Woodward medals celebrate outstanding research

November 14 / 149

Woodward Medal winners Professor Ashley Bush and Professor Sundhya Pahuja
Woodward Medal winners Professor Ashley Bush and Professor Sundhya Pahuja

Professor Sundhya Pahuja, of Melbourne Law School, and Professor Ashley Bush, of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, have been honoured with this year’s Woodward Medals.

The medals are presented each year by the University to recognise staff for research considered to have made the most significant contribution in their field during the previous three years.

Professor Pahuja has received the 2014 Woodward Medal in Humanities and Social Sciences for her book, Decolonising International Law: Development, Economic Growth and the Politics of Universality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). 

Professor Pahuja said she was very honoured to receive the award.

“It feels like a significant recognition as I have so many outstanding Humanities and Social Science colleagues at the University,” she said.

“The book is an attempt to think of global inequality and its relationship to international law. It is not from the point of view that international law can solve the problem of global inequality but rather to think critically about the ways in which  it both produces and might ameliorate inequality.

“I hope the book will be of use to those who are interested in thinking critically about the world we live in and the relationship between international law and political economy in a global context.

“I hope too that it makes a contribution to the global conversation about what it might mean to live ethically in highly inter-dependent times.”

Professor Bush has received the 2014 Woodward Medal in Science and Technology for his research into the causes of and treatments for neurodegeneration, in particular his work defining the role of tau proteins in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, reported in the paper “Tau deficiency induces a parkinsonism with dementia phenotype by impairing APP-mediated iron export” (Nature Medicine 2012; 18(2), 291-295). 

He said winning was certainly a thrill, and that it was terrific to get the recognition that his work was having an impact. 

“I have been looking at the role of metals in biology especially in the aging brain, in particular proteins that are involved in Alzheimer’s disease and how they impact the regulation of these metals,” he said. 

“Metals are highly concentrated in the brain and are a big part of metabolism. Often when people think of metals, they think of environmental exposure, but when you are born you have plenty of metals in your body. As you get older, the concentration of metals in the brain rises, especially iron, and this accumulation is very unusual. 

“It is also unidirectional; basically the iron goes in but does not leave the brain. Iron related genes are associated with Parkinson’s disease and they are testing to see if this also the case with Alzheimer’s disease.

“The paper identified tau and how it operates to adjust brain iron levels. It has a function never previously considered. It is in some ways a Rosetta stone that links two big pools of interest together in Alzheimer’s disease. one, the metals and the other, the role of the proteins involved, and tau plays a big role."

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