Science

Honour: Two Fulbright Scholarships for Science

Dr Renxun Chen
Tuesday, 17 February, 2015

Dr Renxun Chen, a nanotechnologist developing antimicrobial coatings for medical devices and implants, and Isaac Donnelly, a PhD student in applied mathematics working on transport networks, have both been awarded prestigious Fulbright Scholarships to study in the US.

Dr Chen’s research encompasses chemistry, material science and microbiology, and is aimed at reducing costly and sometimes life-threatening infections resulting from the use of medical devices such as catheters, stents and contact lenses.

While these devices have had an enormous impact on patient health and survival, it has also been estimated that biomaterials inserted into the body are responsible for more than 50 per cent of infections acquired in hospitals.

Dr Chen, a research associate in the School of Chemistry, will travel to Rutgers University later this year to help develop a new drug-releasing polymer that can not only prevent hard-to-treat microbial infections, but also promote wound healing and reduce inflammation.

He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Nanotechnology with honours at UNSW and completed his PhD under the supervision of Professor Naresh Kumar in the School of Chemistry and Professor Mark Willcox in the School of Optometry and Vision Science.

The UNSW team has shown that biomaterial infections can be prevented or treated by grafting new antimicrobial agents, including a synthetic peptide called melimine, onto the material’s surface.

Isaac Donnelly, a PhD candidate in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, will travel to Northeastern University in Boston to study with Professor  Albert-László Barabási, a world expert on network science and the statistical physics of complex systems.

Isaac's current research investigates anomalous transport on networks, and he is interested in applying his theory to the real world to help predict epidemics on airline networks and to minimise congestion on city roads.

He completed a Bachelor of Advanced Science with honours at UNSW before beginning his PhD research.

The Fulbright program is the largest and one of the most prestigious educational scholarship programs in the world, operating between the United States and 155 countries.

The mission of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission is to promote mutual understanding through educational and cultural exchange between the two countries.

Isaac Donnelly

Media Contact: Deborah Smith: 9385 7307, 0478 492 060, deborah.smith@unsw.edu.au