Helping Sydney researchers to SOAR

22 October 2019
Support research, innovation and development of our academics
Twenty researchers at the University of Sydney have been announced as recipients of the 2020 Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) Prizes.

A key initiative of the 2016-20 Strategic Plan, the SOAR program supports up-and-coming research leaders to build their careers by increasing the scale and impact of their research.

As part of the two-year program, successful applicants from across the University are awarded $50,000 per year to support their research, innovation and development plans.

The University is committed to helping researchers grow at every point in their career.
Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Duncan Ivison said the selection panel was impressed by the quality of applications received from researchers across the University community.   
“The University is committed to helping researchers grow at every point in their career,” said Professor Ivison. “Our SOAR program is just one way we help nurture high-performing researchers to realise their full potential and become leaders within their fields.”

“Recipients from the first cohort of the SOAR program have gone on to produce outstanding research in addition to receiving further prizes, awards, NHMRC and ARC fellowships,” he continued. “I look forward to seeing what our 2020 SOAR recipients will achieve in the next two years with the support of this program.”
Since the program began in 2016, 62 researchers have received SOAR Prizes with 50 percent or more of the prizes awarded to women in every round, highlighting the University’s commitment to gender equity. SOAR Prizes have enabled all recipients to enhance and expand their existing research, while also assisting them to pursue personal development opportunities.

Recipients of 2020 SOAR Prizes

Early career researchers

Dr Alice Motion is a lecturer in Chemical Education and Outreach, the Citizen Science Node Co-Lead and Outreach and Exchange Coordinator for the School of Chemistry. Her research focuses on open science and Science Communication, Outreach, Participation and Education (SCOPE).
The SOAR Prize will assist Dr Motion with research into the history of chemistry in Australia as well as public engagement with and perceptions of science.

Dr Anne Marie Thow is a Senior Lecturer in Health Policy in the Sydney School of Public Health, based at the Charles Perkins Centre. Her research examines multi-sectoral policy approaches to improving diets and nutrition globally, particularly at the interface between economic policy and food systems.

She is planning to use the SOAR Prize to lead the establishment of a new international collaboration on nutrition policy innovation and lead the development of a nutrition policy research group at the University.

Dr Camilla Whittington is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and has previously held a Sydney School of Veterinary Science Research Fellowship and a L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship. Her research focuses on the evolution of pregnancy, and she currently holds an ARC Discovery Project examining the placenta in live-bearing reptiles, sharks and mammals.
The SOAR Prize will enable her to consolidate her position as an emerging leader in genomics and evolutionary biology and help translate her team’s fundamental findings into applied advances.

Dr David Martinez-Martin is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biomedical Engineering. His research focuses on understanding how cells regulate their mass and size, and he is the principal inventor of several patents internationally licensed to high-tech companies in the fields of materials science, nanotechnology and biotechnology.

He is planning to use the SOAR prize to implement hardware and software developments to advance his cell picobalance technology and conduct research on biomedical applications of real-time cell mass detection.

Dr Ernest Ekpo is an Academic Fellow and member of Sydney Catalyst Translational Research and Cancer Research Network. His research focuses on improving cancer risk assessment, early detection, and prediction of treatment outcomes while minimising risk to patients through technology, education, and dose optimisation.  
The SOAR prize will assist him in furthering his research in artificial intelligence for predicting breast cancer treatment outcome.

Dr Gareth Bryant is a Senior Lecturer in Political Economy in the School of Social and Political Sciences. His research explores financial modes of governing different areas of life from an interdisciplinary political-economic perspective.
The SOAR Prize will enable him to expand the scope of his research to include financial innovation in the social housing sector, conduct fieldwork and boost his capacity to translate research into impact.

Dr Kadir Atalay is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics. His current research focuses on the individual and system-level economic concerns of ageing, such as personal behaviour toward pensions, retirement and household savings, and the macroeconomics of population ageing.
The SOAR prize will allow him to expand his research agenda by examining the health consequences of social security reforms, using administrative data on drug prescriptions, hospitalisation and mortality.

Dr Katy Bell is a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Epidemiology in the Sydney School of Public Health. Her research focuses on increasing benefits, and preventing harm, from medical tests that are used for screening, diagnosis and monitoring of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.
The SOAR Prize will help accelerate her existing research projects while also providing opportunities to advance her international collaborations and increase her capabilities.

Dr Lining Arnold Ju is an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow in the School of Biomedical Engineering. His research focuses on understanding how mechanosensory proteins function in our cardiovascular systems. He is also developing new bioengineering technologies for the development of new treatments and preventative measures to combat deadly heart diseases.
He is planning to use the SOAR Prize to establish his mechanobiology research program and bring together the fields of biomechanical engineering, imaging, microfluidics and haematology.

