Six Scientists from University of Queensland Receives Smart Future Fellowships

Six scientists from The University of Queensland, one of Australia's premier learning and research institutions, have received Smart Future Fellowships to help further their research into areas such as disease detection and clean energy.

The Queensland Government sponsored Fellowships provide funding for early or mid-career researchers to undertake innovative research in Queensland and receive up to $300,000 from the Government over three years.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu congratulated the Fellows and thanked the Queensland Government for continuing to back talented young researchers.

"This is a wise investment by the Government in researchers whose work could lead to advances in health, the environment and sustainable energy, and also generate economic returns for Queensland.

"UQ has received half of all the Fellowships in this category, which is a great endorsement of the quality of our researchers and their records of delivering productive research outcomes."

The six recipients are:

Dr Simon Corrie, from UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering & Nanotechnology (AIBN), is working on a new, non-invasive microdevice that can painlessly extract material from the skin for early detection of diseases. If successful this device will reduce the reliance on expensive, painful and invasive tissue extraction methods such as scrapings and excisional biopsies, and will also advance our understanding of the fundamental physiology of the skin epithelia.

Dr Zhen Li, from the AIBN, is pursuing new contrasting agents for the existing technologies of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fluorescence mediated imaging (FMI) for early detection of cancers. It is anticipated these contrast agents will be based on magnetic and fluorescent nanocrystals prepared using an environmentally friendly aqueous method. Not only do these nanocrystals have the potential to extend the capabilities of MRI and FMI, they might also act as drug delivery molecules.

Dr Chengua Sun, from the AIBN, aims to improve the performance of solar cells by increasing the reactivity of titanium oxide crystals. The potential benefits include greater utilisation of solar energy and new materials to break down air and water pollutants.

Dr Marcel Dinger, from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, will examine stretches of the genome that don't contain genes, called non-coding RNA. It is believed non-coding RNA plays a role in directing development in complex organisms such as humans. The research has the potential to greatly improve our knowledge about the molecular basis of development and disease, which will in turn provide targets for drugs to treat genetic diseases and cancer.

Dr Kazuhiro Nogita, from the School of Engineering, aims to create a viable magnesium-based way to store hydrogen. Hydrogen has the potential to power much of the modern world with only water as the by-product, but storing hydrogen safely and efficiently remains a major problem. A magnesium-based storage system could solve this problem as well as generate a new market for Queensland rich magnesite reserves.

Associate Professor Helen Cooper, from UQ's Queensland Brain Institute, is working on an effective and efficient nanoparticle-based drug delivery system for the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's. While powerful new drugs have been developed recently, their failure to enter the brain and target damaged neurons has limited their clinical use. This project hops to overcome those hurdles.

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