Philanthropic funds creating travel opportunities

A collection of emerging research leaders will have the chance to broaden their research experience thanks to funding provided through the Skipper Jacobs Charitable Trust.

Close to $40,000 will be shared amongst five early-to-mid career researchers, allowing them to travel nationally and internationally expanding their research and developing new skills.

It’s anticipated the travel program will not only benefit the Kolling Institute, but will assist international collaborators, and improve health outcomes in Australia and beyond.

PhD student Lionel Leck from the Cancer Drug Resistance and Stem Cell Program will take part in an internship at the Seoul National University to gain first-hand experience of a new technique looking at the molecular mechanisms of specific cancers.

Lionel said this method of studying how proteins interact with each other in cancer stem cells will lead to better detection and a greater understanding of their behaviour, which will in turn, help develop new drugs to eradicate them effectively.

"I’m really humbled and ecstatic to have received this award,” he said.

“I would like to acknowledge the Skipper Jacobs Charitable Trust and the NORTH Foundation for this valuable and amazing opportunity."

Fellow PhD student Pich Chhay from the Cardiovascular Discovery Group will visit the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Adelaide. There she will learn an innovative technique using gas chromatography to measure omega-3 in blood samples as an indicator of early heart disease.

Pich said the research has the potential to identify those who are susceptible to heart disease, without the traditional risk factors. They can then be provided with prevention strategies including targeted medications.

“I am delighted to receive this travel grant supported by the Skipper Jacobs Charitable Trust as it will enable me to develop new skills and present the fantastic work that is being done at the Kolling Institute to a wider science community,” she said.

“This will help foster collaboration with multidisciplinary teams which will be invaluable in translating science through shared networks and resources.”

Samantha Hefferan from the Murray Maxwell Biomechanics Laboratory will visit the University of Auckland, working in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering to broaden her understanding of the ultrastructure of human tendons.

There she will use the lab’s new imaging methods to explore tendon structure and the impact of disease and injury.

“It is such a pleasure to be granted this award. Without it I would not be able to participate in this amazing study opportunity.”

“I look forward to the chance to improve my research skillset while engaging with an exciting new project.”

“This initiative is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Kolling and an international expert at the University of Auckland. It will broaden my professional development as a scientist, while also enhancing the research partnership between the Kolling and the New Zealand university.”

Dr Mounir Boudali is an early-career engineer with specialisation in robotics. He will visit the renowned Cleveland Clinic in the USA to enhance his knowledge of using robotics in biomechanical research for joint replacements.

Mounir will visit the development team behind the Sim Vitro software, the software which is driving the Kolling’s new biomechanical robot.

“I am thrilled to receive the Beryl and Jack Jacobs travel grant,” he said.

“Nothing can beat learning from the source. We will learn how to use a sophisticated platform for biomechanical testing, while generating a huge amount of knowledge in orthopaedics and developing important collaborations.”

Dr Kenji Fujita is an early-career pharmacist with a PhD working in the Ageing and Pharmacology Research Group at the Kolling. Kenji has helped to develop techniques to calculate the frailty index in patients undergoing surgeries, while also leading research on the quality of pharmaceutical care.

He is keen to share his knowledge and experience with international collaborators and will visit Denmark, Norway and Japan.

“I am thrilled to have been selected for this grant and incredibly thankful for all the support,” he said.

“As countries recover from the pandemic and international travel picks up, I am keen to connect with like-minded professionals in my field.

“I’ll be leading a three-day workshop in Denmark, visiting collaborators in Norway and delivering a presentation in Japan, a country with the highest proportion of older adults in the world.

“I’m sure my trip will strengthen international collaborations and promote our translational research at the Kolling, while also lifting my international profile.”