The Fabienne Mackay Award

Committed to increasing gender diversity in biomedical research, the School of Biomedical Sciences launched the annual $100,000 Fabienne Mackay Award in March 2021 to help one or more high performing, independent researchers to maintain research momentum following the birth or adoption of a child.

Professor Fabienne Mackay

Prof Fabienne Mackay was the first Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Melbourne (2015-2020). An internationally recognized biomedical scientist, Prof Mackay’s discoveries have led to clinical trials and new treatments, including for the autoimmune disease lupus. In her role as Head of School Prof Mackay was an outstanding example and advocate for women in science and diversity and inclusion more generally. Prof Mackay experienced first-hand the challenges of raising a child while maintaining research momentum and has generously leant her name to this award.

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  • The Award

    The Fabienne Mackay Award recognizes that career interruptions relating to the primary care of infants can have significant adverse impacts on a researcher’s career momentum and disproportionally affect women. Measures instituted by employers and funding bodies to redress the balance, such as parental leave schemes and recognition of career interruptions, are vital. However, there are currently few mechanisms to support an individual’s research productivity.

    The Award will provide a grant of up to $100,000 per year to support one or more high-performing independent researchers within the School of Biomedical Sciences to maintain research momentum following the birth or adoption of an infant.

    The award is open to academic staff who:

    • Hold a substantive continuing or fixed-term position of not less than 0.6 FTE in the School of Biomedical Sciences.
    • Are eligible to claim primary carer parental leave entitlements at the University of Melbourne, and are or will be the primary carer in the first year after birth/adoption.
    • Are independent researchers that meet or exceed the Schools research performance metrics - generally, this would include all Teaching & Research academics and Research-only staff at level C-E, but may also include some fellowship funded level A or B staff as recommended by their Head of Department.

    Applications open every second year between June and August (subject to change).  The next application round will open in 2024.

  • Previous recipients of the Award


    Dr Hamish McWilliam

    Dr Hamish McWilliam

    Dr Hamish McWilliam's research investigates how the immune system detects bacteria in order to generate immune defence against pathogens. He is the group leader in the Villadangos Laboratory in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

    The grant provides an opportunity for Dr McWilliam and his team to work on new projects, tools and models to understand how the immune system communicates with microbes. The protein 'MR1' is what detects bacterial pathogens, and alerts the immune system of bacterial invasions. His team have already recently found that MR1 us turned off, how cells stop presenting it at the cell surface, presumably to prevent too much immune activation.  This means their next step is to find out which cells have MR1 and use it to turn on MAIT cells in the body, an abundant T-cell population.

    Hamish won the grant after taking paternity leave in 2022 to support his partner's return to work for her graphic design business. He hopes that by receiving this award, he can help raise awareness and normalise other mean at the school and university to take parental leave, as to "level the playing field  by not leaving the child care entirely up to women".

    Alongside receiving the Fabienne Mackay award, Dr McWilliam is also the recipient of other awards and fellowships, such as the Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA).

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    Dr Laura Edgington-Mitchell

    Dr Edgington-Mitchell's research is focused on validating proteases as therapeutic targets in cancer and inflammation. She hopes to develop new approaches to diagnose and treat diseases – and, ultimately, improve patient outcomes.

    In 2018, Laura joined the Department Biochemistry and Pharmacology at the University of Melbourne and Bio21 Institute.

    “I was fortunate to be awarded the Grimwade Research Fellowship supported by the Miegunyah Fund, which has allowed me to establish my own laboratory and continue my exciting work on proteases."

    In addition to opening her laboratory at the University’s Bio21 Institute, Laura has built her team, developed the research program, expanded local and international collaborations, written her first independent manuscripts, applied for numerous grants and engaged in undergraduate teaching.

    Last year, Laura received the inaugural $100,000 Fabienne Mackay Award to maintain research momentum following the birth of her second child.

    “I plan to use the Award as an opportunity to expand the chemical biology aspects of my research program, which will hopefully lead to high-impact publications and additional funding opportunities that support the sustainability of my laboratory.”

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  • About Professor Fabienne Mackay

    Professor Fabienne Mackay is an international renowned immunologist and has published over 135 highly cited research articles and reviews. Prof Mackay is the current Director and CEO of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Queensland. She was the inaugural Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Melbourne (2015-2020) and is now an Honorary Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne and Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland.

    In 2000, Prof Mackay joined the Garvan Institute in Sydney as a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow and was awarded a NHMRC Program Grant. Prof Mackay's lab at Garvan discovered the role of a new molecule - named BAFF - as a key B cell survival factor essential for the maturation of B-lymphocytes but also playing a role in autoimmunity, and became one the leading groups on BAFF research.

    Prof Mackay has received a number of prestigious awards including the Thomson Reuters Australia Citation and Innovation Award (2012), NHMRC Best Research Project (2014), and trophy from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, for her outstanding contribution in Education and Research as an expatriate. In 2015 Prof Mackay was elected as Council Member of the International Cytokine & Interferon Society and as Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (2017).

    Find out more about Prof Mackay in Pursuit