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Friday 2 September 2016 1:18pm

Congratulations to the recipients of Sir John Walsh Research Institute Awards for 2016, which were announced and awarded at the conclusion of the SJWRI Research Symposium 2016 on Friday 2 September. Our Institute Awards celebrate the research achievements of academic staff and postgraduate students, as well as commending the contribution of general staff to the research successes of the SJWRI and Faculty of Dentistry.

Sir John Walsh Award for Research Excellence: Dr Dawn Coates

This award acknowledges excellence in research over an extended period of time by a member of staff of the Faculty of Dentistry. This year's recipient, Dr Dawn Coates, receives $5,000 towards professional development.

Following a post-doctoral research position at the University of Cambridge and leading the Bioactive Discovery research group at AgResearch Invermay for a number of years, Dr Coates joined the Faculty of Dentistry as a Senior Research Fellow in 2006. Dr Coates' research interests are in stem cell biology and angiogenesis (blood vessel formation) in oral health and disease, with a particular interest in finding treatments for medication-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (MRONJ). A highly productive researcher and very well regarded supervisor of postgraduate students, Dr Coates is a very deserving recipient of our premier research award for 2016.

Research Supervisor Award: Professor Alison Rich

A new award for 2016, this award is to celebrate outstanding research supervisors of postgraduate and undergraduate students within the Faculty of Dentistry. Nominations were made via a survey process, whereby students were asked to anonymously nominate outstanding supervisors, with reasons for their nominations. Attributes such as being supportive, available, interested and enthusiastic, knowledgeable and an expert in their field, a good communicator, and taking prompt, decisive action to resolve issues were listed as being important for excellent supervision. This year's winner, Professor Alison Rich, receives $2,000 towards professional development.

Professor Rich is the leader of the Oral Molecular and Immunopathology research programme within the SJWRI, as well as serving as the Head of the Department of Oral Diagnostics and Surgical Sciences and the Medlab Dental Oral Pathology Diagnostic Service. An Otago BDS graduate, Prof Rich undertook her MDSc and PhD at the University of Melbourne before returning to Otago in 1998. Her research interests are focused on diagnostic oral pathology, particularly oral cancer, on which topic she gave the keynote address to open the second day of SJWRI Research Symposium 2016. As well as being a highly productive researcher in terms of publications, awards and commendations, she has supervised numerous postgraduate and undergraduate research projects since rejoining the Faculty of Dentistry. This award indicates the appreciation, respect and regard in which Professor Rich is held by her students.

SJWRI RS16 Yakin Rich Coates awards 650pxProf Alison Rich (centre), 2016 SJWRI Research Supervisor Award winner, with Dr Dawn Coates (right), 2016 Sir John Walsh Award winner, and DClinDent student Muhammed Yakin (left), winner of the Best Oral Presentation Award for the Oral Molecular and Immunopathology session at SJWRI Research Symposium 2016.

Strategic Research Prize: Dr Li (Peter) Mei

This award is to acknowledge and promote new research within the Faculty of Dentistry, by supporting a research development initiative by a member of staff or postgraduate student that could make a contribution to the strategic direction of research within the Institute. This year's recipient, Dr Li Mei, receives $5,000 towards his proposed research.

The aim of Dr Mei's proposal is to investigate the effectiveness of Air-Flow, a dental procedure which uses a pressurized get of air, water and abrasive powder, for managing the formation of biofilm in patients with fixed orthodontic appliances. Biofilm formation causes side-effects such as enamel demineralization, halitosis and tooth decay. Conventional oral hygiene methods are not effective in removing biofilms that form around the brackets and arch-wires of fixed orthodontic appliances. Air-Flow may be effective at removing biofilms from areas that are difficult to reach, but this needs to be examined clinically. Dr Mei and his collaborators will examine clinical measures of oral hygiene to investigate the efficacy of this approach, as well as biomaterials analysis of the surface topography and roughness of the tooth enamel, brackets and arch-wires following treatment.

Research Publication Award: Dr Sunyoung Ma

This award is to recognise excellence in research by acknowledging the research calibre and effort required to publish in high impact journals in science and dentistry. To be eligible, the manuscript must have been accepted for publication between 1 January and 31 December 2015. The recipient, Dr Sunyoung Ma, will receive $1,000 towards professional development.

