Sydney vet students dominate science fellowships

Dr Camilla Whittington. Photo by L’Oréal
Dr Camilla Whittington. Photo by L’Oréal

The University of Sydney has gained two out of three Australian L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowships, with two young veterinary science researchers achieving the accolade just one week after the university led the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

At a ceremony in Melbourne last week, Dr Camilla Whittington and Dr Angela Crean were officially announced as Fellows with $25,000 each to spend on a one-year project. They join Dr Jenny Fisher (University of Wollongong) as well as Dr Erin Leitao (University of Auckland) who will receive the fellowship for New Zealand.

Both Dr Whittington and Dr Crean are early career researchers in the Faculty of Veterinary Science, working in the area of reproduction.

Dr Crean works with sea squirts and fly sperm.

In her initial research, using the sea squirt as a model organism, Dr Crean showed that males can adjust their sperm quality and quantity in response to a perceived risk that their sperm will have to compete against another male’s sperm to fertilise an egg. Also that the sperm quality has adaptive consequences for both fertilisation and offspring survival.

The fellowship will enable Dr Crean to conduct a proof-of-concept study supporting her transition from pure evolutionary research to practical applications in human reproductive health and medicine.

Dr Whittington’s area of research is pregnant lizards, fish and mammals.

She uses cutting‐edge techniques to identify pregnancy genes—the instructions in an animal’s DNA determining whether it has a live baby or lays an egg.

Dr Whittington’s fellowship will allow her to investigate how the complex placenta has evolved independently in mammals, lizards, and sharks to transport large quantities of nutrients to the fetus.

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program was founded to promote the importance of increased participation of women in science. The program recognises exceptional female scientists at different stages of their careers and awards them with fellowships to help further their research.

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