University international students named recipients of Victorian Scholarships

June 11 / 62

University PhD student Sara Ohadi receives Victorian Scholarship from Innovation, Services and Small Business Minister Louise Asher
University PhD student Sara Ohadi receives Victorian Scholarship from Innovation, Services and Small Business Minister Louise Asher

Three international students conducting specialised doctoral studies at the University were awarded Victorian International Research Scholarships to complete their PhDs last week.

The Victorian Government will provide $20,000 a year for three years for each scholarship which, with support provided by the host universities, are valued at $90,000 per student. 

The University recipients were Amanda Lee Jue Er, from Singapore, who will research cancer formation, Sara Ohadi from Iran, who will research invasive plants and Francesca Cavalieri, from Italy, who will research drug delivery applications. 

The scholarships were presented by Innovation, Services and Small Business Minister Louise Asher, who said they were a key component of the Victoria – Leader in Learning initiative to support high-calibre students to make the most of their educational experience in Victoria. 

University recipient Francesca Cavalieri’s PhD research aims to identify ways to explode microscopic bubbles of medicine in specific positions within the body, so the dose impacts only the required organs, tissue or cells.

“We are developing a micro-balloon made of protein that could enable drugs to be delivered in a much more targeted way.  I’d really like to make a contribution in this area, because it’s so important to the health of people all over the world,” Ms Cavalieri said.

Amanda Lee studied a Diploma of Biotechnology in Singapore before moving to Melbourne, where she completed a Bachelor of Science with first class Honours at the University.

Her PhD looks at signals that initiate cancer,  particularly the role of the Myc gene, which drives many cancers.

“This project will help us understand the way cancer develops and allow us to develop new targeted therapies, which will block tumour growth with fewer side effects for patients,” Ms Lee said.

She said she chose to continue studying at the University because of the broad range of equipment she could access, as well as the expertise and support of her supervisor. 

Sara Ohadi is researching the characteristics and adaptations of invasive weed species. Ms Ohadi’s work focuses on sea rocket, a plant introduced to Australia more than a century ago and now found on many Australian beaches.

“I’m very lucky, because I get to go to different beaches in Australia for my research,” she said. 

“The plant I am studying, sea rocket, grows near beaches, so we go out to beaches to look at plant distribution and collect samples. It’s very enjoyable,” Ms Ohadi said.

Because Professor Roger Cousens, Ms Ohadi’s supervisor, is a world leader in his field, she has been able to work with other leading science laboratories around the world, working collaboratively unlocking some of the secrets of sea rocket.


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