Galaxies, geoscience, biomedical imaging and environmental sciences in future focus

16 December 2015

Macquarie awarded five ARC Future Fellowships

Macquarie University has been awarded five Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowships, announced today by the Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Honourable Simon Birmingham.

Totalling more than $3.5 million ($3,683,068) in funding, the ARC Future Fellowships were awarded in the areas of geoscience, biomedical imaging, astrophysics, nanomedicine and environmental sciences.

The Future Fellowships scheme supports research in areas of ‘critical national importance’ and provides four-year fellowships to outstanding Australian mid-career researchers.

There were only 50 Fellowships awarded nationally this year.

“I am delighted to see the ARC recognise five of our world-leading researchers with these fellowships. Each is an outstanding example of the breadth and standard of research activity undertaken at our University.

“Our performance in this year’s future fellowships is outstanding, and I am extremely proud to be able to congratulate our new future fellows on their success. These awards are a fitting end to an exceptional year for research at Macquarie University,” said the Vice-Chancellor, Professor S Bruce Dowton.

Summaries of the Macquarie University Future Fellowships are below:

Dr Richard McDermid

Galaxies are the chemical factories of the Universe. Over the life of the cosmos, they have built huge reservoirs of the elements required to make stars, planets and life. Yet we have no complete theory of how this essential process unfolds, or how the vast array of galaxy types form. By using advanced instrumentation technology and developing innovative computational techniques, the project aims to use the motions and chemistry of stars to map the evolutionary history of thousands of galaxies in a completely new way. This will establish where and when stars formed in different galaxies, revealing the importance of black holes, dark matter, galaxy collisions, and local environment in the build up of chemical complexity in our Universe.

Dr Olivier Alard

Sulphur, selenium and tellurium are elements with mixed chemical affinities, making them key elements for deciphering and tracking the origin and secular evolution of the different Earth reservoirs from the core to the crust, and to follow element exchange between the deep Earth and the exospheres in which we live. Using novel integrated elemental and isotopic approaches, the program aims to track the origin and fate of these sentinel elements during accretion and subsequent redistribution in fluids to Earth’s surface. This new knowledge is critical to understanding how these and other elements of strategic and economic importance are extracted from the deep Earth and transported to the surface.

Dr Alfonso Garcia-Bennett

Nanomedicine has the potential to revolutionise healthcare in both diagnostics and therapeutics. We will uncover the behaviour of nanoparticles within the body by determining their specific biological identity. This is composed of adsorbed protein layers rapidly formed in contact with biological liquids. These allow cells to recognise and processes the particles. These proteins are dependent on factors such as size, shape, surface chemistry and biological history of the particles. This programme attempts to see and understand these protein layers, termed the corona. Being able to “read” and “write” the protein corona will enable efficient cellular targeting of pharmaceutical drugs with significant economic and clinical benefits to society.

Associate Professor Alexander Argyros

Biomedical imaging is widely used in modern medicine for diagnosis and treatment, with different types of imaging providing different information. The project aims to develop new techniques that will allow imaging using nonionizing terahertz radiation, with better resolution than ever before. It will combine this with optical, visible, and infrared imaging for the first time to give very broad spectral information. It also aims to develop probes for direct interfacing to tissue to collect and deliver electrical signals, light and fluids, and to image neural activity. The intended outcome of the project is to potentially allow single cancer cells within tissue to be identified through imaging and to develop implantable devices.

Dr Katherine Selway

Hydrogen controls the strength of Earth’s mantle and is a vital component of the systems that form giant ore deposits. However, mantle hydrogen content is unconstrained. The goal of this project is to use magnetotellurics to measure mantle hydrogen content. Ore-forming fluids hydrate the mantle pathways they travel on. The first aim of the project is to image these fluid pathways to improve mineral exploration techniques. Plate tectonic models assume that the lithospheric mantle is dehydrated but existing data from magnetotellurics and mantle rocks show high hydrogen contents. The second aim of the project is to create a map of the hydrogen content of the plates, which will lead to new models for continental evolution and mantle dynamics.

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