used for expenses, including childcare. The program is part of L’Oréal’s global support for women in science.

Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat, Melbourne

Most women in Australia who have breast cancer recover. But many then relapse years later. Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat wants to know why. If she can solve this mystery, her work will open up opportunities for new drugs and treatments. Her achievements to date suggest that she is well placed to succeed. In 2006 she was part of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research team that received global attention for its discovery of breast stem cells – a significant step in understanding how breast cancer starts. Marie-Liesse built on this finding with a series of papers exploring how these cells develop and are influenced by oestrogen and other steroids. Marie-Liesse’s achievements have won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship which she will use to develop her career as an independent researcher and to assist in the care of her two young boys.

Rowena Martin, Canberra

In the 1950s it seemed as if medical science was winning the fight against malaria with the help of the ‘wonder drug’ chloroquine. Over the past half century the drug has saved hundreds of millions of lives. But now chloroquine-resistant malaria has become common in developing countries. Rowena is working to understand what happened, and to develop new ways of treating malaria. She and her colleagues have revealed some of the biochemical tricks the malaria parasite uses. Now she is honing ways that chloroquine-based drugs can be altered to give them a new lease of life. Rowena’s achievements have won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship which she will use to study the complex biochemistry that gives rise to resistance.

Deanna D’Alessandro, Sydney

We need better ways of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from power stations and industry. And we won’t be using hydrogen cars until we’ve developed practical ways of carrying enough hydrogen gas in the fuel tank. Deanna D’Alessandro’s understanding of basic chemistry has led her to create new, incredibly absorbent chemicals that could do both these jobs and much more. It’s all to do with surface area. Working in California and in Sydney she has constructed crystals that are full of minute holes. One teaspoon of the most effective of her chemicals has the surface area of a rugby field. What’s more, the size and shape of the pores can be customised using light. So she believes she can create molecular sponges that will mop up carbon dioxide, hydrogen, or in theory almost any gas - and then release it on cue. Her achievements have won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship which will provide equipment, travel support and a summer vacation student to assist her research.

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