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Two new Australian Academy of Science Fellows

25 May 2020
Scientists honoured with prestigious fellowships
Professor Kate Jolliffe and Professor Tim Bedding, both from the Faculty of Science, have been elected as Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science.

Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science are among the nation’s most distinguished scientists, elected by their peers for ground-breaking research and contributions that have had clear impact.

Having two new Fellows elected from the University of Sydney is an outstanding result, and makes us the only organisation in NSW to have two Fellows in this round.

Australian Academy of Science President, Professor John Shine, congratulated the new Fellows for making significant and lasting impacts in their scientific disciplines.

"These scientists were elected by their Academy peers following a rigorous evaluation process," said Professor Shine.

Our two new Fellows are:

Professor Kate Jolliffe

Professor Kate Jolliffe
School of Chemistry, Faculty of Science

“I feel both humbled and proud at the same time in being elected as a Fellow. I’m very thankful to work with an amazing group of students, early career researchers, colleagues and collaborators – science is a team sport and I would never have gotten this far on my own,” said Professor Kate Jolliffe.

Professor Jolliffe is a leader in the fields of supramolecular and organic chemistry and has made world-leading contributions to organic synthesis, anion recognition and molecular self-assembly.

Her international reputation is a result of her expertise in the design and synthesis of complex molecular architectures, which she uses to generate new molecular structures.

Professor Jolliffe’s transformative achievements include the development of selective receptors for pyrophosphate and sulfate ions; and the development of new methods that enable the synthesis of macrocyclic peptides.

“I work in supramolecular chemistry, where I look at chemistry beyond the molecule, and make small, simple systems that mimic the functions of nature’s complex machinery. I find this incredibly interesting –nature has evolved amazing molecular machinery, and to try and do this on a simpler scale with the same control is a challenge,” said Professor Jolliffe.

“My team has discovered a molecule that can light up dying cells. The molecules that make up your cell membranes are different on the inside and outside layers of the membrane and when a cell is dying some of the ‘inside’ molecules move to the outside,” explained Professor Jolliffe.

“These membrane molecules are anionic (negatively charged), so a cell surface that is negatively charged indicates the cell is dying. We created a sensor that binds to the anions and this results in a turn-on of fluorescence – like a molecular lightbulb being switched on.

“It can be used in any application where researchers want to see if cells are dying, for example to monitor whether a cancer drug is having the desired effect and killing the cancer cells.”

Professor Tim Bedding

Professor Tim Bedding
School of Physics, Faculty of Science

“I feel proud to have been made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science – it is a great honour. I’d like to thank the Academy for this opportunity,” said Professor Tim Bedding.

Professor Bedding is an astronomer, who has played a leading role in establishing the field of asteroseismology, the study of stellar oscillations. This involves using the natural oscillation frequencies of stars to probe their interiors.

He pioneered the detection of stellar oscillations with ground-based telescopes, including using the Anglo-Australian Telescope to make the first clear detections of oscillations in Sun-like stars.

He led the application of asteroseismology to red giant stars using NASA's Kepler Mission. In particular, he showed how to use a specific class of oscillations (so-called gravity modes) to reveal which red giants have started to burn helium deep within their cores.

“I became hooked on astronomy as a teenager, thanks to books and also TV shows like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Most of my work involves using the natural oscillations of stars to better understand their inner workings, in a process called asteroseismology,” said Professor Bedding.  

“My interest in stellar oscillations arose during my postdoc in Munich, where I started working with Hans Kjeldsen from Denmark. It is absolutely amazing that the oscillations of stars, which are analogous to sound waves inside a musical instrument, can reveal so much about the internal structure of stars.”

Last week, Professor Bedding published a significant discovery in Nature, finding that some delta Scuti stars have very regular patterns in their oscillations, allowing astronomers to make sense of them for the first time. This opens up a whole new class of stars to which he will be able to apply the power of asteroseismology.

Katynna Parry

Marketing Communications Senior Specialist (Science)

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