View this email in your browser
EMBL Australia growth, and changes in bioinformatics
Dear <<First Name>>

Just as our researchers watch embryos grow through predictable but extraordinary developmental changes, this year we’ve seen EMBL Australia grow in a similar way.

We’ve expanded to new research nodes in South Australia and NSW, and we’ve strengthened our research base here at Monash University with four new Group Leaders joining us in 2015.

And we’re evolving too. While we will welcome a suite of new Group Leaders next year, we are also saying farewell to David Lovell, who has headed up the Australian Bioinformatics Network for the last three years. We thank David for his invaluable contributions to helping us strengthen the bioinformatics community in Australia. The Australian Bioinformatics Network will evolve to become part of a new bioinformatics society.

This expansion and evolution is key to our development.

I’m excited by the important research being done at EMBL Australia in the labs of our Group Leaders – but I’m particularly passionate about helping young researchers start their own research journey.

This year we’ve sent students and early-career researchers to Europe and around Australia to attend conferences, courses and symposia. And we’ve supported Australian PhD students in running the inaugural EMBL Australia PhD Symposium, which has just finished up in Sydney. I hope that these experiences, connections and new knowledge will provide them with valuable tools to use in their careers ahead.

Best wishes for a restful holiday season—I look forward to the chance to connect with you again in the New Year.

Professor Nadia Rosenthal
Scientific Head, EMBL Australia
Please note that all replies to this newsletter go to If you wish to email me directly, my address is

In this month's newsletter:

Australian Bioinformatics Network to merge with new Society

Big changes are afoot at the Australian Bioinformatics Network with the move of Director David Lovell from CSIRO to a new role as Head of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queensland University of Technology. As a result, the Network will quietly wind down, with key functions moving across to the new Australian Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Society (ABACBS).

Over the past two-and-a-half years, the Australian Bioinformatics Network has grown steadily, with over 700 members registered at—the ‘information hub’ established to support Australian bioinformatics communities. The ABN has supported and encouraged leaders and members of Australian bioinformatics communities through funding and communication for events including the Sydney Bioinformatics Research Symposia, Bob Kuhn’s UCSC Browser Roadshows, and the recent Australian Bioinformatics Conference.

“I think it is very natural and desirable for the Australian Bioinformatics Network to become one of the main communication channels for the newly minted Australian Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Society,” says David. “This gives us both a well-established information hub for Australian bioinformatics, and the guidance and direction of a society that truly represents this community.”

David feels that the Network had accomplished its goal to bring together a vibrant and healthy community for Australian bioinformaticians and life scientists.

“Our recent conference demonstrated that bioinformatics has matured from being merely a tool to an area of research in its own right,” he says.

The Australian Bioinformatics Network was established in 2012 by EMBL Australia, CSIRO and Bioplatforms Australia.

It’s been instrumental in the establishment of ABACBS. So it’s befitting that the Network will become part of the Society.

For more information, head to the ABN website and the ABACBS website.

Our first PhD Symposium—giving students the upper hand

Ninety PhD students from around Australia took part in EMBL Australia’s first PhD student symposium, which was held earlier this month at The University of New South Wales. 

The symposium, organised by the students who attended EMBL Australia’s first PhD Course in 2013, was inspired by the annual student-led symposium organised by first year PhD candidates at EMBL’s Heidelberg campus in Germany.

"It was fantastic and very inspirational to see so many talented young people—the next generation,” said Canadian stem cell researcher Andras Nagy who was one of a group of invited international and local speakers that also included Ian Frazer, Nikola Bowden, Jose Polo, Marc Wilkins, James Chong and Jenny Stow.

With the theme ‘Research in life sciences: from in vitro to in vivo’, the inaugural symposium focused on the use of new technologies and techniques to conceptually and practically model disease.

Laura Baker, a PhD student at the Garvan Institute and one of the organisers of the symposium, said being involved with the conference was an incredible opportunity for the students.

“Contributing to the development of the Inaugural EMBL Australia PhD Symposium was an incredible opportunity. We were overwhelmed by the quality of the invited plenary and student presenters. Events such as this symposium are fundamental in establishing networks of enthusiastic early career scientists who will lead lifelong collaborations and further the scientific research capabilities of the next generation,” she said. 

During the conference, students also presented their research to their peers, through talks and posters.

Three prizes were awarded to the best oral presentations by students:
  • First: Zoe Patterson Ross (University of Sydney) ’Influenza seasonality in Australia’.
  • Second: Maria Kojic (Institute of Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland) ‘Cerebellar ataxia and purkinje neuron loss in the wobbly mouse’.
  • Third: Rina Soetanto (John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU) ‘microRNA and microRNA processing variations in cardiac biology’.
Planning for next year’s symposium to be held in Melbourne is already underway. More details will be available early in 2015.

