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Campus News : October 2010
6 Campus News October 2010 University of Wollongong www.uow.edu.au Anovel method of characterising lipid molecules (fats) developed by University of Wollongong researchers has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The researchers believe it could have important implications in the understanding of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Invented by researchers within the Schools of Chemistry and Health Sciences, the method of Ozone Induced Dissociation (known as "OzID") provides detailed information about molecular structure that is unavailable from traditional methods of mass spectrometry. "OzID first harnesses the power of mass spectrometry to separate one compound out of literally hundreds on the basis of mass, then uses ozone like a pair of molecular scissors to cut the molecule at a particular position, namely a double bond," according to one of OzID's co- inventors Associate Professor Stephen Blanksby (School of Chemistry). "This allows us to unambiguously assign the structure of the compound and importantly differentiate molecules that differ only by the position of their double bonds," Professor Blanksby said. "Examples of molecules where this analysis will be particularly useful are lipids where the double bond position, usually labelled as omega-3, omega-6 etc, can have a dramatic effect on nutritional or physiological properties." "Obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and several forms of cancer have all been linked to altered lipid metabolism," said another of OzID's co-inventors, Dr Todd Mitchell from the School of Health Sciences. "Improving our understanding of the role of lipids in these illnesses may lead to better ways to prevent or manage such disease states." OzID has been performance trialled in a research collaboration between UOW and AB Sciex, a company which specialises in life science analytical technologies. The granted US patent (No. 7,771,943) represents the first of a number of patent rights sought for this invention in major jurisdictions. BG US patent for fats ID process Research into OCD Agroup of UOW researchers led by Associate Professor Craig Gonsalvez at the School of Psychology is attempting to unravel the enigma of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by investigating how the brains of people with the condition may function differently. "In effect, people with OCD may have 'sticky brains' that greatly increase their potential to lock on to thoughts, images, or doubts, and also have a reduced capacity to 'unglue' these thoughts and fears once these stimuli are locked in," according to PhD student and research team member Christen Elks. The group is currently conducting further research to corroborate and extend these findings and have designed a set of computer tasks to examine facilitation and inhibition mechanisms among OCD sufferers, anxious people who do not have OCD, and people without anxiety or OCD. The group is inviting individuals who have (a) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, (b) anxiety but not OCD, or (c) have neither OCD nor anxiety, to volunteer to participate in the study. Participants must be between the ages of 18 to 65 and be able to speak and read English. Partners or friends of OCD sufferers are especially invited to participate as a non-OCD control sample. People interested in participating in the study should contact Christen Elks (mobile 0414 606 420 or cae27@ uow.edu.au) for more information. BG Institute builds on collaborative strength The University of Wollongong in August launched a new research institute that will look into different areas of educational research. The Interdisciplinary Educational Research Institute (IERI) is a UOW Research Strength that involves researchers from education, psychology, health sciences, arts and medicine. It has 30 members (either full-time research or academic staff) who have been awarded over $4.5 million in competitive grants and contract funding from 2007 to 2009, and 90 post-graduate research students. The launch of the Institute is recognition that their work has become one of UOW's top performing strengths based on research income, higher-degree research student completions, and publications. The Institute comprises four intersecting themes, with a proven track record of collaboration among researchers from different disciplines. The themes are: • Learning, Design, and Technologies • Physical Activity and Nutrition • Language and Literacy • Social Inclusion Launching IERI, Senior Deputy Vice- Chancellor Professor John Patterson said the institute would help UOW's drive towards research excellence. "The beauty of this is it's about excellence in a team environment and this will be the University's future," he said. Faculty of Education Dean Professor Paul Chandler said IERI was the first research initiative of its kind in Australia. "We expect it to be leading international player in multi-disciplinary educational research," he said. "It is great to have such high performing collegial groups of researchers working together to address major educational related issues." IERI director Associate Professor Tony Okely said he wanted to make sure IERI's research is making a difference to educational outcomes. "Our vision is that we want to be known as a world- class educational research institute," he said. He also announced that IERI's mission was "to improve education outcomes for all learners, especially young people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds". Current research projects include: • an examination of the processes of knowledge creation by young adults at university who have grown up in the digital age; • a longitudinal study of 800 teenagers in Wollongong and metropolitan Sydney that aims to determine the impact of different factors on the psychological, physical and academic/employment success of young people as they leave school and enter adulthood; • a study with researchers at the University of South Australia examining the development and implementation of the new K-10 Australian curriculum for English, and the role social networks play in its development, interpretation and implementation; • the development of an online healthy lifestyle program for parents of overweight or at risk of overweight children to tackle the problem of Australia's rising level of obesity among pre-school children. It consists of five modules -- introduction, meals, snacks and drinks, physical activity and screen time. KM Associate Professor Stephen Blanksby Professor Paul Chandler FOCUS ON RESEARCH