Topping the highly cited researcher list for a second year in a row

Two Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) researchers have been recognised for their exceptional research performance, determined by production of multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top one per cent by citations for a field and year.

Professor Jamie Rossjohn and Professor Charles Mackay have each been ranked as a 2019 Highly Cited Researcher in the prestigious list released in November by Carivate Analytics.

Professor Rossjohn’s research focus is on using structural biology to explain pre-T- cell receptor (TCR) self-association in T-cell development, and how the TCR specifically recognises polymorphic Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) molecules in the context of viral immunity and aberrant T- cell reactivity. He has unearthed structural mechanisms of HLA polymorphism impacting on drug and food hypersensitivities, as well as Natural Killer cell receptor recognition. He has pioneered molecular understanding of lipid-based immunity by T cells, revealing that it can differ fundamentally from peptide-mediated adaptive immunity.

Professor Mackay has forged a new understanding of the gut microbiome and the important role it plays in immune responses including allergies and in a number of diseases including type 1 diabetes. His research into how immune responses can be manipulated using ‘medicinal foods’, as well as novel gut microbial species, is attracting both clinical and public interest, with the latest research findings moving to clinical trials.

Professor Mackay was highly cited from 2005 to 2010 under what was then the Institute for Scientific Information citation, and has remained on the Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researcher list since 2017.

Professor John Carroll, Director of the Monash BDI, congratulated both researchers on their achievement.

“By making the Highly Cited Researcher list two years running, Jamie and Charles have demonstrated their continued leadership in the field of immunology,” Professor Carroll said.

The Highly Cited Researcher list, now in its sixth year, determines the ‘who’s who’ of influential researchers, drawing on data and analysis to identify the world’s leading researchers who have demonstrated significant and broad influence. Seventeen researchers from Monash were recognised this year.

Original article

New grant to create biomedicine robotic art

Dr Erica Tandori, artist-in-residence within the lab of ARC Laureate fellow, Professor Jamie Rossjohn, in the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging (Imaging CoE) at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) has been awarded a grant from Creative Victoria to explore new modelling techniques and create biomedicine art sculptures.

Over the last 18 months, Dr Tandori has developed tactile sculptures for exhibitions to explain biomedical concepts to the low vision and blind community. The newly awarded $30, 270 grant, is an opportunity for Dr Tandori to upskill and work with two techniques that she hasn’t used before – robotics and computer imaging. Using robotics and imaging, Dr Tandori will create 3D art to explain the relationship between form and function in HIV and proteins.

“As an artist, it’s amazing to be able to explore the concept by not only thinking about the picture but the actual shape. The sculptures and the exhibitions help everyone – not just the low vision community,” said Dr Tandori.

Dr Tandori will work with Swinburne’s Interaction Design Lab and Protolab to create the interactive pieces, incorporating Braille, sound and movement.  She’ll learn to use 3D technology, and explore integrating robotics, computer imaging, and organic material to explain the scientific process of protein folding and how the HIV virus infects the human body.

The sculptures give the low vision community an opportunity to hold 3D models to understand the human body, and also allow scientists and students to hold aspects of their own research.

“I can’t wait to get started! It’s such a privilege to return science to art, and art to science – just as Leonardo da Vinci once did,” Dr Tandori said.

Dr Tandori will be showcasing her current artwork at an upcoming Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day. The half-day scientific exhibition conducted by the Monash BDI Cancer Program will be held on Friday 6 December 6. More information and register.

Dr Tandori is a legally-blind artist, academic and public speaker. She has a PhD in visual art and ophthalmology, in which she used art to articulate the processes of her own vision loss caused by juvenile macular degeneration. Since being diagnosed with the degenerative disease in her first year of art school, Dr Tandori has devoted her art-making and research to an examination of what it means to experience living with vision loss.

Original article

Out of sight – an exhibition that explains cancer to members of the low vision community

Outreach programs at universities often involve displays, exhibitions, lectures and other forms of public engagement.  Researchers within the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) have developed a unique program targeted at those who have low vision or are blind.

Called the Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day, the program has travelled nationally – most recently on show at the Lion’s Eye Institute in Perth, and was a finalist for the 2019 Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion.