We will also be running the EMBL Australia PhD Course again in mid-2015, to be held in Perth. Modelled on EMBL’s compulsory pre-doctoral course for first year PhD students, this two-week program shows students how their research fits into the bigger picture of science, and introduces a range of fields including: bioinformatics; developmental biology; genomics; systems biology; and regenerative medicine.

We'll have more information and registration available in the New Year.
Photos from the EMBL Australia PhD Syposum. Top left: Poster presentations. Top right: At the Symposium dinner, Co-President Laura Baker (for 2014) and Co-President Anton Kalsbeek (for 2015). Bottom left: Nadia Rosenthal's welcome address. Bottom right: Winners of the 'Best oral presentations', Zoe Patterson Ross (left), Maria Kojic, and Rina Soetanto.

In other news

Aussie PhD students meet like minds in Germany

New ideas, new perspectives and new networks were key to the experiences of 20 Australian PhD students who attended the annual EMBL PhD Symposium in Heidelberg, Germany in October.

This year’s conference, ‘Inspired by Biology—Exploring Nature’s Toolbox’, looked into the creative and multidisciplinary uses of existing biological mechanisms to solve problems in basic and applied sciences. The conference covered a range of fields from DNA nanorobots and xenonucleic acids through to tissue engineering and biomaterials.

Nilisha Fernando, a cell biology researcher from ANU, headed over to Heidelberg.

“I was able to meet many other students facing similar issues and challenges with their PhD, as well as keynote speakers who were able to help with some technical issues I was facing with my research project. I also learnt a lot about the different ways that molecular biology techniques can be used in varying fields of research, which was a valuable experience for me.”

Nilisha was one of four students from the Australian contingent selected to present short talks at the conference, giving a talk on her work on the potential therapies to combat retinal degeneration. The other students who gave talks were:
  • Rufika Shari Abidin (Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, QLD)— Insert design and high-throughput screening to improve recovery of virus-like particle subunits for cytotoxic T cell epitope-based influenza vaccines.
  • Zhee Sheen Wong (The University of Queensland, QLD)— Oxidative stress correlates with Wolbachia-mediated antiviral protection in natural Wolbachia-Drosophila associations.
  • Lara Bereza-Malcolm (La Trobe University, VIC)—Development of microbial biosensors for the detection of heavy metals.
It’s the third year that EMBL Australia has provided support for PhD students to attend the conference, which is organised by EMBL’s first year PhD cohort.
At the EMBL PhD Symposium 2014 (from left) Katherine Sanders, Nicholas Hunt and Ali McCorkindale.

“An investment in the future of science and innovation”—Sen. Scott Ryan

Earlier this month Senator Scott Ryan addressed more than 200 bioscientists and bioinformaticians who took part in BioInfoSummer, highlighting the importance of bioinformatics and the advanced mathematical, statistical and computational techniques that underpin it.

“BioInfoSummer—bringing together students, researchers and professionals to share state-of-the-art technologies and learn about the use of mathematics and computational science in biological contexts—is clearly an investment in the future of science and innovation in Australia,” Senator Ryan told the conference in his opening speech at Monash University.

The program featured an outstanding array of Australian and international keynote speakers including Prof. Chris Overall, (University of British Columbia), Dr Daniel Zerbino (European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute), Dr Alicia Oshlack (Murdoch Childrens Research Institute), Dr Janusz Dutkowski (Data4Cure) and Dr Gordon Smyth (WEHI).

Other highlights included a ‘welcome’ reception featuring 2013 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science recipient Professor Terry Speed, a careers panel featuring four panellists from a variety of sectors that use bioinformatics, a posters session where students shared their research, and practical computer workshop sessions throughout the week.

La Trobe University PhD student Monther Alhamdoosh, who received an AMSI Internship in Bioinformatics last year, also presented a talk at the conference on his project with CSL.

BioInfoSummer is funded jointly by the Department of Education, the Australian Bioinfomatics Network and the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, with support from EMBL Australia, Bioplatforms Australia and CSIRO. This year it was hosted by MAXIMA at Monash University.

Next year’s conference will be held at the University of Sydney. Register your interest at

About EMBL Australia

EMBL - the European Molecular Biology Laboratory - is Europe's flagship for the life sciences. The Australian government joined EMBL as an Associate Member in 2008.

EMBL Australia is an unincorporated joint venture between members of the Group of Eight universities and the CSIRO, supported by the Australian government.

Read more about EMBL Australia
Copyright © 2014 EMBL Australia, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp