QIMR’s Professor Emma Whitelaw, has been awarded The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) Jubilee Medal at a scientific meeting in Miami, US last week. The Jubilee Medal honours exceptionally successful scientists in the field of biochemistry and molecular biology.
“It is a great pleasure to stand up, as an Australian, to receive an award like this at an international meeting. It reaffirms to all present Australia’s level of excellence in scientific pursuits,” said Professor Whitelaw, Australian Fellow, Chair of QIMR’s Genetics and Population Health Division and Head of its Epigenetics Laboratory.
The medal for awarded for Professor Whitelaw’s world leading research on the inheritance of epigenetic marks. Epigenetics is the study of mechanisms which modify DNA structure in subtle ways, and thus change gene expression, without influencing the DNA base sequence. Her laboratory at QIMR has developed a model of fetal alcohol syndrome which is helping inform the community of the effects of maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
“To be recognised among the world’s best, is an enormous and well deserved honour for Professor Whitelaw and for QIMR,” said QIMR’s Director Professor Frank Gannon. “It is wonderful acknowledgement of the calibre of our researchers who are contributing to better health for all.”
Professor Whitelaw attributes her success to an excellent publicly-funded education system. “State schools in Canberra during the 1960s were excellent. We did real experiments in the labs and were encouraged to speak out and question authority. I hope that winning this award will encourage younger Australian scientists to persevere in what is a challenging yet highly rewarding pursuit.”
Emma Whitelaw is a strong advocate of QIMR’s Education Program which aims to inspire the scientists of tomorrow and encourage more students to embark on science careers. Through immersion in real medical research, the program gives students the opportunity to experience the importance and wonders of medical research firsthand.