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Chemistry for community wins Inaugural Westpac Research Fellowship

6 April 2016

Development of a technology that will enable community members, especially in remote areas, to easily detect and measure environmental chemicals has won Dr Elizabeth New a prestigious research fellowship. 

Westpac Research Fellow Elizabeth New

Dr Elizabeth New, School of Chemistry. 

From the University of Sydney’s School of Chemistry, Dr New is an inaugural recipient of the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation Research Fellowship in the category of technology and innovation.

The Research Fellowship for outstanding early career researchers is valued at up to $460,000 over three years. 

Four fellowships were announced nationally today and also recognised contributions to strengthening Australia-Asia ties and enabling positive social change.

Dr New has been awarded the Research Fellowship for her development of fluorescent sensors - molecules that change their fluorescence emission or colour in response to a specific chemical of interest (for example metal ions, pH or drug molecules).

She plans to develop simple chemical tools for fluorescent chemical sensing and incorporate these into hand-held devices that can be inexpensively set up and operated in remote locations. Their use will improve data collection and research. 

The fellowship will provide me with a unique opportunity to pursue my aspirations of research with application in community development.
Dr Elizabeth New

Until now, sensors have been primarily developed for use with sophisticated technologies and highly trained specialists. Dr New’s research will bring this crucial technology to community members and people in remote areas, with potentially profound implications for environmental and health testing, for example in the event of a heavy metal release in waterways or toxic compounds in body fluids.

“The fellowship will provide me with a unique opportunity to pursue my aspirations of research with application in community development,” Dr New said.

“Such research is not a funding priority for traditional granting bodies, and to date I have had to focus on more fundable research.

“I anticipate that at the end of this fellowship I will have products ready for commercialisation and an active research program in the area, which will enable further growth and development.”

Vivienne Reiner

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