Past Winners

2013 Festival winner heads to Antalya

Shruti Saptarshi won a travel award at last year’s Festival of Life Sciences and shares her story.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Faculty for providing a great platform such as "So You Think You Can Research" to PhD students. My supervisor, A/Prof Andreas Lopata, encouraged me to present my work at the competition and I was very fortunate to receive this prestigious travel award last year.

The award ($2500) made it possible for me to attend the prestigious 7th International Nanotoxicology Congress - Nanotox 2014 which was held in Antalya, Turkey, in April 2014. I presented a poster titled Understanding immunomodulatory and cytotoxic effects of zinc oxide nanoparticles on human lung epithelial cells and was also awarded an international travel award by the congress. This conference helped me to exchange research ideas with leading researchers in my field and also establish future collaborations. I was fortunate to be able to attend talks by a number of great researchers whose work has inspired and helped me throughout my PhD.

Lastly, I had a fantastic time exploring the beautiful cities of Istanbul and Antalya which made my trip an overall success.

Shruti conference pix

Image: A) 7th International Nanotoxicology Congress - Nanotox 2014 Antalya, Turkey, April 2014: group picture.

B) Proud winners of the international Nanotox travel award.

C) Presenting my poster at the conference.

‘So You Think You Can Research?’ was a winner!

Michelle Redman-MacLaren, College of Medicine and Dentistry (Cairns)

Michelle in poster hall

So You Think You Can Research? was the challenge put to PhD candidates during the Festival of Life Sciences in Townsville, October 2013. I was privileged to be able to present my research about HIV prevention with women in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and was awarded $2,500 to attend an international conference. I knew straight away where I wanted to go. Australia was to host the International AIDS Conference for the first time ever in 2014 – Melbourne it would be.

Tragic circumstances

The International AIDS Society conferences are much anticipated events in international health. Many historic decisions have been at these conferences, including decisions about universal access to HIV treatment and global efforts to support HIV-affected people. Little did we know that this AIDS conference would end up in the international news for the wrong reasons – six senior HIV researchers and advocates died on the ill-fated MH17 flight en route from Amsterdam to Melbourne. It made for a sombre start to the conference.

90-90-90 target

UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, announced the global 90-90-90 target: by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV will know their status, 90% of people diagnosed with HIV will be receiving treatment and 90% people on antiretroviral therapy will have durable viral suppression. The conference proceeded to discuss clinical research through to social research and advocacy. There was a strong focus on the inclusion of people living with HIV and their courage was inspiring.

PNG march

Image: PNG colleagues Rangas Tambui, HIV Program Supervisor, Oil Search Foundation; and Dr Clement Manineng, PhD Candidate, JCU College of Medicine; march with me down Flinders Street, Melbourne.

How my research fit the conference goals

Women and HIV was a strong theme throughout AIDS 2014, and I was privileged to present a poster about my PhD research with women on behalf of PNG and Australian colleagues – you can view the abstract here:

A highlight for me was the AIDS 2014 March through Melbourne’s CBD, where hundreds marched to highlight the deadly results of stigma for people living with HIV. For more highlights, you can read my AIDS2014 tweets via Storify:

Thanks to supporters

Thanks to the team at the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences who supported the ‘So You Think You Can Research’ event. I am most thankful for financial support to attend AIDS 2014. Special thanks go to JCU’s College of Medicine and Dentistry, including Emma Anderson and Di Chandler, for getting me to Townsville in the first place and supporting me throughout.

For a copy of the AIDS2014 Poster or more information about our other HIV research in the Pacific, please email me: