La Trobe University has received almost $8 million in new Australian Research Council (ARC) grants from the Federal Government.
A further 1.8 million dollars was awarded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
The latest ARC grants are for studies that will make a difference in fields ranging from children’s health, medicine and food production to better functioning of stock markets and our historical appreciation of the mining industry.
Ten key research projects have been funded by more than $3m worth of Discovery Grants – up 25 per cent on last year – and the University has received one of only 17 Outstanding Researcher Awards nationally.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Keith Nugent said: ‘This is clear endorsement of the high calibre and national relevance of work carried out by La Trobe researchers.’
Third in Victoria
The University has also obtained seven prestigious Future Fellowships valued at $4.8 million, ranking it third highest in Victoria. The fellowships are awarded for research of critical national importance to boost Australia’s innovation capacity.
‘Our Future Fellowship applications had a success rate of nearly 37 per cent,’ said Professor Nugent. ‘This is more than double the national average success rate of 16 per cent – and higher than any other university by almost ten percentage points,’ he said.
Outstanding Researcher Award
The successful Discovery Projects are led by Professor Reinout Quispel, Mathematics – who was also one of Australia’s 17 Outstanding Research Award winners – Dr Megan Maher, Biochemistry; Professor Paul Fisher, Microbiology; Professor Susan Paxton, Psychology; Professors Xiangkang Yin and Bala Balachandran, Finance; Drs John Taylor and Nicholas Herriman, Anthropology; Dr Phillip Edwards, Archaeology; and Professor Susan Thomas, English.
Future Fellowships were awarded to Dr Brian Abbey, Materials Science; Drs Begona Heras, Marc Kvansakul, and Belinda Parker, Biochemistry; and Drs Tracey Banivanua Mar, Ingrid Sykes and Clare Wright, History.
La Trobe also received Early Career Researcher Awards worth $0.7m for studies relating to sleep function and colonial archaeology. These went to Dr John Lesku, Zoology, and Dr Penny Crook, Historical Archaeology.
Five La Trobe researchers are also members of successful ARC research teams funded at other institutions. They are Professor Quispel, aged care specialist Professor Jeni Warburton, linguist Dr Adam Schembri, sexuality and relationships specialist Dr Jeffery Grierson, and Professor Nugent, a former Director of the Australian Synchrotron who also continues his research as a physicist.
From medicine to mining
The research supported includes
• Developing new super-sensitive X-ray techniques for studying protein molecules in cell membranes to help design highly targeted pharmaceutical drugs
• Probing the biochemistry of host-pathogen interaction to help fight infectious disease, cancer and boost plant production
• Identifying disturbances in signals passing between cells to seek new treatments for serious mitochondrial and degenerative brain diseases
• Assessing child health issues relating to body image and dieting during their first year at school to support the efforts of parents and teachers
• Devising new ways of solving differential equations in high-level maths to model critical biological, chemical and physical processes
• Identifying ‘cross-talk’ between breast cancer cells and nearby tissue, how this leads to their spread and finding new markers on cancer cells to stop such spread
• Investigating bacterial virulence in salmonella and e-coli to enable the development of new anti-microbial drugs
• Improving ways to analyse information-based securities trading in risky assets and detecting false rumours for a more efficiently functioning market, and
• ‘Red Dirt Dreaming’ – writing the first detailed national history in about half a century of Australian mining which underpins much of our progress.
The University has also been awarded more than $1.8 million in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding.
This result places La Trobe in the top 20 Australian universities in receipt of NHMRC funding. For institutions without a Medical School, La Trobe is placed second.
The project grants in particular reinforced La Trobe’s strengths in Biochemistry and Cell Biology.