From developing futuristic drugs to understanding how nature’s underdogs survive in an evolutionary world that favours the fit, two rising stars from UNSW have been honoured with prestigious early career research awards.
Evolutionary ecologist Dr Michael Kasumovic from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences was named the 2012 Scopus Young Researcher of the Year in the field of life sciences.
“Evolution and natural selection teach us that it is the biggest, strongest and most colourful males are meant to get the girl – so why then do the little guys still exist?” he asks.
It’s this question that drives his research, which aims to explain how males with inferior evolutionary traits continue to survive in environments where they face stiff sexual competition from more adept rivals.
“I’m interested in the different factors that drive the variation we see in nature, especially in male mating strategies and phenotypes,” says Kasumovic.
“Even before they mature, males are aware of the competitive environment they’ll face and can tweak their behaviours and development in certain ways to take advantage of rivals.”
And while his work tends to focus on spiders and insects, he’s also interested in human behaviour, and how this can be altered depending on our changing environments.
Meanwhile, in the field of engineering and technology, Dr Cyrille Boyer from the Australian Centre for Nanomedicine (ACN) at UNSW won the top award for his research into synthesising new polymers and nanoparticles for drug delivery.
“It is through this Centre that I am able to work in multi-disciplinary teams to translate our findings into drug delivery solutions for some of the hardest to treat diseases,” he says. “Specifically liver fibrosis, lung cancer and neuroblastoma, a cancer affecting young children.”
“Winning this award is not only personally satisfying but I know it will bring greater awareness of these diseases and the Australians working tirelessly to find solutions,” he says.
Boyer is also part of the Centre for Advanced Macromolecular Design in the School of Chemical Engineering where he is working to develop new nanomaterials for hydrogen storage.
The 2012 Scopus Young Researcher of the Year Awards is presented by Elsevier and the Australasian Research Management Society.
Media Contact: Myles Gough, UNSW Media Office | 02 9385 1933
Link: UNSW Evolution and Ecology Research Centre