Dr Ma is a Senior Lecturer in Prosthodontics in the Department of Oral Rehabilitation, with research interests in oral implantology. Her paper, titled 'Maxillary three-implant overdentures opposint mandibular two-implant overdentures: 10-year surgical outcomes of a randomised controlled trial' and published in the June 2016 edition of Clinical Implant Dentistry and Related Research, followed long-term surgical outcomes and implant success of implant treatments on edentulous patients over ten years. Dr Ma was the lead investigator of the study and collected the clinical data, along with being primary author of the paper. Clinical Implant Dentistry and Related Research has an impact factor of 4.152 and is ranked 4th of 89 journals in the field of Dentistry Oral Surgery and Medicine. This work contributes significantly to further understanding in the area of selecting implant treatment modalities when rehabilitating older edentulous patients.

Ma, S., Tawse-Smith, A., De Silva, R. K., Atieh, M. A., Alsabeeha, N. H. M., & Payne, A. G. T. (2016). Maxillary three-implant overdentures opposing mandibular two-implant overdentures: 10-year surgical outcomes of a randomized controlled trial. Clinical Implant Dentistry & Related Research, 18(3), 527-544. doi: 10.1111/cid.12325

Postgraduate Research Publication Award: Alia Sagatova

This award is to recognise excellence in postgraduate student research by acknowledging the research calibre and effort required to publish in high impact journals in science and dentistry. The publication must have been accepted between 1 January and 31 December 2015, and have been written by a Masters or Doctoral research student. The recipient, PhD student Alia Sagatova, receives $500.

Alia has recently completed her PhD in the Molecular Microbiology research programme of the SJWRI, under the primary supervision of Associate Professor Brian Monk. Her paper, titled 'Structural insights into the binding of the antifungal drug fluconazole to Saccharomyces cerevisiae lanosterol 14α-demethylase' was published in Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy, one of the most widely read journals in the field of antifungal research with an impact factor of 4.476 in 2014. Infections by fungal pathogens such as Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus, and their resistance to triazole drugs, are major concerns. Lanosterol 14α-demethylase is a fungal enzyme involved in ergosterol biosynthesis, and is the primary target of azole antifungal drugs, including fluconazole. The lack of high-resolution structural information for this enzyme has inhibited the design of modified triazole drugs that could overcome resistance. This paper, one of a series of publications based on Alia's PhD research, reported the X-ray structure of full-length Saccharomyces cerevisiae lanosterol 14α-demethylase in complex with fluconazole at a resolution of 2.05 Å, showing the key interactions involved in fluconazole binding and providing insight into resistance mechanisms. Alia was the lead author on this paper and performed most of the research within it.

Sagatova, A., Keniya, M. V., Wilson, R. K., Monk, B. C., & Tyndall, J. D. A. (2015). Structural insights into binding of the antifungal drug fluconazole to Saccharomyces cerevisiae lanosterol 14α-demethylase. Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy 59:4982-4989. doi: 10.1128/aac.00925-15

Research Support Award: Sharla Kennedy

This award is to recognise the excellent support provided by general staff to research groups, units and/or departments within the SJWRI and Faculty of Dentistry. This year's recipient, Sharla Kennedy of the Medlab Dental Oral Pathology and Diagnostic Service, will receive $2,000 for conference travel.

Sharla has over 20 years experience in histology and, for the last eight years since being employed with the Faculty of Dentistry, has taken on the position of research co-ordinator in the Oral Pathology laboratory. She has responsibility for the histology aspects of the research projects of the Oral Molecular and Immunopathology Programme, and also assists researchers from other Research Programmes within the Faculty and from outside the Faculty. This involves planning and assisting in research projects that use various techniques including histology, immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. As part of the laboratory team, Sharla also offers technical advice to staff and PhD, DClinDent and undergraduate dental students. In addition to her technical support, she has an encouraging and supportive manner, which has been very important to many postgraduate students coming to grips with the complexities of research. Without Sharla's technical and emotional support, many of these research projects would not have come to fruition.

This award will support Sharla to attend the Histotechnology Society of New South Wales, joint Queensland and NSW Histology Conference, Port Macquarie, Australia, Sept 30th-Oct 2nd 2016. This is known to be an excellent meeting for histology technicians and provides an opportunity to liaise with fellow technologists to learn about new procedures and techniques, equipment and quality assurance requirements.

Report from SJWRI Research Symposium 2016, 1-2 September

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