La Trobe scientists receive $3.2 m for national capacity building -
La Trobe University has received more than $3.2 million from the highly competitive Australian Research Council grants scheme to further the work of its leading research teams.
Included in this is more than a million dollars for state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation, forging closer links with industry and institutional partners.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Tim Brown, said the new equipment will boost Australia’s capacity to develop advanced materials and nano-fabrication for the manufacturing, healthcare, pharmaceutical, energy and mining sectors.
It will also help cell biologists probe at the level of single atoms the interactions between disease-causing microbes and their host organisms, knowledge vital to combating existing and emerging pathogens.
Professor Brown said the funding comes at an exciting time for University research and industry collaborations. The new $288 million AgriBio centre is nearing completion on the Melbourne campus and this, together with the $94 million La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS), will change the face of science teaching and research at La Trobe.
Hub for world-class studies
He said $600,000 in infrastructure funding goes to a team headed by physicist Associate Professor Paul Pigram and Professor Andrew Peele – who is currently on secondment as Director of Science at the Australian Synchrotron in Clayton – for an advanced surface imaging and spectroscopy facility at La Trobe’s Melbourne campus featuring a ‘Scanning Auger Nanoprobe’.
‘Working with the CSIRO and other organisations, this will act as a hub to support research rated well-above world standard, dramatically increasing Australia’s capability in the field of surface analysis and material science.’
Cell biology work led by Dr Marc Kvansakul and Professor Michael Ryan, and involving the University of Melbourne, will benefit from $360,000 for a rapid integrated X-ray diffraction facility.
And analytical chemist Dr Conor Hogan – whose highly innovative mobile phone technology for rapid medical analysis in remote settings has already generated a lot of interest internationally – received $150,000 for advanced fluorescence characterisation equipment, critical to studies in biology, chemistry and medicine.
Limits to soil carbon sequestration
More than $ 2.1million in separate ‘Discovery Grants’ was received by La Trobe University for nine research teams.
These include biochemical studies led by Professor Marilyn Anderson into natural antifungal molecules from plants and their application to control serious fungal diseases in crops and humans.
Zoologist Dr Heloise Gibb’s team is probing animal structure and function to predict how species and ecological processes might be affected by climate change and habitat loss, with the ultimate goal of improving conservation measures.
Professor Caixian Tang heads a group of soil scientists trying to ascertain whether our ability to mitigate climate change by sequestering soil carbon is limited by the prevalence of Australia’s acidic soils.
Associate Professor Balasingham Balachandran is carrying out an international study into ‘seasoned equity offerings’, new equity issues by already publicly-traded companies. Considering the lack of confidence in financial markets during the financial crisis, he says this study will have significant implications regarding the current use and regulation of seasoned equity offerings.
Dr Celia McMichael and members of the Refugee Research Centre are studying young adults with refugee backgrounds who have been living in Australia for around ten years, to see how they have settled and integrated into society. The study will provide evidence to inform humanitarian settlement policy and programs. (ER)