Flinders University researchers Dr Yee Lian Chew and Dr Ash Hopkins have been recognised for their research excellence and enthusiasm for science communication, named in the Young Tall Poppy Science Awards for 2021.
Earlier this year, Dr Chew was awarded Flinders Foundation’s Mary Overton Senior Research Fellowship in Neuroscience, bringing her expertise from Cambridge UK and The University of Wollongong to establish a new research laboratory at Flinders.
Self-dubbed ‘the worm lady’, Dr Chew is using Nematodes, one of the smallest worm species measuring just 1mm in length, to understand how the brain learns in one of the simpler forms of animal life.
Through this research, Dr Chew hopes to uncover new treatments for chronic pain.
“To develop new treatments, we need a better understanding of how pain is controlled,” says Dr Chew.
“The roundworm is 80 per cent genetically similar to humans, so I hope that my research will help to untangle how the human brain reacts to pain in order to find new areas for medicines to target.”
Dr Chew says she discovered her passion for science at a very young age.
“I have always wanted to know the reason for everything, and I mean everything, and I enjoy sharing that love of discovery with the community,” says Dr Chew.
“Science communication is something I do as my passion; I want to inspire people to think about the world in way that’s outside of their own experience and to be recognised for that in this year’s Tall Poppy Awards is very lovely.”
Dr Ash Hopkins, Senior Research Fellow in the College of Medicine and Public Health and leader of the Clinical Cancer Epidemiology Lab at Flinders University, focuses on methods to predict who will benefit from specific cancer treatments.
Dr Hopkins was a recipient of funds raised through the 2019 SA Discovery Tour, in partnership with Tour de Cure, along with a Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant in 2020. With this funding, Dr Hopkins is investigating the impact of non-cancer medicines and antibiotics on anticancer treatments in patients with advanced breast and lung cancers.
“As a pharmacist and clinical epidemiologist, I am aiming to unleash the potential of big data and machine learning to empower patients and oncologists to better understand the pros and cons of specific cancer treatments,” says Dr Hopkins.
Dr Hopkins says being able to communicate his work to the wider community, especially to patients and industry, is vital to his work.
“A large part of my research is advocating to the pharmaceutical industry to be transparent with their data so that we can pool it from multiple sources and use it for the advantage of patients everywhere,” says Dr Hopkins.
“I’m very excited by the opportunity that the Tall Poppy Awards present.”
Presented by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science, the Young Tall Poppy Awards were created to celebrate achievement in the sciences and communicating the passion and purpose of Australia’s finest scientists to a wider audience.
For the next 12 months through a series of events, Drs Chew and Hopkins will now promote interest in science among school students, teachers, and their peers, and also provide understanding and an appreciation of science in the broader community.
Your generosity makes it possible for Flinders Foundation to support the important work of young researchers like Drs Chew and Hopkins, thank you.