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July 2007 Issue
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Academy award for PhD student

Eva Szarek hopes she will be getting a taste of her future when she spends the last three months of this year in the United States.

The University of Adelaide PhD candidate has been invited to work alongside leading scientists at the respected Laboratory of Mammalian Genes and Development at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC, where she hopes one day to be accepted as a postdoctoral fellow.

Her "passport" on this occasion is the Adam J Berry Memorial Fellowship awarded by the Australian Academy of Science and the NIH. Only one award is made each year to an Australian postgraduate student, and Eva was selected from a long list of nominees.

"It is a great honour to be chosen and will give me the chance to access world-class facilities and work with some of the brightest scientists in my field," she said.

That field is the molecular genetics of pituitary development. The head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Genes and Development and Eva's host, Dr Heiner Westphal, is an international leader in the area.

Eva's PhD project - under the supervision of Dr Paul Thomas and Assoc. Prof Jeff Schwartz - is investigating how changes in Sox3, a gene that is active in the developing brain, can lead to mental retardation and pituitary hormone deficiencies, including growth hormone.

Dr Thomas first discovered the link; Eva's research is seeking to determine how and why it occurs.

Story by Nick Carne

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