Recognising outstanding contributions and reflecting on 2021

Despite continuing challenges presented by the pandemic, members of Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) went above and beyond in their efforts to further biomedical science teaching and research. These contributions were celebrated at the Institute’s recent End of Year Celebration and Annual Awards event.

Acknowledging the hardships of the year, Monash BDI Director Professor John Carroll thanked Institute staff, students and postdocs for their sustained efforts in the face of ongoing adversity, saying that the invaluable lessons learned can be taken into 2022.

The event began with Professor Carroll paying tribute to Associate Professor Elizabeth Davis, one of the most influential educators Monash has had, announcing there will be an Annual Prize Lecture named in her honour.

“We will invite nominations from around the country, and make this a major annual event in the educational calendar so that – as part of Liz’s legacy – we continue to live up to her expectations, focussing on innovative, exceptional-quality teaching programs,” Professor Carroll said.

Associate Professor Liz DavisThere has also been international recognition honouring Associate Professor Davis’ contribution to pharmacology education. The Australasian Society of Clinical & Experimental Pharmacologists & Toxicologists (ASCEPT) has renamed its teaching excellence award to the ASCEPT Elizabeth Davis Teaching Excellence Award, and the International Union of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR) Education Section is naming its IUPHAR Teaching Award (Senior/Lifetime achievement) after Associate Professor Davis.

The online audience of more than 220 then heard about individual and collective Monash BDI achievements; with research and educational excellence being the focus, including distinguished achievements, selected fellowships, awards, grants and funding, promotions, appointments and new roles highlighted. The Institute’s commercial successes, ECR, Diversity and Inclusion, and Mental Health and Wellbeing initiatives, and various engagement activities with the wider public, were also highlighted.

A special new award was introduced this year in honour of Christina Lackmann, a talented and very high-achieving Biomedical Science student at Monash who tragically passed away earlier this year. Professor Roger Daly spoke of the longstanding relationship that he and the Institute have with the Lackmann family before explaining that this award was established as part of Christina’s legacy, to recognise a student with outstanding potential in research.

Beate Lackmann, Christina’s mother, paid tribute to her daughter before presenting the Christina Lackmann Honours Medal. Describing Christina as creative, dedicated, high-achieving and passionate – with a wicked sense of humour – Beate said she was honoured to present this medal and hoped the recipient would have a bright and shining future.

The Christina Lackmann Honours MedalThe Christina Lackmann Honours Medal will be awarded each year to the top ranked Honours student undertaking a research project in one of Monash BDI’s Departments. Receiving the commemorative medal, a certificate and an award of $1,000, the inaugural recipient was Melissa Griggs, from the Department of Physiology.

“It means a lot to me to have received this award,” Melissa Griggs said.

Introducing the Monash BDI Awards for Outstanding Achievement 2021, the Institute’s Deputy Director Professor Dena Lyras spoke of the way BDI members had really stepped up to support each other this year, and thanked the nominators and selection panel members, before offering congratulations to all of the nominees and winners.

Many nominations were received across the categories for the awards, which recognise the outstanding achievements of members of the Institute. Each award category was judged by a selection committee.

“All the nominations were of very high quality; representing amazing initiatives across the board, so congratulations to everyone,” Professor Lyras said.

Congratulations to the winners of the Monash BDI Awards for Outstanding Achievement 2021:

Industry Engagement and Commercialisation Award

Monash Polymyxin Drug Development Program: Professor Jian Li and Dr Kade Roberts: Developing a novel lipopeptide antibiotic for treatment of multidrug resistant bacterial infections.

Clinical Engagement and Research Translation Award

Dr Yue Qu and Professor Anton Peleg: Ventricular assist device driveline infections and microbial biofilms.

Outstanding International Collaboration Award

Dr Chen Li: Systems proteomics and immunopeptidomics for complex diseases.

Award for Fostering a Supportive Environment

Dr Belinda Henry: As HDR Coordinator in the Department of Physiology.

Science Communication and Community Engagement Award

Centre for Human Anatomy Education Team: Associate Professor Michelle Lazarus, Associate Professor Luca Fiorenza, Associate Professor Justin Adams, Dr Olga Panagiotopoulou, Dr David Gonsalvez, Dr Jason Massey, Emeritus Professor Paul McMenamin, Smita Mehta and Stephen Thompson: Enhancing anatomy knowledge across diverse communities.

Innovation in Learning and Teaching Award

There were two awards in this category this year.

Dr David Gonsalvez: Development of innovative 3D models for educational tools with global reach.

Dr Jessica Gibbons and Associate Professor Fasséli Coulibaly: Equipping students with research skills by utilising modern molecular techniques.

Teaching Excellence Award

Associate Professor Craig Smith: Excellence in student learning and fostering researcher engagement in teaching.

Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning Award

Dr Julia Young: Comprehensive unit redesign to promote excellence in learning.

Outstanding Contribution to Support of Research or Education Award

Katrina Worthy: Providing strong support, management and problem resolution.

Monash BDI Thesis Excellence Award

There was one Award and one Highly Commended Thesis Excellence Award this year.

Dr Giannie Barsha, Department of Physiology
Thesis title: "Targeting the angiotensin type 2 receptor to maintain cardiovascular protection in aging females"

Highly Commended: Dr Peter Chandler, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Thesis title: "Development and differentiation of hyperstable consensus monobodies based on the type 3 fibronectin domain"

Director’s Highly Commended Publication Award

There were three Director’s Highly Commended Publication Awards this year.

Dr Pirooz Zareie, Professor Jamie Rossjohn & Professor Nicole La Gruta
Canonical T cell receptor docking on peptide–MHC is essential for T cell signaling
Science 372, DOI:10.1126/science.abe9124 (2021).

Dr Marcin Wegrecki, Professor Jamie Rossjohn & Dr Jérôme Le Nours
The molecular assembly of the marsupial γμ T cell receptor defines a third T cell lineage
Science 371, 1383–1388 (2021).

Associate Professor Wendy Imlach
Positive allosteric mechanisms of adenosine A1 receptor-mediated analgesia
Nature 597, 571–576 (2021).

Discovery Award for Best Publication

Dr Xiaodong (Ethan) Liu, Jia Ping Tan and Professor José Polo
Modelling human blastocysts by reprogramming fibroblasts into iBlastoids
Nature 591, 627–632 (2021).

Monash BDI Above and Beyond Award (Research)

Professor Tony Purcell, Deputy Head (Research), Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: Providing exceptional support for grant peer review across BDI.

Monash BDI Above and Beyond Award (Education)

Dr Sharon Flecknoe, Director of the Biomedical Education Advancement Team in Allied Health: Providing inspirational mentorship to her staff and students.

Monash BDI Above and Beyond Award (Professional Services)

Bianca Chan, BDI Research and Engagement Manager: Enabling and championing BDI from its inception.

Monash BDI Above and Beyond Award (Graduate Research)

Associate Professor Priscilla Johanesen, Director of the Biomedicine Graduate Research Program: Heroic mentorship of PhD students.

For those of you who weren’t able to attend the online End of Year Celebration and Annual Awards event 2021, you can download the slides here (Monash login required).