Monash BDI Awards event recognises the contributions of many

Last week, the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) celebrated the end of another successful year with a festive event featuring the inaugural Monash BDI Awards for Outstanding Achievement.

Thirteen awards, spanning the five strategic priorities for the Monash BDI, paid tribute to the stand-out work of individuals and teams whose contributions underpin the success of the Monash BDI. Testament to the collaborative and supportive culture at the Institute, many of the nominations were made by colleagues of the recipients.

The event commenced with Monash BDI Director, Professor John Carroll, speaking of the Institute’s milestones, triumphs, progress and priorities for the year, and also outlining opportunities and challenges likely in 2018. With close to 300 staff and postgraduate students in attendance, Professor Dena Lyras then announced the Awards winners.

A crowd favourite and team of ‘unsung champions’, the Infrastructure team received the ‘Outstanding contribution to support of research or education’ award. Infrastructure Manager, Ms Cheryl Roberts, said her team were delighted to receive the award, and genuinely valued the public acknowledgement and appreciation of the critical role this team plays in enabling researchers and educators to do their jobs well.

“The award was well supported by the many congratulatory comments made to team members during the subsequent social event and the following day,” Ms Roberts said.

“The awards really are an opportunity to reflect on the stellar achievements of the Institute,” she said.

As part of the team that won three awards, Group Leader Dr Renea Taylor said that the opportunity to nominate peers for their outstanding contributions to so many areas was evidence that the Institute values its people.

“Our efforts in the area of clinical engagement and research translation not only strengthen the strategic goals of the BDI, but also move us closer to improving the care and management of men with prostate cancer,” Dr Taylor said.

“The opportunity to nominate teams for these awards was fabulous because successful research and discovery is seldom performed by individuals,” she said.

Following the formalities, guests adjourned to the Northern Plaza Marquee to enjoy the jazz band, drinks and canapés (and tasty sausage rolls).

Feedback about the awards initiative confirms the value of such a celebratory event – in an increasingly busy world, taking the time to reflect on, and acknowledge the value of, the contributions of the many researchers, educators and support staff who make the BDI successful is invaluable.

Congratulations to the awards winners and to all of the nominees. The judging panels’ decisions were made very difficult by the high-calibre of nominations.

Professor Carroll also extended his thanks to all of the people who made the event possible: the judging panels, those who nominated individuals and teams for awards, the team who managed the event logistics, those who attended and, of course, every member of the Institute who make the Monash BDI great.

The inaugural winners were:

Outstanding international collaboration award
Prof Kate Denton: For establishing a collaboration with Radboud University Medical Center (RUMC) in the Netherlands, attracting significant international funding and the establishment of a joint Monash-RUMC PhD program.

Industry engagement and commercialisation award
Prof Jamie Rossjohn: For establishing a multiyear research and commercialisation deal with Janssen Biotech, Inc. for the early detection and prevention of rheumatoid arthritis.

Clinical engagement and research translation award
Prostate Cancer Research Group led by Prof Gail Risbridger and Dr Renea Taylor: For establishing MURAL, a consortium of scientists, urologists, oncologists, pathologists, bioinformaticians and patients, to develop experimental models for selecting the best drugs for clinical trials.

Innovation in learning and teaching award (equal first)
Dr Kate Carroll, Dr Amanda Davies and Dr Sharon Flecknoe: For implementing flipped learning in the design and delivery of Biomedical Sciences Education, creating a collaborative and active learning environment, encouraging students to construct their own knowledge and develop transferable skills, while improving student engagement and learning.

Dr Barbara Kemp-Harper and A/Prof Elizabeth Davis: For developing an integrated approach to developing student career awareness. Initiatives included:

  • the use of industry-focused roles in team based learning activities
  • development of an online-careers portal focusing on the pharmaceutical industry
  • promotion of the GSK Industry Based Learning program with the result that six students will commence this program in 2018.

Outstanding contribution to support of research or education
Infrastructure Team: Mr Ian McPherson, Ms Renae Hayle, Mr Joel Eliades, Ms Linda Mason, Ms Shubha Lakkola, Mr Jeff Wright, Mr Eddie Kadir, Mr John Peavey: For their tireless efforts to provide outstanding service, meeting the infrastructure needs of the entire Institute. The infrastructure team attends in excess of 2500 requests within the BDI’s teaching and research footprint during the year.

Science communication and community engagement award (equal first)
Ms Laura Reid: For outstanding delivery of school outreach and education programs in biomedical sciences to more than 2000 students, through programs including BioEYES Australia, on-campus experience days, work experience, and curriculum and professional development for teachers.

Dr Mitchell Lawrence: For establishing the Monash Prostate Cancer Research Support Group, a platform for ongoing engagement between researchers and members of the community who are affected by prostate cancer.

Award for diversity and inclusion
Prof Moira O’Bryan: For her outstanding contribution as Chair of the FBPS Gender Equity Committee in driving key initiatives, including establishing the Outstanding Women in Science Fellowship, and training in leadership skills, assertiveness and inclusive leadership. In addition, BDI now has a commitment to gender balanced decision making panels.

BDI thesis excellence
Dr Eunice To: PhD thesis titled “Endosome NOX2 oxidase promotes viral pathogenicity and provides a potential target for novel antiviral therapies”.

Director’s highly commended publication award (two awards)
Dr Richard Berry and Prof Jamie Rossjohn: For their recent publication in the Journal Cell. This study shed light on an evolutionary arms race played out between cytomegalovirus (CMV) and the immune system. Their findings simultaneously solved a 40-year old mystery by identifying a CMV-encoded ligand is the natural target for one of the most famous immune receptors, NK1.1.

Dr Renea Taylor and Prof Gail Risbridger: For their recent publication in the journal Nature Communications. This study revealed the reason why men with a family history of prostate cancer who also carry the BRCA2 gene fault have more aggressive prostate cancer.

Director’s award for best publication of the year
Dr David Stroud and Prof Mike Ryan: For their recent publication in the journal Nature. This study identified two new genes linked to a major cause of mitochondrial disease opening the way for better and earlier genetic diagnosis of the disease.