Young scientists awarded scholarships to pursue their dreams
Two University of Queensland veterinary science students, Ms Shuting Jin and Ms Joss Kessels and a postdoctoral research scientist, Dr Faith Brennan, have won “Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation” 2016 scholarships.
The scholarship enabled Shuting Jin to travel to the University of Greifswald in Germany to work with Professor Tim Urich as part of a collaboration with Dr Ricardo Soares Magalhães and the Spatial Epidemiology Lab at the UQ School of Veterinary Science.
A motivated and passionate researcher, Shuting’s dream is to become a veterinary physician-investigator, combining clinical knowledge with benchside techniques to tackle real-world problems in human and animal health.
“The scholarship allowed me to learn cutting-edge methods and use them to better understand how the community of bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract of mice influences how they behave,” Ms Jin said.
“This is an exciting direction in brain research as scientists have recently found evidence that these microorganisms play a role in disorders such as anxiety and depression.”
She grew up in the United States and moved to Australia in 2011.
One of the highlights of the past year has been her participation in the Leadership Program for Veterinary Students at Cornell University in the United States, where she worked with veterinary students from all over the world on exciting projects in infectious diseases and public health. She looks forward to traveling to Brazil later in the year to learn more about health challenges in developing countries and work with local veterinarians.
Joss Kessels is passionate about improving human, animal and environmental health on a global scale,and the scholarship assisted Joss with an internship at the World Health Organisation in Geneva. The internship was an opportunity to experience international efforts to control diseases, and improve the quality of human life.
“I worked with the neglected zoonotic disease team at WHO,” Ms Kessels said.
“Neglected zoonotic diseases are diseases such as rabies which are transmitted from animals to humans, and most severely affect poor households in developing countries.
“Working at WHO allowed me to experience the complexities involved in confronting human health issues that span different countries and cultures. Being based in Geneva was a great way to engage with public health professionals working in diverse areas to improve human health and welfare at a global scale.”
Ms Kessels said: “As a future veterinarian, I believe we have a valuable perspective to bring to the field of public health.
“Many human diseases are related to animal diseases, and many people, especially in developing countries, rely on animals for both sustenance and income.
“We cannot improve human health and welfare without improving that of animals and our environment. I’m committed to taking up every opportunity that will bring me closer to my ultimate goal: changing the world for the better through improving health outcomes for both humans and animals”.
Postdoctoral research scientist Dr Faith Brennan, who is passionate about finding a cure for spinal cord injury, said the scholarship would help fund her studies to keep growing as a scientist in an environment of research excellence.
A love for biology in high school, and encouragement by her mother, led Dr Brennan to undertake a Bachelors degree majoring in Biomedical Science at The University of Queensland. The fields of neuroscience and immunology particularly captivated her during study for a Bachelor of Science.
After graduation, she was accepted into the Honours research program at UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences Neural Injury and Repair Laboratory. Faith’s project aimed to investigate how the immune system could be harnessed to repair the injured central nervous system.
“I discovered that aspects of the immune system become over-activated after a spinal injury, causing more damage, but that other aspects are also necessary for proper wound healing, like in peripheral tissues,” Dr Brennan said.
“Following the research program I commenced a four-year PhD, working on how the immune system can be targeted with genetic and pharmacological agents to improve outcomes from neurotrauma.
“My dream is to become a leader in spinal cord injury research, and ultimately discover a cure for this condition, so that patients can become active, thriving members of the community again.”