Mater Research’s Future Leaders Celebrated at Annual Symposium

Friday 08 September 2023

Mater Research hosted the 2023 Future Leaders Symposium at the Translational Research Institute (TRI) this week. The annual symposium provided a wonderful opportunity for Researchers, Mater People, students—including Year 12 students from All Hallows’ School—and Mater Foundation’s donors and supporters to come together to celebrate the achievements of Higher Degree Research (HDR) students and Early Career Researchers (ECRs). 

The Dr John Prins Oration was delivered by Professor Lewis Perrin, Director of Gynaecological Oncology at Mater Hospital Brisbane and Gynaecological Oncology Group Lead at Mater Research, and health consumer Dr Chamari Jayawardena. Professor Perrin met Dr Jayawardena when he was treating her for advanced ovarian cancer at Mater Private Hospital using a novel chemotherapy treatment – HIPEC treatment. She is now in complete remission. We sincerely thank Dr Jayawardena for sharing her very personal and inspiring story with us.  

Dr Ran Wang, Dr Dilani Mendis, Marcello Lepre and Haressh Sajiir delivered highlight talks sharing insights into breaking barriers in IBD treatment, foot pain during pregnancy, and targeted therapy for liver fibrosis.   

Mater Research congratulates all award winners and finalists recognised at the symposium: 

Early Career Researcher Seeding Grant (Clinical) Winner: Dr Uyen Pham 

Dr Pham is a consultant endocrinologist and clinical member within the Glycation and Diabetes Complications Research Group, and she proposes to use the $20,000 grant to evaluate if markers of mitochondrial function associate with the risk of developing diabetic kidney disease in young people. Dr Pham will do this using samples that were collected from a unique cohort of young people with diabetes and a high incidence of kidney disease who are at significant risk of early death. 

Finalist: Dr Taylan Gurgenci 

Dr Taylan Gurgenci is a Mater Palliative Care Research Fellow who is investigating whether common Australian medicinal cannabis products can lead to a positive salivary test result, despite being marketed as cannabidiol-only or cannabidiol-dominant.   

Early Career Researcher Seeding Grant (Biomedical) Winner: Dr Yuanhao Yang 

Dr Yang has a growing national profile in neuropsychiatric genomics and proposes to use the $20,000 biomedical grant to improve knowledge of the underlying molecular mechanisms that present in the onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease. He is focused on facilitating the discovery and repurposing of drugs to improve the quality of life for Parkinson Disease patients. 

Finalist: Dr Amelia Fotheringham 

Dr Amelia Fotheringham has a wide-ranging interest in diabetes and its associated complications. She has had 18 research papers published and presents her work regularly both nationally and internationally, including twice at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes annual scientific meetings. 

Dr David Serisier Student Training Award Winner: Aleysha Martin    

A final year PhD student and occupational therapist at Mater Hospital Brisbane, Aleysha’s PhD project is focused on reducing duplication and repetition between allied health stroke assessments, and her research has transformed these assessments at Mater Hospital Brisbane. 

Mater Research International Travel Awards: Jade Kubler, Cheng Xiang Foo and Madeline Gough 

Mater Research International Travel Awards will enable Jade, Cheng and Madeline to present their research findings at national and international conferences: 

  • Jade’s project is looking at the effects of physical activity and sedentary behaviour during pregnancy on placental morphology and function, 

  •  Cheng Xiang Foo’s PhD focuses on investigating the role of oxidized cholesterols in the host defense against respiratory pathogens, and  

  • Madeline’s PhD is investigating ways to improve the selection of patients for targeted therapies using novel and established biomarkers. 

Mater Research would like to acknowledge the wonderful support of Maureen Stevenson, who has been a supporter of Mater Foundation since 1996. Maureen and her late husband Barry were keen supporters of medical research, particularly the work of young up and coming researchers. Maureen was recently awarded Queensland Philanthropist of the Year in recognition of the support she gives to many charities in Queensland and across Australia, and we are very grateful that Mater Foundation is one of the charities she continues to support.  

Thank you to Professor Brian Gabrielli and Associate Professor Paul Dawson for chairing the symposium, Loretta Weatherall, Indigenous Researcher with the Queensland Family Cohort Study and proud Gamilaraay women, who delivered the Welcome to Country and session chairs Dr Natasha Jansz, Dr Jay Gunawardana and Dr Lash Wickramasuriya.  


Image: Professor Allison Pettit and students from All Hallows' School touring the TRI lab.


Image: Associate Professor Paul Dawson, Professor Lewis Perrin, Dr Chamari Jayawardena and Professor Brian Gabrielli.


Left to Right: Cheng Xiang Foo, Madeline Gough, Dr Uyen Pham, Maureen Stevenson, Dr Yuanhao Yang and Aleysha Martin.


Image: Mr Scott Adamson and students from All Hallows' School with Professor Allison Pettit and Professor Maher Gandhi.