Three Garvan PhD students awarded Merck Sharp and Dohme scholarship

Three outstanding Garvan PhD students are the joint recipients of Merck Sharp and Dohme’s 2008 Educational Scholarship, a sum of money awarded to a medical graduate undertaking a PhD at Garvan in bone or diabetes research.
02 September 2008

We are pleased to announce the recipients of Merck Sharp and Dohme’s 2008 Educational Scholarship, a sum of money awarded to a medical graduate undertaking a PhD at Garvan in bone or diabetes research.

This year, the scholarship was divided as travel grants, helping three outstanding researchers attend international gatherings to present their findings. “We felt that the best use of this money was to enable not one but three people to engage with others in their fields, helping them gain the kinds of contacts and experience that will be of immeasurable value at this stage in their careers,” said Garvan's Professor Don Chisholm, who liaised with Merck Sharp and Dohme over the provision of the scholarship.

Dr Sue Mei Lau, who recently submitted her PhD, will use her portion of the scholarship to help her travel to Rome this month for the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Annual Meeting. Dr Lau has been investigating the mechanisms by which the offspring of diabetic pregnancies become insulin resistant and obese later in life.

Dr Lau is at a critical stage in her career, having just submitted her PhD thesis in August. “The Merck Sharp and Dohme grant comes at a very good time for me because I’ll have the opportunity to present and get feedback on my data, and will get background knowledge to formulate further experiments,” she said.

Dr Kerry-Lee Milner will use her grant retrospectively, for attending the American Diabetes Association meeting in San Francisco in June 2008. This was her first international meeting, and in addition to presenting her own work, she took the opportunity to attend many lectures on the latest advances in scientific and clinical diabetes.

Dr Milner has been studying the cause of insulin resistance in chronic Hepatitis C, the first human model of an inflammatory or infective cause of insulin resistance. “I’m at the beginning of the third year of my PhD and my research is at the stage where feedback from international researchers is very important,” she explained. “This was an amazing opportunity to meet with esteemed physicians and scientists, and to share and debate ideas relevant to the progression of my PhD.”

Dr Alex Viardot also used his grant retrospectively, to cover the cost of travelling to present his findings at the American Endocrine Society Meeting in San Francisco in June.

“The education value of this meeting is enormous, as it attracts over 7,500 scientists and health professionals from around the world, all there to discuss advances in the broad field of diabetes and endocrinology,” said Viardot. “You learn so much by interacting with clinical and basic researchers working in the same field.”

Dr Viardot is investigating activation of the immune system in Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, with a particular focus on hormonal modulation of the immune function by insulin and neuropeptides. He is also investigating novel predictors of Type 2 diabetes in people with a family history of Type 2 diabetes.

Merck Sharp and Dohme is one of Australia's largest pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing medicines for a range of illnesses, including diabetes. Its support for Garvan research, through the PhD scholarship, is much appreciated as a symbol of the importance of basic and clinical research.