Dr Penelope Crossley is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Sydney Law School. Her research focuses on the fields of comparative renewable energy and energy storage law, electricity market governance, and the intersection between tort law and the energy and resources sector.
She is planning to use the SOAR Prize to design regulatory principles to govern the adoption of new energy technologies and modes of participation in the Australian energy market.

Dr Renjing Liu is Head of the Agnes Ginges Laboratory for Diseases of the Aorta at Centenary Institute, a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship recipient, and Senior Lecturer at the Sydney Medical School. Her research spans stem cell and cardiovascular biology, and epigenetic regulation of gene expression.

The SOAR Prize will enable her to expand her lab's research into epigenetic mechanisms regulating vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) plasticity, and targeting VSMC plasticity for cardiovascular disease therapy.

Mid-career researchers

Amy Conley Wright is an Associate Professor in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work and Director of the Institute of Open Adoption Studies. She leads a program of applied research focused primarily on building evidence about children and their best interests in open adoption and other permanency pathways in out-of-home care, working closely with government, non-governmental organisations and people with lived experience of the child protection system.
The SOAR Prize will assist Associate Professor Wright in writing a book, extending her industry and professional network through establishing the newly approved University of Sydney Research Centre for Children and Families, and accessing training on research leadership.

Ben Colagiuri is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology and has previously received an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. The majority of his research focuses on the placebo effect, associative learning, and psycho-oncology.
He is planning on using the SOAR Prize to pioneer MultiLab fundamental research on placebo and nocebo effects and lead international research translating placebo and nocebo knowledge to clinical practice.

Daniel Dias-da-Costa is an Associate Professor in the School of Civil Engineering. His current research interests include both experimental and advanced computational predictive technology aimed to enhance the safety of the built environment.

The SOAR Prize will enable Associate Professor Dias-da-Costa to develop user-ready high-end technology for on-site mapping of existing damage and structural health monitoring and a self-healing concrete which uses bacteria to improve performance and resistance.

Associate Professor Jodie Ingles is an NHMRC Career Development Fellow and Head of the Clinical Cardiac Genetics Group in the Molecular Cardiology Program at Centenary Institute. Her overall research objective is to better understand the clinical, genetic and psychosocial aspects of inherited heart diseases.
She is planning to use the SOAR Prize to further develop and expand an Undiagnosed Genetic Heart Diseases (UGHD) Program.

Associate Professor Julia Bryant is an ARC Future Fellow, Director of the University of Sydney node of Australian Astronomical Optics (AAO-USyd) and a member of the ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics (ASTRO-3D).
The SOAR Prize will enable Dr Bryant to do a time-critical early data release from Hector, an instrument on the Anglo-Australian Telescope being used to conduct integral field spectroscopy galaxy surveys using optical imaging fibre bundles (hexabundles) she developed.

Associate Professor Lenka Munoz is Head of the Cell Signalling Laboratory at the Charles Perkins Centre and has successfully commercialised a new brain cancer drug she discovered. Her research focuses on understanding signalling pathways driving glioblastoma, delineating the molecular mechanism of action of cancer drugs and developing effective therapies against glioblastoma.
The SOAR Prize will help Associate Professor Munoz to expand her brain cancer research program into cancer dormancy and further embed herself in current leadership roles.

Associate Professor Nicola Newton is the Director of Prevention at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use and Prevention Lead at the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use (PREMISE). Her research focuses on gaining a better understanding of and preventing the development of substance use and mental health problems among adolescents.
She is planning to use the SOAR Prize to enhance existing NHMRC-funded trials to generate new knowledge and areas of technical expertise, expand and establish new international collaborations, accelerate translation and mentor early career researchers in prevention science.

Associate Professor Sarah Phillips is an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award recipient and a member of the Centre for International Security Studies. Her research interests include investigation international intervention in the global South, knowledge production in conflict-affected areas, and non-state governance.

The SOAR Prize will help her undertake complex fieldwork in Somaliland, Iraq, and Jordan, conduct interviews with counter-terrorism practitioners, and to collaborate with colleagues in Europe.

Dr Shyamal Chowdhury is an Associate Professor in the School of Economics within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. His research interests include seasonal migration, poverty and hunger, microfinance, technology adoption by small and marginal farmers, and formation and intergenerational transmission of economic preferences.
He is planning to use the SOAR Prize to collaborate with international researchers, spend more time in the field to monitor randomised controlled trials and to focus working on two current research projects in the area of the functioning of the rural labour markets, and the formation of economic preferences among children.