When the chemistry is right
Winning one of the inaugural Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowships has provided an enormous boost to Dr Luke Henderson’s career.
Since his arrival from Oxford at Deakin in 2008 to take up his fellowship, Dr Henderson has won the Geelong Smart Researcher of the Year Award in partnership with Dr Fred Pfeffer for the project "Antibiotics Inspired by Nature” and from there progressed to building his own award winning research team with projects in increasingly diverse fields.
“The benefit of having the postdoctoral fellowship was that you are introduced to a lot of different areas of both chemistry, which is my area, and a lot of other areas within the University, such as material science, medical science and a vast array of others,” Dr Henderson said.
“So the way it really helped my career was to not only to do some really good ground-breaking work but to also get connections in other areas of science that have led to some really productive collaborations.”
One of these projects, involving PhD candidate Jennifer Squire, is a search for a more targeted way of treating breast cancer.
The ability to deliver chemotherapy agents selectively to cancer cells will provide a means to treat cancer while circumventing the side effects synonymous with chemotherapy.
The project will look at a targeted cancer cell delivery system that provides a potent chemotherapy dose selectively to cancer cells while reducing side effects.
“Jennifer recently was runner-up in the Three Minute Thesis competition,” Dr Henderson said proudly. “We’re very happy about that.”
Encouraged by the creation of AFFRIC, the Australian Future Fibres Research and Innovation Centre, and the new Australian Carbon Fibre Research Facility, a pilot scale carbon fibre factory, at Deakin, Dr Henderson has begun working on a project that will help improve the mechanical properties of composites.
“This project will develop surface enhanced carbon fibre to facilitate a covalent interaction with curing agents,” Dr Henderson said.
“They will provide a platform for the development of materials with superior strength and versatility to be used in carbon fibre composites worldwide.
“Linden Servinis is working on the carbon fibre project and she is one of the six AFFRIC PhD Scholarship awardees and working very hard.
“We have Jarrad Altimari who is an Honours student looking to continue on and he is working on gold nanoparticle synethesis and prostate cancer therapy.”
Dr Henderson smiles when it comes to the final member of his team, PhD candidate Josh Delaney.
“He’s a bit of a mystery in the lab,” he chuckles.
“He hasn’t won anything but he keeps me posted!”
Good science, and good fun: All part of the team building process.