Blackburn Fellowships Celebrate Women in Research

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Summary media release information

29 November 2011
Joint Ministerial Media Release
Contact for further information: 

Minister Roxon’s Office: 0409 945 476
Minister Butler’s Office: 0407 415 484
Fellowship recipients: Melody Trouse, Haystac Communications: 0418 536 528

Minister for Health and Ageing
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing

The outstanding achievements of Australian Nobel Laureate Professor Elizabeth Blackburn have been recognised through a new fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) awarded to top female Research Fellows.

This important new NHMRC Fellowship was announced today by Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon and Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler.

“The NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowships will foster the career development of female scientists excelling in biomedical, clinical and public health research,” Ms Roxon said.

“Professor Blackburn’s stellar international career, which includes the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2009, has inspired the NHMRC to recognise the next generation of Australian women in science.”

The inaugural Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowships were awarded to: Associate Professor Amanda Leach (Menzies School of Research), Associate Professor Christine Roberts (University of Sydney), and Professor Carola Vinuesa (John Curtin School of Medical Research).

“These exceptional women are contributing to Australia’s health and wellbeing through important research and I congratulate them on their awards.”

Minister Butler said the calibre of the Fellows’ work demonstrates the breadth of talent in our research community. 

“Their important research includes working to improve the health of children in remote Indigenous communities, utilising population health data to improve health service delivery, policy and planning, and discovering novel pathways important for autoimmune diseases,” Mr Butler said.

“These Fellowships are an important part of the Gillard Government’s commitment to supporting women to achieve senior positions in our research workforce. This reflects Professor Blackburn’s own role as a mentor and advocate for women to become leaders in health and medical research.”

Professor Blackburn pioneered the study of telomeres, caps that protect chromosomes in cells, and is a discoverer of telomerase, an enzyme that does the protecting. Her work has opened a new field of science, raising the prospects of such medical breakthroughs as interfering with cancerous cells.

Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowships 2011

Associate Professor Amanda Leach, Menzies School of Research

Associate Professor Amanda Leach is a principal research fellow and leader of the Ear Health Research Program within the Child Health Division at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin. She is committed to evidence-based and multidisciplinary research addressing the health problems of Aboriginal children living in remote communities. Her work, largely funded by the NHMRC, focuses on clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of otitis media (middle ear infection), including a number of antibiotic trials and a trial to compare two pneumococcal conjugate vaccines.

Associate Professor Christine Roberts, University of Sydney

Associate Professor Christine Roberts is research director of Clinical and Population Perinatal Health Research at the University of Sydney’s Kolling Institute. Prior to her career in public health, she was a medical epidemiologist with clinical experience in obstetrics, paediatrics and neonatology. Her research focuses on utilising population health data to improve health, health service delivery, health policy and planning. She has published 135 papers in national and international journals, is a sought-after international speaker and an active member of research, government and professional organisations.

Professor Carola Vinuesa, Australian National University John Curtin School of Medical Research

After graduating as a medical doctor in Madrid, Professor Carola Vinuesa undertook clinical training in the UK and was awarded a PhD in 2000. As a Wellcome Trust Travelling Fellow at the Australian National University she discovered novel pathways important for antibody responses and autoimmune diseases. She was awarded a Viertel Fellowship (2007), the Biogen-Idec Prize (2007), the Science Minister’s Prize (2008) and the Gottschalk Medal (2009). She is professor of Immunology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research and head of the Pathogens and Immunity Department.