La Trobe's ARC funding success

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has awarded almost $4 million to La Trobe University researchers in its latest round of funding.

Six La Trobe researchers have been successful in their applications for Discovery Projects grants, while another four have received Discovery Early Career Research Awards.

La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Keith Nugent said the 10 researchers had received funding for outstanding projects across a range of fields including disease management, alcohol consumption and environmental science.

“La Trobe’s latest ARC funding success highlights the breadth of our research talent and is a testament to the hard work of our people,” Professor Nugent said.

“In an increasingly competitive funding environment, it is pleasing that La Trobe continues to win prestigious and highly sought after grants.

“These projects deserve to be funded as they will add to our collective knowledge of the world around us and have the potential to improve and save so many lives.”

Discovery Projects

Professor Patrick Humbert (School of Molecular Sciences/La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science) - $507,000

Professor Humbert’s project will look at how red blood cells lose their nucleus utilising state-of-the art live imaging approaches. His research could enhance the bulk production of red blood cells for veterinary and human purposes.

Dr Marc Kvansakul (School of Molecular Sciences/La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science) - $412,000

Dr Marc Kvansakul, together with his La Trobe colleague Dr Mark Hulett, will investigate how plant proteins called defensins attack membranes to cause cells to burst and die. Their project aims to find better treatments for fungal infections.

Dr Jennifer Power (School of Psychology and Public Health/Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society) - $318,000

Dr Power will work with colleagues from La Trobe’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society and from the La Trobe Law School, to explore the ways in which new technologies are becoming part of Australian’s experiences of intimacy and sexuality. Their project will identify potential solutions to emerging privacy and safety concerns, which will help shape policy, legal and educational responses to these issues.

Dr Maria Kaparakis-Liaskos (School of Life Sciences) - $375,000

The Deputy Director of the La Trobe Research Centre for Extracellular Vesicles, Dr Kaparakis-Liaskos, together with La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science Director Professor Andrew Hill, will investigate the mechanisms that regulate the production of bacterial membrane vesicles and how this determines their bacterial cargo and subsequent biological functions. Bacterial membrane vesicles are naturally produced nanoparticles released by all bacteria as part of their normal growth.

Dr Keir Strickland (School of Humanities and Social Sciences) - $328,700

Dr Strickland’s team will investigate the collapse of the kingdom of Polonnaruva, now a UNESCO World Heritage site in Sri Lanka. They expect that their project will lead to a better understanding and management of ancient and contemporary socio-environmental systems.

Dr Erinna Lee (School of Molecular Sciences/La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science) - $400,000

Dr Lee’s project will focus on whether Beclin 1, a protein that plays an important role in promoting cell survival, has an alternative job of mediating trafficking within a cell. Her project could lead to new knowledge and a rethink about the development of diseases where Beclin 1 has been implicated.

Discovery Early Career Research Awards

Dr Anne-Marie Laslett (School of Psychology and Public Health/Centre for Alcohol Policy Research) - $361,357

Dr Laslett’s project aims to measure how adult drinking leads to child maltreatment within families, communities and societies. Her team will use data from 20 countries, including Australia, and they expect their work will help shape alcohol policy locally and globally.

Dr Katherine Harrisson (School of Life Sciences) - $401,202

Dr Harrisson’s project aims to improve the long-term survival of wildlife. Using native fish as a case study, her project will integrate genomics into biodiversity models.

Dr Tatiana Soares da Costa (School of Molecular Sciences/La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science) - $419,854

Dr Soares da Costa’s research aims to identify new strategies to tackle herbicide resistant weeds, which represent one of the largest threats to Australian and global food security. Specifically, the project will investigate the structural and functional characterisation of unexplored enzymes in esssential pathways in plants to guide the development of novel herbicide cocktails.

Dr Amy Pennay – (School of Psychology and Public Health/Centre for Alcohol Policy Research) - $367,275

Dr Pennay will investigate the significant decrease in alcohol consumption that has occurred among young people in high income countries over the past 15 years.  She will focus on Australia, Sweden and the UK and expects her study to inform prevention and policy efforts.

Professor Nugent said the latest grants bring the total ARC allocation to La Trobe for 2018 to $5,646,638 when combined with two Future Fellowships awarded to Dr Suresh Mathivanan and Dr Megan Maher from the School of Molecular Science.

In August, the ARC announced almost $5million in funding for Australia’s first Research Hub in Medicinal Agriculture to be located at La Trobe’s Bundoora campus and to be led by Professor Tony Bacic.

Media Contact Anastasia Salamastrakis 0428 195 464

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