Mater Research announces recipients of grants for Outstanding Women

Monday 08 May 2017

Two outstanding female researchers have been announced as the recipients of the first Mater Research grants for Outstanding Women.

Dr Sumaira Hasnain and Dr Shelley Wilkinson are high performing researchers in their respective fields and were chosen from a total of nine applications in the current round.

In recognition that there are significantly fewer women in lead investigator roles and senior academic positions, the grants provide funding for two awards per year, with each award providing $45 000 per annum for two years to support the research and career progression of high potential female researchers at Mater.

Dr Hasnain is a highly experienced researcher who is establishing her own laboratory in the field of Immunopathology under the mentorship of the Mater Research Deputy Director (Research) Professor Michael McGuckin and said her laboratory is well placed to deliver tangible outcomes.

“I have strategically modelled my laboratory to successfully discover, translate, and deliver novel therapies for high burden disease.  My research has already generated significant soon to be published data allowing me to maintain my high level output while migrating to senior authorship as well as forming a foundation for grant applications,” Dr Hasnain said.

“This grant will allow me to build on my reputation, add to my track record to become more competitive for NHMRC grants and fellowships and academically it will allow me to progress to Level D over the next two years.

“My goal is to develop my lab at Mater Research with the support of my mentors, Professor Mike McGuckin and Professor John Prins, and ensure that I can contribute outstanding scientific research with tangible outcomes for the community including development of novel therapeutic drugs for chronic inflammatory disease.”

Dr Wilkinson is both a clinician and a researcher in Mater’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Mater Mothers’ Hospital.  She is recognised as a leading Australian researcher in maternal health and in implementation science.

“Over the last nine years I have built an extensive research portfolio with an emphasis in decreasing the time it takes for research to be translated into clinical practice,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“This grant will provide an opportunity for me to be a site investigator in an international multi-centre randomised controlled-trial aimed at comparing prophylactic oral dextrose gel with placebo in newborn babies at risk of neonatal hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemia is the most common metabolic condition in newborns, and may cause death, long term brain damage and developmental delay in childhood.

“It will also enable me to conduct a mini-project that is Mater specific to understand why people participate in trials and the benefits they may receive even if they are given a placebo.

“Receiving this grant will enable me to recruit a Research Assistant and a Research Midwife, without which we would not have the capacity to contribute resources to this study.”

Chair of the Gender Equity Working Group at Mater Research Associate Professor Allison Pettit said Dr Hasnain and Dr Wilkinson were both deserving of the grant.

“The assessor panel felt that the grants would provide a boost to both applicants in terms of their trajectory and protect against the high number of pitfalls that are likely to cross their paths in the next three to five years, greatly reducing the chance of either becoming an attrition statistic,” A/Prof Pettit said.

“The applications were of an extremely high quality making the decision very difficult for the assessor panel.  Both Dr Wilkinson and Dr Hasnain are mothers of very young children trying to balance work and home commitments and are at a critical career stage where they have just, or are about to, break through to full academic independence.

“Based on gender this is a key point at which female research academic participation in the workforce drops off dramatically and the intention of this grant scheme is to provide a flexible injection of funds to substantially bolster the recipient’s track record through increasing research productivity and profile, which will better position them for success in external funding schemes.

The Mater Research grants for Outstanding Women were announced on International Women’s Day this year and aim to support the work of outstanding female researchers at Mater.

The Mater Research grants for Outstanding Women are proudly funded through Mater Foundation’s generous donors and supporters.