Dr Johanna Barclay
Dr Johanna Barclay

25 September 2008

Two up-and-coming UQ researchers recently had an opportunity to attend a major international science conference in the Northern Hemisphere, thanks to funding from Merck Pty Ltd, a leading chemical and pharmaceutical company.

As joint recipients of the Merck UQ Young Achiever Award, Dr Johanna Barclay, from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, and Dr Chanel Smart, from the UQ Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR), were able to attend conferences in San Francisco and Tuscany respectively.

The researchers will officially receive their awards from Merck Managing Director (Australia and New Zealand), Mr Peter Sommers, at a ceremony today (Thursday, September 25).

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Research Training), Professor Alan Lawson, said he was pleased such a high-profile company had chosen to support UQ's early career scientists.

“There is no better way to advance one's career than meeting with international experts in the relevant field,” Professor Lawson said.

“An investment in an early career scientist is a wise one – young researchers have fresh ideas and great potential.

“I congratulate Johanna and Chanel as very worthy recipients, and Merck for its generous and farsighted decision to support promising Australian researchers.”

In April, UQ research higher degree students and early career postdoctoral scientists were invited to apply for the inaugural award.

Applications were judged on originality, impact, thoroughness of research and thought process.

Dr Barclay's research, published in Molecular Endocrinology, examined how growth hormone signaling is regulated, which has implications for the development of cancer.

Her $3500 prize contributed to the cost of attending ENDO, a leading international conference in the endocrinology field, held in San Francisco in June.

“The conference was extremely beneficial, and enabled me to speak to a number of leading researchers concerning my research and career,” Dr Barclay said.

“In addition, I travelled to Germany and visited EMBL Heidelberg where I made contacts for a potential post-doc position in the future.”

The UQCCR's Dr Chanel Smart also received $ 3500, enabling her to attend the 2008 Mammary Gland Biology Gordon Research Conference in Tuscany, Italy, in June.

At this conference, Dr Smart presented the findings of research into the regulation and function of the breast cancer susceptibility gene (BRCA1), published in FEBS Letters.

“It was very rewarding,” Dr Smart said.

“It's a very intimate conference – there were only about 150 delegates – and the location is very isolated.

“Each meal you'd be sitting with different researchers of varying levels, so there was enormous opportunity to discuss your own work and the latest developments in the field and also foster new collaborations.”

As part of the ceremony being held on Thursday, September 25 at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, both winners will give a brief presentation on their research.

This event is part of UQ's annual Research Week (Sept 22-Sept 26), which aims to raise awareness of current UQ research amongst the university community, the general public, industry and government.

Media: Penny Robinson at UQ Communications (07 3365 9723, penny.robinson@uq.edu.au) or Warren Meredith, Merck Marketing Manager (warren.meredith@merck.com.au)

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