Early career success in research funding

Two early career researchers from La Trobe University’s School of Psychology and Public Health have received grants from the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA).

The ARC funding was announced today by The Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham.

$371,234 has been awarded to a major project investigating the harmful effects of everyday alcohol consumption in Australian homes. The project will be led by Dr Sarah Callinan, a Research Fellow in La Trobe’s Centre for Alcohol Policy and Research.

Dr Mirko Uljarevic in La Trobe’s Autism Research Centre has been awarded $333,600 to fund a study exploring whether Research Domain Criteria – a framework for new ways of studying mental disorders – are effective in predicting developmental outcomes such as in educational attainment.

La Trobe also received a Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant to accelerate the development of quantum technologies and to establish new facilities for quantum measurement of new materials and devices. Professor Christopher Pakes and Dr Dongchen Qi in the University’s School of Molecular Sciences, will work with a team including researchers from the University of Melbourne.

ARC Discovery Projects funded include an investigation of the socio-legal implications of donor linking – the process by which donor-conceived people, donors and recipient parents access each other’s identifying information; a project exploring the urbanisation of Tibet, and new research into blocking auto-transporter proteins which are known to cause persistent and difficult to treat bacterial infections.

La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Keith Nugent welcomed the ARC grants and said the money will be used to fund potentially life-changing research.

“From exploring the hidden harm of alcohol consumption in Australian homes to understanding the consequences of donor linking, La Trobe research funded by the ARC has the potential to make a difference to the lives of people here in Australia and across the globe,” Professor Nugent said.

“It’s particularly satisfying to see two early career researchers receive funding for their important human health studies and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of their projects.

“I also welcome our ARC LIEF grant which not only will help deepen our understanding of the properties of new materials and devices, but which will also strengthen our collaboration with partnering institutions and provide unique opportunities for research students.”

Funding is being provided by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s DECRA, LIEF and Discovery Project schemes.


Project summaries

DECRA (Early Career Researcher Awards)

* Hidden harm: Everyday alcohol consumption in Australian homes - Dr Sarah Callinan (School of Psychology and Public Health)

This project will investigate how family and other factors in the home environment affect alcohol consumption and associated social harms. This is important because nearly two-thirds of Australian alcohol consumption occurs in the drinker’s own home but studies of drinking contexts have mostly focused on drinking on licensed premises. The project will use four diverse datasets to analyse individual and interactional patterns of drinking in the home. Potential intervention points and policy measures to reduce harms from drinking will be developed from the project’s analysis. This has the potential to reduce social and violence-related harms from alcohol consumption.

* Emotional and socio-communicative domains in development - Dr Mirko Uljarevic (School of Psychology and Public Health)

This project will test whether Research Domain Criteria - a research framework for new ways of studying mental disorders - are effective in predicting developmental outcomes. For example, this might be in educational attainment, social participation, and mental health, across both general and clinical populations. Using a large prospective community sample of children, adolescents and adults, and large cross-sectional sample of individuals with autism, this research will provide the first exploration of how these candidate dimensions, both directly and indirectly, accurately predict long-term outcomes across both normative and atypical development. The findings will contribute to new understanding of typical and atypical development and have immediate potential to impact clinical and educational decision-making and practice.

Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF)

High through-put facility for measurement of quantum materials and devices - Professor Christopher Pakes and Dr Dongchen Qi

This project aims to accelerate the development of quantum technologies by expanding our capacity to rapidly evaluate the low temperature electrical and optical properties of novel materials and devices. This will lead to new knowledge in quantum coherent phases of diamond, high mobility two-dimensional spintronics, hybrid semiconductor-superconductor devices, novel phases of silicon and germanium, and single photon sources based on silicon-carbide. Expected outcomes of the project include the establishment of high performing, efficient, new facilities for low temperature quantum measurement, the strengthening of collaborative links between participating researchers and the expansion of opportunities for research students.

ARC Discovery Projects

* Families of Strangers? The socio-legal implications of donor linking - Associate Professor Fiona Kelly (La Trobe Law School)

Donor linking is the process by which donor-conceived people, donors, and recipient parents access each other's identifying information. Australia is a world leader in statutory linking, but reform has not been matched by equivalent levels of research on the consequences of the practice. This project aims to generate new knowledge about the impact of donor linking on individual and familial identities and relationships, and the consequences of the growing prevalence of non-statutory linking, such as direct-to-consumer genetic testing and online technologies, for formal regulatory frameworks. This knowledge will constitute an evidence-based platform from which donor-linking law, policy and services can develop domestically and overseas.

* Urbanising Western China: Nation-building on the Sino-Tibetan frontier - Associate Professor James Leibold (School of Humanities and Social Sciences)

This project will explore urbanisation as a key part of the Chinese Communist Party's policies in Tibet and the new opportunities it affords for Tibetan identity, language, and culture. An international, multidisciplinary team will combine analysis of key government texts, interviews with government officials and ethnic minority elites, as well as observations of daily life amongst urban Tibetans. The project will produce new understandings of the challenges of governing diversity in China, and will benefit Australia by exploring a fundamental aspect of the changing social fabric of our region’s dominant power.

* How auto-transporter proteins mediate bacterial interactions - Dr Begoña Heras (School of Molecular Sciences)

This project will investigate the structure-function relationships that underpin key auto-transporter roles in bacterial cell adhesion, aggregation and biofilm formation. Auto-transporter proteins are extremely common in bacteria where they play a central role in controlling bacterial interactions with other bacteria, with human cells, and with surfaces. This project will define the molecular mechanisms underlying these processes. This will have significant benefits, such as providing the basis for the development of approaches to block auto-transporter functions that contribute to the establishment of persistent and difficult to treat bacterial infections.

Media Contact: Claire Bowers – c.bowers@latrobe.edu.au - 9479 2315 / 0437279903