22 April 2009

Five talented Vietnamese researchers, including one from IMB, will share in a $1 million University of Queensland scholarship package for PhDs in UQ's leading research institutes.

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield announced the scholars this week in Vietnam, where he met with UQ alumni, Vietnam government officials and teaching and research partners of UQ.

The winners of UQ's Vietnam-Australia 35 Year Commemorative Research Higher Degree Scholarships will undertake original research in a range of areas.

IMB's scholarship winner, Ms Duong Minh Tam, will work to advance knowledge of the role of a gene, Sox18, in the development of the human lymphatic system. Lymphatic vessels are the route through which tumours spread throughout the body, so Ms Duong's research has the potential to enable treatments that will reduce the cancer death rate.

Ms Duong's research may also have the potential to explain why the lymphatic vessels sometimes develop abnormally, causing diseases such as Hypotrichosis-Lymphedema-Telangiectasia and secondary lymphedema, and suggesting targets for treatments for these diseases.

Ms Duong will be supervised by Professor Peter Koopman, whose papers on Sox18 have been published in high-impact journals including Nature.

Professor Greenfield congratulated the winners, who are each entitled to support worth approximately $200,000 for their four years of study.

"UQ opened this scholarship program to mark 35 years of resumed diplomatic relations between Australia and Vietnam in 2008, for students to begin in 2009," he said.

"The scholarships advance the spirit of a scheme that was founded on the generosity of The Atlantic Philanthropies, a global organisation that has been enormously supportive of initiatives in Vietnam and at UQ.

"Atlantic funded almost 300 Vietnamese students who completed coursework Masters and Doctoral development programs at UQ between 2000 and 2007.

"The 35 Year Commemorative scholarships are available for research in UQ's research institutes, which Atlantic kick-started with funds totalling more than $50 million.

"The recipients of these new scholarships will enhance links between Australia and Vietnam, build the global knowledge base in vital areas of human health and sustainability, and gain critical skills that they may share with their communities and their nation.

"Each scholar has expertise that will benefit their research colleagues at UQ."

The other researchers and their PhD projects (in summary) are:

• Mr Nguyen Thai Vinh, whose Queensland Brain Institute-based project at UQ will aim to decode brain activity in real time, in order to read people's intentions to make voluntary movements directly from their brain activity. This technology could eventually be used to control robotic or prosthetic limbs. His supervisor is Dr Ross Cunnington.

• Ms Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh, who will study at UQ's Sustainable Minerals Institute under the supervision of Dr Claire Cote. She aims to develop the 'pinch analysis' into an integrated tool for measuring both water and energy consumption in the mining industry. Further, she will work on a mining industry water and energy efficiency guideline, related to opportunities for energy trade-off and water saving.

• Mr Truong Phuoc Nghia, who will be based in UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) under the supervision of Professor Michael Monteiro. He will work on nanoparticles for the treatment of cervical cancer. Potential benefits extend to the targeted delivery of treatments for other diseases, the creation of new biomedical products, and the development of new technologies for resource-based industries.

• Ms Tran Thi Bich Trinh, who will work in the AIBN on ways to make biopesticides – safe, biodegradable pesticides with a low chance of resistance development. She will focus on a type of virus that kills and is spread by caterpillars, which will act on the world's most destructive insect group in terms of crop damage, the Heliothis complex (which includes the cotton bollworm, the corn earworm and the tobacco budworm). Ms Tran, who is a UQ Master of Biotechnology graduate, will study with Dr Steven Reid and Professor Lars Nielsen.

Media contact: Fiona Kennedy + 61 7 3365 1384

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