Dear ASC’ers,


I am writing on behalf of Megan Ryan of L’Oréal Australia to update you on the L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowships.


Recently we announced the 2010 L’Oréal Australia For Women In Science Fellows. They are:

·         Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne: investigating how breast cancer starts and why it can reappear years after treatment

·         Deanna D’Alessandro, University of Sydney: inventing ways of capturing and releasing carbon dioxide, hydrogen and other gases using molecular sponges

·         Rowena Martin, The Australian National University, Canberra/The University of Melbourne: giving new life to old drugs in the global fight against malaria.

The Fellows were presented with their awards on Tuesday 24 August 2010 at a reception at the Melbourne Museum.

The next day 140 school girls attended a forum held at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research where they met the Fellows, heard about their lives in science and visited the Institute’s laboratories.

The three $20,000 Fellowships are intended to help early career women scientists to consolidate their careers and rise to leadership positions in science. The Fellowships are awarded to women who have shown scientific excellence in their career to date and who have an appropriate research plan that will be assisted by the one-year Fellowship.

Competition is fierce – with over 160 entries for the Fellowships in 2010 – and the winners are selected by an interdisciplinary panel of eminent Australian scientists.

Here’s an overview of the winners. For more information, full citations, videos and photos please visit Nominations for the 2011 Fellowships will open in April 2011.


Kind regards,



Niall Byrne, Creative Director, Science in Public for L’Oréal Australia


Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat, Melbourne

Most women in Australia who have breast cancer recover.  But many then relapse years later.

Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat wants to know why.  If she can solve this mystery, her work will open up opportunities for new drugs and treatments. Her achievements to date suggest that she is well placed to succeed.

In 2006 she was part of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research team that received global attention for its discovery of breast stem cells – a significant step in understanding how breast cancer starts. Marie-Liesse built on this finding with a series of papers exploring how these cells develop and are influenced by oestrogen and other steroids. 

Marie-Liesse’s achievements have won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship which she will use to develop her career as an independent researcher and to assist in the care of her two young boys.

Rowena Martin, Canberra

In the 1950s it seemed as if medical science was winning the fight against malaria with the help of the ‘wonder drug’ chloroquine. Over the past half century the drug has saved hundreds of millions of lives.

But now chloroquine-resistant malaria has become common in developing countries. Rowena is working to understand what happened, and to develop new ways of treating malaria.

She and her colleagues have revealed some of the biochemical tricks the malaria parasite uses. Now she is honing ways that chloroquine-based drugs can be altered to give them a new lease of life.

Rowena’s achievements have won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship which she will use to study the complex biochemistry that gives rise to resistance.

Deanna D’Alessandro, Sydney

We need better ways of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from power stations and industry. And we won’t be using hydrogen cars until we’ve developed practical ways of carrying enough hydrogen gas in the fuel tank. Deanna D’Alessandro’s understanding of basic chemistry has led her to create new, incredibly absorbent chemicals that could do both these jobs and much more.

It’s all to do with surface area. Working in California and in Sydney she has constructed crystals that are full of minute holes. One teaspoon of the most effective of her chemicals has the surface area of a rugby field. What’s more, the size and shape of the pores can be customised using light. So she believes she can create molecular sponges that will mop up carbon dioxide, hydrogen, or in theory almost any gas - and then release it on cue.

Her achievements have won her a $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship which will provide equipment, travel support and a summer vacation student to assist her research.

Honours for past and present Fellows

Amanda Barnard (L’Oreal Fellow in 2008) has been awarded the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research for her work on predicting properties of nanoparticles in sunscreens.

The $10,000 prize is sponsored by UNSW and presented by the Australia Museum.

You can read more about Amanda’s Eureka Prize and her work at





2010 Fellow Rowena Martin had a big month in August. The week before her Fellowship, she received a Eureka Prize for Early Career Research for her work on uncovering the mechanisms of drug resistance in malaria parasites.

The $10,000 prize is sponsored by Macquarie University and presented by the Australia Museum. 

You can read more about Rowena’s Eureka Prize at:


Sarah Pryke (L’Oreal Fellow in 2007) has another paper in Science about genetics and selection among Gouldian finches. Her work was profiled in the Age with a photograph of the finches -




Niall Byrne

(on behalf of L’Oréal Australia)

Science in Public

26 Railway Street South, Altona Vic 3018

ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977

Full contact details at