Sydney has scooped the Australian Institute of Policy & Science's Young Tall Poppy Awards, with recipients including Angela Crean as 2017 winner for her work on reproduction and environmental impacts on sperm and offspring.
It is now universally recognised that non-genetic effects are critical to offspring fitness.
Dr Angela Crean talks about the proof-of-concept work being undertaken with her 2016 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship.
Evolutionary ecologist Dr Angela Crean has been named the 2017 Young Tall Poppy of the Year in NSW for her discoveries about sexual selection and non-genetic parental effects, while Dr Ivan Kassal was also recognised at the prestigious Australian Institute of Policy & Science event.
Dr Crean, from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, took out the top Young Tall Poppy Science Award last night and was joined by University of Sydney’s Dr Ivan Kassal from the School of Chemistry and the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, who also received an award at the gala event at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.
Dr Crean’s research has used sea squirts and neriid flies to show that a male’s diet and social environment affects the quality of both his sperm and offspring, and she is investigating the potential for applications in human reproduction technologies.
“I have made a number of important discoveries… sea squirts produce more competitive sperm when surrounded by lots of other sea squirts; interestingly though, eggs fertilised by these competitive sperm are less likely to hatch into larvae,” Dr Crean said.
She also discovered that in neriid flies the diet of a female’s first mating partner can influence the size of offspring sired by subsequent mates – suggesting males are transferring something other than sperm in their ejaculate.
“We are only just beginning to realise that a father’s lifestyle can have at least as much influence as a mother’s on the health of their children. We do not yet fully understand how these environmentally-acquired traits are transmitted across generations,” Dr Crean said.
Focusing on issues of a chemical nature is University of Sydney Tall Poppy Award recipient and Westpac Research Fellow Dr Ivan Kassal. Dr Kassal has pioneered the application of quantum computing to chemistry and leads research into quantum effects in light harvesting to design better solar cells.
The Harvard graduate said he was looking forward to visiting schools as part of the Tall Poppy Campaign and explaining in simple language how “quantum weirdness” might hold the solution to improving organic solar cell efficiency.
“I think it’s important to inspire young people to take up careers in science – especially on the critical problem of ensuring a clean and sustainable energy supply,” Dr Kassal said.
For Dr Crean, the Australian Institute of Policy & Science’s top gong will help shine a light on women in the growing area of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Dr Crean, who has won numerous awards and is the recipient of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship, has been actively promoting diversity, speaking at Girls in Science forums and appearing on popular television programs and in women's magazines.
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