Tony Bhalla (left) from Becton Dickinson
with Andrew Liew (right) ithree PhD student
receiving the ASM Postgraduate Student
Andrew Liew, a third year postgraduate science student based at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) ithree institute has been chosen as the 2012 winner of the NSW branch Becton Dickinson Australian Society for Microbiology (ASM) Student Travel Award.
Alongside five other finalists from NSW and the ACT, Andrew presented his research on cell division in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the “Golden Staph” superbug, including three-dimensional images obtained using the OMX super resolution imaging system at the Microbial Imaging Facility (MIF), UTS.
Andrew’s research is focused on understanding genes that are essential for infection by S. aureus and in identifying targets for new antibiotics to kill infections caused by this superbug. He has already received several requests for collaborative works with both industry and academia.
Professor Liz Harry, Deputy Director of the ithree institute and Andrew’s PhD supervisor said that Andrew’s work is exceptional.
“He is a highly talented student and his presentation to the ASM as part of the selection process was very impressive”.
Andrew has developed a genetic system to induce expression of genes in S. aureus, which allows researchers to test the function of any essential gene by turning them on transiently rather than permanently so that they don’t kill the cell. Essential genes can then be identified for their suitability as antibiotic targets. Andrew has also used this system to label proteins with fluorescent tags to enable their localization inside the tiny round cells of S. aureus using super resolution microscopy. He has obtained three-dimensional images of these cells with unprecedented resolution, providing vital insight into how these important pathogens multiply. The Postgraduate Student Travel Award is sponsored by Becton Dickinson. The winner is selected on the basis of an abstract and a 12-minute oral presentation. As a result of his Postgraduate Student Travel Award, Andrew will present his research at the ASM Annual Scientific Meeting in Brisbane this coming July.
Dr Gillian Scott, the ASM NSW–ACT Branch Secretary said, “Andrew was finally chosen as the winner for the extremely high quality of his presentation, including clarity, good understanding of the topic, and ability to convey his research to a broad scientific audience. All presentations on the night were of a very high standard, but Andrew’s talk stood out amongst a very close field.”
David Basseal, Business Director (ANZ) of Becton Dickinson Diagnostics stressed that sponsorship of this award was important as it not only demonstrates the dedication of students but also highlights their commitment and diligence in ensuring the quality of students attending the annual ASM meeting are of the highest calibre.
Receiving the award, Andrew Liew said “ithree is a fantastic institute in which to be doing my PhD and provides an environment where excellence in science is encouraged and supported. In particular my supervisor Professor Liz Harry has encouraged me to both be not only explorative and creative in my thinking but to also ensure I am communicating what I am doing and achieving. Having on site access to the OMX has been fantastic and essential to my studies.”
Andrew’s innovative work has previously been recognised with a UTS University Medal (2009) and by the Burnet-Hayes Postgraduate Travel Award from the Australian Society of Microbiology (2011).