2019 Victoria Fellows profiles

The 2019 Victoria Fellowships were awarded to:

Life sciences:


Physical sciences:


Dr Edward Chew

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Haematological cancers such as acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) are devastating illnesses. Addressing the lack of answers available to patients on the genetics of ‘why’ they develop AMLs and other blood disorders is a driving force in Dr Chew’s career as a clinical and laboratory consultant haematologist.

Dr Chew’s goal is to establish a clinical service in Victoria that will provide patients and their families with the best diagnostic and clinical care by integrating genetics research into the management of familial predispositions to AML.

By working with Professor Lucy Godley and her team at the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago - USA, Edward will learn about a robust method of culturing skin fibroblasts for DNA extraction that can be used for familial genetic testing.





Ms Annie Cox

Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Two key disorders of pregnancy – fetal growth restriction (FGR) and preeclampsia – share pathophysiology and often occur in concert. Early diagnosis is difficult and a delay in intervention often compromises maternal and fetal wellbeing.

Throughout her PhD studies, Ms Cox discovered a passion for obstetric research. Having observed the importance of communication between scientists and clinicians, Ms Cox has an interest in how highly sophisticated units incorporate fundamental science into clinical practice.

To gain knowledge of how to establish and run a placenta clinic in Victoria, Annie will work with Professor John Kingdom at Mount Sinai Hospital & Ontario University - Canada, where he uses ultrasonography & MRI to examine antenatal placental morphological indicators of abnormalities to bring leading techniques into Victorian obstetric practice.




Dr Tracy Josephs

Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Understanding the class of cellular receptors called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) can aid in the design of new therapeutics for moderating cellular behaviour in disease. GPCRs are involved in virtually all physiological processes and are the largest class of drug targets.

Dr Josephs’ research has focussed on establishing the next-generation mass spectroscopy methodologies not utilised yet in GPCR research in Australia. These will offer important biological insight into the multiple GPCR structural-shapes that cannot be observed by any other techniques.

Tracy will undertake advanced training with experts at the University of Maryland - USA, in hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX) methodologies. These methodologies, which are currently underutilised in Australia, can be used for visualising the multiple structural shapes of therapeutically important GPCRs.





Dr Gina Kusuma

Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a debilitating condition estimated to affect approximately 200 million people worldwide. The disease may manifest in the forms of limb ischemia and skin ulceration, and in extreme cases requires amputation.

Dr Kusuma’s current project is focussed on utilising a combination of biomaterials to deliver the next generation of regenerative medicine that will address underlying angiogenesis and tissue necrosis in patients with PAD.

Gina’s project will be enhanced by visiting Professor Kishore Bhakoo’s laboratory at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore to learn about multimodal imaging technologies. These will aid in the development of a therapy for PAD that can be easily and safely deployed without the need for complex surgical procedures.




Dr Wee Loon Ong

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre / Austin Health

MR-Linac is a new technology that offers the ability to ‘see’ inside patients during radiation therapy without unnecessary patient exposure to radiation. 

The technology is set to be introduced to Austin Health in 2020 with the deployment of the first MR-Linac facility in Victoria. A multi-disciplinary team of experts and clinicians will be essential in developing and refining MR-Linac clinical trial protocols.

Dr Ong hopes to alleviate a clinician skills gap in the MR-Linac workflow by observing clinical oncology and MR-Linac experts at the Royal Marsden NHS Trust in London and the Christie NHS Trust in Manchester, UK. Gaining this institutional expertise will be helpful in developing and refining clinical trial protocols of the MRI-Linac facility in Victoria, including daily on-treatment MR imaging interpretation, and decision-making for daily adaptive radiotherapy.



Dr Leigh Walker

The Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health

Alcohol is by far the most widely abused drug in the world. Current first line therapeutics for alcohol-related disorders are inadequate; suffering from low compliance, high rates of relapse and adverse side effects. Detailed knowledge of the neural circuits and brain chemicals responsible for aberrant behaviour patterns may facilitate the development of novel and effective treatments.

Dr Walker is seeking to implement innovative technologies for the investigation of the neural underpinnings of stress-induced relapse to alcohol seeking and other complex behaviours.

Leigh will visit Professor Luis de Lecea and his team at Stanford University - USA, who are pioneering new technologies as well as using CRISPR technologies to perform targeted genetic manipulations in living cells. This knowledge will be invaluable to the research of complex mental health disorders including those related to alcohol.

