Here are the latest recipients of the MJ Gething Gender Equity Award

Meet Rachel McQuade & Sapna Devi from the School of Biomedical Sciences.

The MJ Gething Equity Award is open throughout the year with applications closing on 30 November.

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The grant's latest recipients, Dr Rachel McQuade, Dr Sapna Devi and Dr Sidonia Eckle, join a list of early career researchers who have benefited from this award since its launch in 2019.

The award’s donor Professor Emeritus Mary-Jane H. Gething AO is a passionate supporter of and advocate for young female researchers working in the biomedical sciences.

Rachel McQuade, an NHMRC Emerging Leader from the Department of Anatomy & Physiology will use the grant to to maintain research momentum. Her lab's current research is looking at gut physiology, the role of an unhealthy gut on organ function and how this may lead to or progress diseases like Parkinson’s disease, obesity, multiple systems atrophy and motor neuron disease. The end goal is to find therapeutic targets in the gut, improve gut health and prevent the development and progression of disease.

Front Row Seated (left to right): Adriana Acciarino, Cherish Han, Lauren Sahakian. Back Row Standing (left to right): Jonathan Escalante, Rachel McQuade, Shanti Diwakarla, Colin Craig. Not shown: Olivia Artaiz, Antonia Wu.

"We take a wholistic approach to gut physiology, with a focus on gut barrier integrity, and the role of enteric neurons, enteroendocrine cells, immune cells and microbiota in the modulation of gut function," said Rachel.

For Rachel, the MJ Gething Award will be used for the salary of a research assistant while she is on parental leave. This will allow laboratory-based work to continue during her absence, maintain research outputs and boost productivity upon her return to work.

Sapna Devi is a member of the Mueller Research Group in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology based at the Doherty Institute. She is an expert in using intravital multiphoton microscopy to image different organs such as the kidney, bone marrow, lung, muscle and lymph node. Her research uses innovative imaging technologies to understand how the two ‘supersystems’ of the body – the nervous and immune systems – communicate with each other to control immunity. Research that is fundamental for identifying therapeutic strategies to boost immune responses.

Image: Dr Sapna Devi in the lab

Having worked alongside other researchers who are also mothers, Sapna is optimistic about the future of the Biomedical Sciences, particularly for females aspiring to enter the field.

“We have so many leading female researchers to seek aspiration from and being in Biomedical Sciences allows you to make discoveries, contribute to new knowledge or even translate your work. We live in a time where there is now a change to advancing women and girls in STEM, and there are structures coming into place to help and support women scientists in their amazing work even if that means our roles change in the future. The MJ Gething Gender Equity Award is one such excellent example.”

About the MJ Gething Equity Award

The MJ Gething Equity Award is supported by Professor Emeritus Mary-Jane H. Gething AO, the first female Head of Biochemistry at the University of Melbourne. Together with her late husband, Professor Joseph Sambrook, they created the Gething-Sambrook Family Trust which enabled the creation of this award.

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