Foundation news

New Fellows to drive discovery in Western Australia

16 August 2021
Virginia Mosk
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A scientist passionate about preventing future pandemics, a researcher looking to ‘future proof’ Australia’s kelp forests and a chemical engineer focused on improving the process of hydrogen liquefaction are all recipients of the prestigious 2022 Forrest Fellowships.

Dr Jessica Kretzmann, Dr Sam Starko and Dr Neil Robinson will start their research at The University of Western Australia from 2022.

Forrest Research Foundation Fellowships are awarded to outstanding early career researchers to undertake high-quality research at any of the five universities in Western Australia.

Dr Jessica Kretzmann will take up her Fellowship at the UWA School of Molecular Sciences where she’ll use cutting-edge science known as ‘DNA origami’ to develop highly sensitive diagnostic tests for viruses. At the cusp of chemistry, bio-medicine and nanotechnology, DNA origami is a way of folding DNA strands into 2D and 3D structures.

A former WA Student Scientist of the Year and Fulbright Scholar who lived in Karratha for much for her childhood, Dr Kretzmann has worked as a science ambassador to rural schools in WA and is currently completing an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Technical University of Munich

Recognised for his interdisciplinary work across marine science, genomics, bioinformatics and conservation ecology, Canadian marine biologist Dr Sam Starko aims to characterise the genetic mechanisms that allow some kelp to tolerate warm water.

It’s hoped identifying the genotypes that can best adapt to the warming of our coastal waters will promote the recovery and regrowth of kelp forests in Western Australia and worldwide.

Currently a researcher at the Fluid Science and Resources research group at UWA, with a PhD from the University of Cambridge, Dr Neil Robinson will look at using advanced NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) techniques to develop novel porous metallic catalysts that can more efficiently convert hydrogen gas into liquid.

The Forrest Research Foundation was established in 2014, by Andrew and Nicola Forrest through their Minderoo Foundation.

“We were blown away by the calibre of the Forrest Fellowship applicants this year,” Mrs Forrest said.

“Congratulations to Jessica, Sam and Neil. I am thrilled critical work on climate change solutions, viral pandemics and energy transportation will be carried out here in Western Australia, further strengthening our state’s vibrant research community and ability to contribute novel research to the world. ”

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Amit Chakma said that through the support of the Forrest Research Foundation, the University is able to help early-career researchers expand their world-class research across a diverse range of fields.

“UWA looks forward to welcoming these talented individuals and helping them to extend the boundaries of knowledge as they tackle some of the biggest challenges in science. It’s a vital part of our commitment to creating new knowledge that will benefit WA, our region and the world,” Professor Chakma said.

Image: Dr Neil Robinson, Dr Sam Starko, Dr Jessica Kretzmann.