Click here to read about Dr Walker's Victoria Fellowship study mission.





Physical sciences


Dr Bita Bayatsarmadi


With Victoria’s population expected to double by 2051, securing the state’s water supplies is essential to supporting a healthy environment, a prosperous economy and thriving communities. 

Challenges to supplying potable water to Victorians include the impact of blue-green algal toxins, increased salinity, and emerging pathogens and chemicals that pose a risk to human health. While Electrocoagulation offers a cost effective and reliable method for reducing pollutants, it is yet to be optimised for commercial use.

To optimise Electrocoagulation in water treatment applications, Dr Bayatsarmadi will visit Professor Majid Mohseni’s lab at the University of British Columbia - Canada, one of the world’s premier research labs in this field. Bita will also attend the 237th Electrochemical Society meeting in Montreal to learn about advances in industrial electrochemistry.




Dr Shama Islam

Deakin University

The Victorian Government’s commitment to be a leader in renewable energy cannot be achieved without a sustainable and reliable energy system. This goal will require innovative strategies for demand management enabled by Internet of Things (IoT) and energy storage.

With experience using IoT for smart microgrids, Dr Islam’s goal is to promote sustainable energy systems by exploiting advanced technologies. This work will be furthered by building effective research networks and developing international collaborations.

Shama will work with researchers in the USA from the Power and Energy Centre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to bring new knowledge to Victoria for demand management through IoT enabled smart microgrids integrated with energy storage and advanced communication protocols.



Dr Stuart Johnson

The University of Melbourne

Mathematical Biology is valuable when applied to experimental data to extract insight that could not otherwise be determined experimentally. 

Dr Johnston has conducted research into applied mathematical modelling techniques of biological and ecological processes capable of describing whale migration in response to rising levels of noise pollution.

Stuart will visit Dr Kit Yates at the University of Bath - UK, to learn more about stochastic modelling
of biological processes. He will learn about new techniques to describe aggregation and segregation in ecological populations by visiting Dr Raluca Eftimie at Dundee University - UK, while Professor Kevin Painter at Heriot-Watt University - UK, will provide expertise in techniques for relating velocity-jump random walks to population-level models. This can be applied to whale species that migrate along the coast of Victoria which is of value for the whale watching industry.

Click here to read about Dr Johnston's Victoria Fellowship study mission.



Dr Emily Kerr

Deakin University

The development of enhanced screening technologies and procedures for the early diagnosis and management of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is critical for reducing its economic and societal burdens.

Dr Kerr is focussed on developing a robust and cost-effective point-of-care diagnostic platform utilising an ultra-sensitive analytical technique called electrogenerated chemiluminescence (ECL). 

Dr Kerr will visit Associate Professor Mahiar Hamedi at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology - Sweden, who specialises in the development of micro total analysis systems used in ECL. Dr Kerr will also attend the laboratory of Professor Neso Sojic at the University of Bordeaux - France, to learn about nano-fluidic confinement strategies for ECL enhancement. These fabrication and miniaturisation skills will assist Emily in overcoming the limitations of current diagnostic systems.



Dr Thuy (Kate) Nguyen 

RMIT University

A comprehensive understanding of building fire dynamics is essential for improving the current Australian fire safety standards and increasing the safety of buildings in Victoria.

Dr Nguyen has been leading a research project to address the fire risk of buildings with combustible cladding. She hopes to develop testing facilities for advanced research to improve fire safety in new and existing buildings.

Thuy will visit the Structural Fire Laboratory at Michigan State University - USA, where they have created an inferno equivalent to catastrophic fire conditions to analyse the response of construction elements in fire. At the National Institute of Standards & Technology - USA, she will gain an understanding of the interaction between the dynamic fluid flow and building geometry to develop a versatile tool to predict vertical flame spread in existing building façades.



Dr Mitchell Nothling

The University of Melbourne

Biodegradable plastics, which offer a potential reprieve to the escalating accumulation of plastic waste pollution, are currently derived from either petrochemical or converted biomass feedstocks, both of which are limited resources with their own detrimental effects on the environment.

Dr Nothling’s research is looking to nature for inspiration on sustainable biomanufacturing and green chemistry. His research aims to develop an innovative approach for preparing biodegradable polymers using carbon dioxide and oxygen from the air as the key chemical ingredients.

Mitchell will visit researchers from the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish enzyme technology company Novozyme in order to advance his knowledge of the use of industrial enzymes for continuous, high-value manufacturing.



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