New Forrest Research Foundation Fellows to drive discovery in Western Australia

A scientist passionate about preventing future pandemics, a researcher looking to ‘future proof’ Australia’s kelp forests and a chemical engineer focused on improving the process of hydrogen liquefaction are all recipients of the prestigious 2022 Forrest Fellowships.

Dr Jessica Kretzmann, Dr Sam Starko and Dr Neil Robinson will start their research at The University of Western Australia from 2022.

Forrest Research Foundation Fellowships are awarded to outstanding early career researchers to undertake high-quality research at any of the five universities in Western Australia.

Dr Jessica Kretzmann will take up her Fellowship at the UWA School of Molecular Sciences where she’ll use cutting-edge science known as ‘DNA origami’ to develop highly sensitive diagnostic tests for viruses. At the cusp of chemistry, bio-medicine and nanotechnology, DNA origami is a way of folding DNA strands into 2D and 3D structures.

A former WA Student Scientist of the Year and Fulbright Scholar who lived in Karratha for much for her childhood, Dr Kretzmann has worked as a science ambassador to rural schools in WA and is currently completing an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Technical University of Munich

Recognised for his interdisciplinary work across marine science, genomics, bioinformatics and conservation ecology, Canadian marine biologist Dr Sam Starko aims to characterise the genetic mechanisms that allow some kelp to tolerate warm water.

It’s hoped identifying the genotypes that can best adapt to the warming of our coastal waters will promote the recovery and regrowth of kelp forests in Western Australia and worldwide.

Currently a researcher at the Fluid Science and Resources research group at UWA, with a PhD from the University of Cambridge, Dr Neil Robinson will look at using advanced NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) techniques to develop novel porous metallic catalysts that can more efficiently convert hydrogen gas into liquid.

The Forrest Research Foundation was established in 2014, by Andrew and Nicola Forrest through their Minderoo Foundation.

“We were blown away by the calibre of the Forrest Fellowship applicants this year,” Mrs Forrest said.

“Congratulations to Jessica, Sam and Neil. I am thrilled critical work on climate change solutions, viral pandemics and energy transportation will be carried out here in Western Australia, further strengthening our state’s vibrant research community and ability to contribute novel research to the world. ”  

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Amit Chakma said that through the support of the Forrest Research Foundation, the University is able to help early-career researchers expand their world-class research across a diverse range of fields.

“UWA looks forward to welcoming these talented individuals and helping them to extend the boundaries of knowledge as they tackle some of the biggest challenges in science. It’s a vital part of our commitment to creating new knowledge that will benefit WA, our region and the world,” Professor Chakma said.

2022 Forrest Fellows

Forrest Foundation researchers named finalists in 2021 Premier’s Science Awards

Two outstanding Forrest Foundation researchers have been named finalists in the 2021 Premier’s Science Awards. These prestigious awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding scientific research and engagement taking place in Western Australia.

Dr Arman Siahvashi from the Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Western Australia and the Future Energy Export CRC has been named a finalist for the Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year. Dr Siahvashi is undertaking world-class research and developing cutting-edge technologies to reduce the costs and eliminate the safety hazards associated with clean energy production such as liquid hydrogen. He has developed a multi-award-winning apparatus to accurately measure the freezing temperatures of trace impurities at extreme cryogenic temperatures and high pressures. His research has led to collaborations with scientists at NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory on liquid hydrogen as a rocket fuel and also dissolution geology of Saturn’s moon, Titan.

Mr Liam Scarlett from Curtin University’s School of Electrical Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences has been recognised as a finalist for the ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year. Liam is completing a PhD in theoretical physics, focussing on modelling the fundamental reactions which take place in fusion, medical, and astrophysical plasmas. A highlight of his research has included developing a theory and suite of computer programs to produce the most detailed database of electron-molecule reaction probabilities to date, which was used by scientists working on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

The winners of the 2021 Premier’s Science Awards will be announced at a ceremony during National Science Week.