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The Heart Research Institute’s annual Awards for Excellence dinner, Illuminate, was recently held to celebrate and recognise some of our most up-and-coming scientists and showcase to our supporters some of the advances we are making in our mission to fight cardiovascular disease.

The night also explored the drive behind scientific excellence: curiosity. As one of HRI’s key values, curiosity is a motivating force as HRI researchers wonder ‘why?’ and ‘what if?’ as they explore, investigate and learn more about ways to detect, prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.

Professor Shaun Jackson, Director of Cardiovascular Research and Thrombosis Group Leader, kicked off the proceedings with a rousing public lecture on ‘The Second Coming of Cardiovascular Disease’ at the Charles Perkins Centre Lecture Theatre, The University of Sydney.

Guests then proceeded to The Refectory, The University of Sydney for presentation of the awards, followed by an interactive discussion about cardiovascular disease research and patient impact by a panel of experts from HRI and special guest Dr Justine Schelle.

Congratulations to our Early Career Award Winners

Jessica Maclean – Charles Perkins Centre Student Researcher Award

Ms Jessica Maclean is a PhD student in the Thrombosis Group at the HRI. Jessica was awarded the Student Researcher Award for her oral presentation at the International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH) Congress, for which she received the Australian Vascular Biology Society Travel Award to attend. Her presentation was on a novel stroke model that will allow the testing of new stroke treatments, their ability to dissolve blood clots and their effect in the brain. Jessica worked alongside a talented team of researchers from the Jackson laboratory to develop this model, and has played a major role in the development of this work.

In 2017, Jessica also received a grant (in conjunction with Associate Professor Simone Schoenwaelder) from the Rebecca L. Cooper Medical Research Foundation for her work on a novel therapeutic target for diabetic-associated thrombosis.

“Science is continuous learning – it’s exciting knowing that you’re making a difference, not just as one person, but as part of a team and a global community of people who are fighting a common disease.” – Jessica Maclean

Ms Elysse Filipe – Highly Commended for Charles Perkins Centre Student Researcher Award

Ms Elysse Filipe is a PhD student in the Applied Materials Group at the HRI. Elysse was Highly Commended for the Student Researcher Award for presenting on her work using silkworm cocoons to make artificial blood vessels at leading cardiovascular conferences, including internationally at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

Elysse, who gave birth to her son Isaac 9 months ago, has also been awarded an HRI Women in Medical Research Career Re-start Grant, and is recognised as co-inventor of the HRI’s new nanoparticle technology. She is a frequent contributor to the HRI’s fundraising efforts, demonstrating her electrospun silk grafts during supporter tours of the labs.

“I love finding answers. A scientific problem can’t be solved during a PhD or in a couple of years of research. But if you can add even one little puzzle piece, you become part of something much greater.” – Elysse Filipe

Dr Siân Cartland – Global Interactive Early Career Researcher Award

Dr Siân Cartland is a Senior Postdoctoral Scientist in the Vascular Complications Group at the HRI. Siân received the Early Career Researcher Award for her first author paper ‘Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is exacerbated with TRAIL deletion in in vivo models, associating with vascular inflammation and insulin resistance’ published in Scientific Reports this year. For the same work, Siân was awarded a Best Oral Early Career Researcher (ECR) Presentation at the joint Australian Atherosclerosis Society, Australian Vascular Biology Society and High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia Scientific Meeting.

Siân is an active member of HRI and the cardiovascular research community, as chair of the HRI Work Health and Safety Committee, member of the Sydney Local Health District Institutional Biosafety Committee, and ECR Representative for the Sydney Cardiovascular Symposium hosted by HRI and Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

“I really enjoy the community and support sides of research, helping both the HRI community and beyond, as well as being at the forefront of the amazing discoveries we are working towards every day.” – Siân Cartland

Richard Tan – Unity 4 Best Publication

Mr Richard Tan is a PhD student in the Applied Materials Group at the HRI. Richard was awarded the Best Publication Award for his paper ‘Non-invasive tracking of injected bone marrow mononuclear cells to injury and implanted biomaterials’ published in Acta Biomaterialia this year. The method uses specialised bioluminescent stem cells that can be injected into sick patients and then observed in real time to see if they are working effectively to repair damaged tissue.

He also presented his findings to peers at the European Meeting of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society in Stockholm, Sweden and was nominated for a prestigious student prize at the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand meeting. He recently won the Australian Society for Medical Research award for Best Talk by a PhD Student with a presentation of this work.

“Working in science gives me the rare opportunity to use both my knowledge and imagination to discover something new that may help impact the lives of others.” – Richard Tan

Congratulations to our Special Award Winners

The Sydney Local Health District Mentor of the Year Award recognises and celebrates exceptional researchers who excel at nurturing, developing and mentoring early-career researchers. This year, Mentor of the Year was awarded to Associate Professor Simone Schoenwaelder, and Highly Commended was awarded to Dr Steven Wise.

A new award was introduced this year to recognise the far-reaching impact that scientists can have through their dedication to cardiovascular research. The recipient of the inaugural Global Impact Award was Professor Ben Freedman for his work to introduce atrial fibrillation screening across Australia and the world.