2019 Selby Research Awards

  • The Selby Research Awards are granted annually by both the The University of Melbourne and The University of Sydney. The award is to assist an outstanding academic establish his or her research career. The Foundation congratulates:

    img Graeme Selby, Chairman of the Selby Scientific Foundation
  • Dr James Hutchison

    School of Chemistry
    University of Melbourne
    Awarded on 01/06/2019

    Research title: Planar Materials, Unexplored Valleys: Photochemistry of Transition Metal Dichalcogenides

    Summary: Photochemistry uses light energy to overcome barriers to chemical reactions. In most molecular systems the absorption of light of various polarizations leads eventually to the same excited state, and therefore to the same photochemistry. However in a novel class of two-dimensional materials, the absorption of left or right circularly-polarized light leads to excited states with unique electronic spin properties (so-called ‘Valley’ states). This project  will investigate whether undertaking photochemistry from specific ‘Valley’ excited states can result in different reaction products, and particularly to product molecules of specific chirality.


    Impact: The tragedy of Thalidomide in the 1950s focused attention on the importance of the chirality of molecules used in human health. Molecules of opposite chirality have a unique structure but are similar to the point of being mirror images of each other. This makes their separation by physical techniques extremely difficult, and the ability to synthesize chirally pure molecules (so-called asymmetric synthesis) of the utmost importance. The outcome of this project will be a novel method for asymmetric photochemistry which remains one of the great challenges of Chemistry.


    How the award will assist my research career: The Selby Research Award will be extremely helpful to me for establishing a line of research (in 2D materials) that is very independent of all my previous supervisors. This will aid me when seeking future promotions and ongoing positions. The prestige of the Selby award will also help boost my reputation nationally and internationally. Finally, it will help me foster and strengthen collaborations with Dr Stefano Azzini (Trento, Italy) and Dr Cyriaque Genet (Strasbourg, France) and who are experts in the theory of plasmon/valley interactions.


    Use of award funding: A major bottleneck of this research is deterministic placement of monolayers proximal to plasmonic arrays or nanoparticles. The funding will be used to purchase high precison micromanipulator designed to be integrated with an existing Olympus microscope to expedite this otherwise difficult process.


    Note on Career interruption 

    I have been a sole primary carer for a loved one diagnosed with metastatic cancer over 4 years ago which has restricted my ability to be in the lab and have contact with mentors while in Melbourne.


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    img James Hutchison
  • Dr Ivan Kassel

    School of Chemistry
    University of Sydney
    Awarded on 14/10/2019

    Project:- Charge and energy transport in disordered functional materials
    This project aims to understand the fundamental mechanisms of how energy and electric charge move through disordered materials. The transport of charges and energy is among the most fundamental processes in materials science, especially in energy conversion and storage, underpinning solar cells, batteries, lighting, many sensors, and most electrocatalysts.

    Many next-generation materials—including organic semiconductors, hybrid perovskites, and conductive metal-organic frameworks—promise significant functional improvements in solar cells, sensors, and electrocatalysts; however, they remain incompletely understood, partly because they are disordered and noisy systems that are difficult to describe mathematically. This project will use innovative theoretical techniques to produce a detailed understanding of transport in disordered noisy materials, with the goal of accelerating the rational design of cutting-edge devices for energy conversion and storage.


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    img Dr Ivan Kassel
  • Dr Giselle Yeo,

    School of Life & Environmental Sciences
    University of Sydney
    Awarded on 14/10/2019

    Project:- Biochemical processes underpinning stem cell behaviour

    Stem cells such as mesenchymal stem cells are increasingly being used to treat a range of disorders because of their ability to self-renew and differentiate into functional cells. However, a major obstacle in the clinical translation of stem cell therapies is the limited natural availability of these cells. Consequently, stem cells need to be expanded in vitro prior to use in the clinic. However, this process is costly, takes time, and runs the risk of altering stem cell phenotype and function – which then impacts therapeutic value.

    In this work, we are developing a new understanding of molecular events that very effectively regulate multiple facets of mesenchymal stem cell behaviour, including growth, aging and differentiation. We are investigating the interplay of extracellular matrix components and soluble growth factors, including a matrix protein, tropoelastin, which uniquely straddles the functional properties of both types of molecules. We are exploring the mechanistic pathways that underpin tropoelastin’s activities towards stem cells, with the goal of incorporating its potent function into new technologies for high-yield stem cell propagation and robust targeted differentiation


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    img Dr Giselle Yeo