Women in Science Fellows

Wednesday, 13 August, 2014

This year’s L’Oréal Australia & New Zealand for Women in Science Fellowships will support three young women in their science careers.

All three awardees hail from Melbourne - Dr Elena Tucker is a geneticist at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Dr Vanessa Kellermann is an evolutionary biologist at Monash University and materials scientist Dr Cara Doherty is from CSIRO.

Tucker has worked on the genetics of mitochondrial disease genes and her work has accounted for a significant proportion of new genetic diagnoses of this condition. She is planning to apply these genomic approaches to investigate disorders of sex development - the genetic conditions that lead to ambiguous genitalia, genital anomalies or gender characteristics that do not match a person’s genetic sex. Having had a break in her career, the L’Oréal fellowship will help Tucker launch this new work.

Developing techniques to predict which species are at risk of extinction and which are likely to spread in the changing climate on our planet is the focus of Kellermann’s work. She is using native fruit flies from Tasmania to tropical Queensland to look at the flies’ ability to adapt to climate change. She has already demonstrated that tropical flies are more vulnerable to change in the long term - they don’t have the genetic capacity to evolve quickly. She will use the fellowship to further these studies and explore how flexible the flies are in the short term - how individual insects can respond to change.

Doherty has a vision for a new manufacturing industry for Australia and is developing new technologies that could transform water filters, batteries and medical sensors, and clean up carbon emissions. She works with metal-organic frameworks or crystals that are highly porous down to the molecular level and can be customised to absorb almost any molecule. She used antimatter (positrons) and synchrotron light (X-rays) to measure the crystals and their properties, and then applies her patented technique to imprint useful shapes for devices. The fellowship funding will support her in taking the next step - to develop 3D structures to create a smart water filter.

The three winning fellows were chosen from 186 applications. Part of L’Oréal’s global support for women in science, the $25,000 fellowships are intended to further each fellow’s research and may be used for any expenses they incur, including childcare.

Further details on this year’s fellows are available here.

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