Skip to the content

Monash researchers recognised with Federation Fellowships

April 24th 2008

Professor James Whisstock and Associate Professor Trevor Lithgow have been named among the top Australian scientists for the year and awarded a Federation Fellowship.

The awards were announced at a gala ceremony in Canberra, 22 April, 2008.

Speaking at the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council dinner the Hon. Kevin Rudd said:

"We want to give our best and brightest researchers opportunities to build careers in Australia."

"We want to give those at the top of their fields to have access to an elite funding scheme with a strong international focus".

"The Federation Fellowships will support ambitious research that will have a significant impact on all our lives."

The two scientists were recognised for their research work in the field of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Professor Whisstock is recognised as a world-leading expert on bio-information and structural biology, especially serpins. He is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Principal Research Fellow and Logan Fellow at Monash University, and a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence in Structural and Functional Microbial Genomics.

Membrane Attack Complex/Perforin-like (MACPF) proteins play central roles in vertebrate immunity, embryonic patterning and neural development.

Professor Whisstock's research program aims to better understand the links between immunity and development. Data from his research will be crucial for developing approaches to control unwanted MACPF function in transplant rejection and diseases like Type I diabetes.

Professor Whisstock said the Fellowship is wonderful recognition and would open more doors of opportunity.

"It will allow me to develop new research directions in the field, looking at the role of pore-forming proteins," he said.

"It is a fantastic opportunity, a great honour, privilege and responsibility. Thank you to my team and I would also like to pay tribute to the great collaborators."

Associate Professor Lithgow leads an interdisciplinary research program at the Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute and will be taking up his Federation Fellowsip at Monash.

He is an international leader in protein targeting and membrane assembly, and his lab is working towards understanding the molecular machine that transfers proteins into mitochondria.

The main aims of Associate Professor Lithgow's research program are to: capitalise on biochemical techniques and bioinformatics developed by his laboratory; apply these techniques to learn more about the structure, function and assembly of the molecular machines in bacteria; and better understand how the human immune system can cope with microbial invaders.

The work involves research in genetics, microbiology, computer science and molecular biology, and will link research groups in Australia with key international laboratories.

Professor Lithgow said the Federation Fellowship will support collaborative research in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Microbiology, in the new STRIP buildings on the Clayton Campus.

"It will enable a team to access the latest technology in protein chemistry, computational science, microbial genetics and structural biology," Professor Lithgow said.

"As a result, new approaches are possible for understanding the fundamental biology of important pathogens of humans: how bacterial "weapons" are made and targeted at specific sites in human cells, how bacterial and fungal membranes are assembled to enable growth of these pathogens, and how human cells respond to the presence of pathogenic microorganisms."

Monash University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Edwina Cornish, said Professors Whisstock and Lithgow were deserving recipients of the Federation Fellowships.

"This reinforces the commitment of Monash University to top-quality research. Both researchers are already well-respected in their fields and this funding will allow them to make further significant contributions to their respective fields," Professor Cornish said.

"We look forward to Associate Professor Lithgow joining the Monash research community", Professor Cornish said.

Professor James Whisstock
Professor James Whisstock