This year’s exhibition, to be held on Friday 6 December at Monash University’s Clayton campus will focus on cancer research. With tactile 3D models, 2D graphic displays, olfactory displays, large print and braille formats, the event will be specifically geared to a low vision/blind audience.

Professor Roger Daly, Head of the Monash BDI’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Cancer Program, is hosting the event.

“We take for granted, when talking to students, the general public and even patients, that they can see what we are talking about when describing what happens in cancer at a cellular and anatomical level,” Professor Daly said.

“For those who have low or no vision, using words is often not enough – so programs that can convert these scientific concepts into tactile and audible demonstrations are enormously valuable,” he said.

Last year, the Monash BDI’s Professor Jamie Rossjohn recruited Dr Erica Tandori, who is also legally blind, as an artist-in-residence to produce art that could explain infection and immunity to the blind and those with low vision and provide expert advice for the activities in the exhibition. This year, Dr Tandori will produce a completely new suite of tactile art and models that depict cells and cell division, tumour growth and invasion, standard and new, targeted cancer treatments and more.

Exhibition visitors will have access to 3D models of cancer cells, and immerse themselves in interactive activities and sessions on cancer research. Participants will also be able to experience Monash University’s CAVE2 facility which is a 360 degree immersive experience that will have cancer related molecules projected onto enormous surround-screens.

“We’ll have 2D and 3D models, tactile posters and interactive art. The exhibition even includes soft toys of cancer cells that can be healed when flipped inside out, so that people can experience different textures in a hands-on learning activity,” said Monash BDI’s Dr Kylie Wagstaff, who is coordinating the day.

“All of the models will be accompanied by descriptions in both large text and braille and we will have volunteers from our research community on hand to guide the participants and to explain concepts and answer questions. Each small group topic will have interactive and sensory displays suitable for all ages- we really want this to be an inspiring multi-sensory experience. We are encouraging everyone to attend, as we have activities that will appeal to all,” Dr Wagstaff said.

The Sensory Scientific Exhibition and Discovery Day will be held on Friday 6 December at Monash University, Clayton campus. Click here to find out more and to register.

Original article


Congratulations to Martin Davey

Congratulations to our very own Martin Davey, who has just received an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA). The DECRA scheme supports research in areas of critical national importance by enabling outstanding Australian and international early career researchers to conduct their research in Australia.

Martin will receive more than $425,000 for his research project titled ‘Defining the basis of unconventional immune cell development’. With this funding, he aims to undertake discovery research to characterise the transcriptional programs that underpin the development of unconventional immune cells.

Unconventional T lymphocytes are a poorly understood component of the immune system but emerge very early in mammalian life. T cells are defined by their expression of a T cell receptor (TCR), however while the majority express diverse ab TCRs (‘conventional’), the remaining cells express either an alternative γδ TCR or a highly constrained ab TCR (‘unconventional’). The study of the developmental origins of human unconventional immune cells is an emerging and important area of basic research and discovery.

“The development of the immune system in early life is now thought to be critical to our response to immune challenges in adulthood, such as microbial infections. I aim to generate new knowledge in this area by using cutting-edge transcriptome analysis and cellular immunophenotyping at the single cell level to examine the seeding of unconventional immune cells,” Martin said.

“This project aims to advance our understanding of immune cell biology and the programs that control them, while significantly strengthening national excellence in unconventional immune cell research and providing innovative methodology,” he said.

Original article


Congratulations to Erica Tandori

Our artist in residence, Erica is one of eighteen local creative practitioners and collectives that have received support through the Creators Fund to undertake intensive research, experimentation and development that will take their careers, practice and businesses to a new level.

An initiative of the Creative State strategy, the Creators Fund takes inspiration from initiatives in the science and technology sectors by offering practitioners support to undertake the R&D that underpins major new projects, products and discoveries.

The latest Creators will take between 3-6 months out from their regular practice to focus on learning new skills, working with mentors, exploring new technologies and undertaking creative experiments.

154 applications were received for the latest round. The 18 Creators will share in grants totalling $679,086.

Erica Tandori, Total funding $30,270

Development and exploration of ways to incorporate interactive, novel display and robotic technologies, as well as living organisms, into future sculptural artworks that use food, clay and paper to convey key biomedicine concepts to low vision and blind audiences.

Original article