Monash PhD student takes out top Royal Society of Victoria Young Scientist Research Prize

Sarah Larcome (right) with RSV President David Zerman

The 2017 Royal Society of Victoria’s (RSV’s) Young Scientist Research Prizes competition was one of the toughest judges have had to assess in recent memory, with eight outstanding early-career scientists presenting their work with consistent excellence.

Sarah Larcombe, a PhD student in Professor Dena Lyras' research laboratory from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute, took out first prize in the Biomedical and Health Sciences category, with her project titled “New insights into the pathogenesis of diverse bacterial species in non-C. difficile antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.”

The finalists were selected from a very competitive applicant pool of 41 final-year PhDs from across Victorian research institutions. The final task before them was to communicate the methods and significance of their complex work to a general audience of scientists and science enthusiasts in a clear, concise and engaging presentation of no more than 10 minutes!

This is a tough ask of a researcher who has been living with the intense and all-encompassing experience of the PhD for many years. Reducing major avenues of investigation and inquiry into an essence of method, eliminating efficient yet discipline-specific terms to seek an inclusive public discussion, while infusing the passion for their work that drives many researchers through their challenging careers is an important process that all public-facing scientists need to embrace to be effective science ambassadors and communicators.

Winning this prize therefore demonstrates not only Sarah’s excellence in scientific research, but also her ability to communicate scientific information clearly and succinctly. As part of the prize, Sarah receives $1,000, membership to the RSV for two years, and the opportunity to access RSV’s professional networks for mentoring and collaboration.

“My research is focused on understanding bacterial causes of antibiotic associated diarrhoea (AAD),” Sarah said.

“Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is the most common cause – but only accounts for 25% of AAD cases. Given the huge financial and human costs linked to AAD world-wide, it is really important we gain a more comprehensive understanding of the disease so we can control it,” she said.

“I am thrilled to have my research recognised by the Society in this way.”

To read the full story featuring the other category prize winners, visit the RSV website.

From left: RSV Science Program Chair Dr Kevin Orrman-Rossiter, Guoping Hu, Nicolas Molnar, Bryant Gagliardi, Perran Ross, Justine Corso, Joshua Newson, Sarah Larcombe, RSV President David Zerman, Alexander Norton, RSV CEO Mike Flattley