April 12, 2019  Print

Three students from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research have received Honours scholarships from The University of Sydney.

                                   Students Jessica Merjane, Vicki Stylianou and Laurentius Tjahadji

Vicki Stylianou from the Centre for Virus Research received the Sydney Honours Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship awarded across all faculties. Out of more than 100 applications, only a select number of students, including Vicki, received the scholarship.

Laurentius Tjahadji from the Centre for Heart Research and Jessica Merjane from the Centre for Virus Research each received the Westmead Honours scholarship, which provides an opportunity for high-achieving students to study in the Westmead Honours Program. 

The scholarship has been successful in attracting students to study at Westmead, with more than half of the applicants enrolling in the Honours Program.

Dr Miranda-Saksena
WIMR Internal Honours Coordinator, Dr Monica Miranda-Saksena, said she was pleased that the scholarships have enabled more students to study at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

“Scholarships play a vital role in providing financial support so that young students are able to pursue a career in medical research,” Dr Miranda-Saksena said.

“I’m personally delighted that we are now able to attract more students with high academic merits to the Westmead campus.

“The students of today are the medical researchers of tomorrow.  So, ensuring that the brightest and most dedicated young medical researchers are well-trained and mentored is a priority for The Westmead Institute for Medical Research. 

“I’m pleased that Vicky, Jessica and Laurentius are able to join us here at Westmead thanks to the scholarships, and would like to congratulate them on their achievements.

“Over the coming year, they will contribute to heart research and virus research, and help us progress our discoveries.”

About the students
Laurentius Tjahjadi – Supervised by Professor James Chong, Centre for Heart Research
Heart failure is a significant problem, affecting more than 26 million individuals worldwide. Heart attacks are a common cause of heart failure, as a heart attack causes permanent damage to the heart muscle, leading to reduced function.
Laurentius’ research will investigate how we can use healthy heart muscle cells developed from stem cells to replace the damaged heart tissue, and restore heart function.

Jessica Merjane – Supervised by Dr Monica Miranda Saksena, Dr Kevin Danastas and Professor  Tony Cunningham, Centre for Virus Research
More than 50 percent of the world population is infected with the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). Although HSV-1 may cause mild or no symptoms to healthy people, the virus can cause serious and life-threatening diseases including infectious blindness and encephalitis.
Jessica is investigating how we can use proteins called ‘interferons’ from our immune system to stop recurrent herpes infections. Jessica will be using specially designed devices that will allow her to track the spread of the virus, using nerve cells, which are the main target of the virus, as a model.

Vicki Stylianou – Supervised by Dr Kerrie Sandgren, Centre for Virus Research
An estimated 417 million people worldwide are infected with HSV-2, the herpes simplex virus that causes genital herpes infections. Currently, there are no effective preventions for the virus.
Vicki is investigating how a component of a vaccine, called an ‘adjuvant’, activates and aids the immune response in humans. She will apply the adjuvant to human lymph nodes to identify what immune cells are activated, and what products they release to kick start the immune response.
By understanding how this adjuvant works, researchers can potentially apply it in the development of a vaccine for genital and neo-natal HSV.