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Dr Alicia Oshlack receives prestigious award for women in quantitative biomedical science

Institute News
Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - 3:00pm
Dr Alicia Oshlack
As the winner of the inaugural Georgina Sweet Award for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science, Dr Alicia Oshlack will establish an intern program in bioinformatics, and contribute to the expansion of the discipline throughout Australia.

Alicia, who heads up the Murdoch Children's bioinformatics department, collaborates with scientists and doctors from across the institute and the Royal Children's Hospital to analyse and make sense' of the data from DNA and find genetic mutations that cause diseases in children.

'I believe bioinformatics plays an increasingly important role in producing the most innovative and cutting edge discoveries in biomedical science,' Alicia explains.

'In the last decade we've seen a revolution in our ability to sequence DNA and related molecules,' she adds. 'But we still need to develop strategies and methods to analyse this data and extract the important biological insights.'

It's for this reason, Alicia says, that we need to expand bioinformatics capacity and expertise alongside the advances in data generation.

She explains how bioinformatics sits at 'the junction of biology, computer science and mathematics' – and therefore requires skills in all of these areas. Yet, she has observed throughout her own career, many people entering the field lack expertise in one or more of the areas – something she hopes to address through the intern program.

A keen advocate for the role of women in science and work-life balance, Alicia is also a much-loved mentor to young scientists at the institute, a role she hopes this award will support her to develop further.

This award will also support Alicia and her team to create analysis methods to be used worldwide to interrogate genomics data including cancer transcriptomes, single-cell RNA sequencing and epigenetic architecture in autoimmune disease.

Alicia plans to collaborate with other leading biomedical researchers working with genomics data to identify which bioinformatics areas fall short, and contribute to the understanding of diseases in the process.

'Alicia is clearly emerging as a major Australian leader and innovator, and her research vision indicates she will make a valuable contribution to Australia's knowledge base,' Prof Leann Tilley, creator of the awards, said.

The Georgina Sweet Award aims to support female scientists across Australia who demonstrate excellence in the area of Quantitative Biomedical Science.

The selection committee was impressed by Alicia's 'compelling research vision' and track record of providing strong mentoring support at the Murdoch Children's.

Two other Melbourne-based researchers, from the University of Melbourne and the Burnet Institute also received the award.

The award ceremony will be held on Thursday 27 October at Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne.