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Campus News : December 2010
www.uow.edu.au University of Wollongong Campus News December 2010 15 Have you ever wondered why COLORBOND® steel keeps looking good for years when other paints and plastics left out in the harsh Australian sun fade away so quickly? The secret is in the paint formulation which has been developed for Australian conditions. Over the past seven years a research team led by Dr Phil Barker from BlueScope Steel Research at Port Kembla and Associate Professor Stephen Blanksby from the University of Wollongong's School of Chemistry have been developing new understanding of the chemical processes which underpin the durability of the paints employed in BlueScope Steel's COLORBOND®steel range of products. Working with a team of two honours students and now two PhD students, the team has developed new technologies based on state-of-the-art mass spectrometry (a technique for identifying molecules by their individual masses) to monitor chemical processes within the paint at a molecular level. "It is almost like we can see inside the paint and watch what the molecules are doing -- it's a very exciting time," Professor Blanksby said. The work undertaken by Dr Barker and Professor Blanksby has attracted national attention and the Wollongong research team has been invited to join the Centre of Excellence in Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology. This centre was established in 2005 by a collection of eminent Australian scientists interested in the chemistry of free radicals. Its funding has been recently renewed by the Australian Research Council Bond with BlueScope paints bright future which will provide almost $10 million over the next four years to fund the centre's critical research into the role of free radicals in health and disease, surfaces and materials and even climate change mitigation. Dr Barker and Professor Blanksby are delighted with the establishment of the Wollongong "node" of the Centre of Excellence in Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology, which was officially opened on 25 November. "It's a great outcome for us at BlueScope and is a result of our strong collaboration (with UOW) over the years," Dr Barker said. "We have already made great advances in the understanding of chemical factors important to the durability of our pre-painted products. The work we do with Professor Blanksby is enabling us to design new highly-specialised, anti-oxidant molecules to soak up harmful free radicals which can form in the paint. The outcomes will help make COLORBOND® steel products even more durable in the future." "In real terms it means significant extra funding to help our research, not only in our great collaboration with BlueScope, but also our work on atmospheric free radical chemistry and even cataract research," Professor Blanksby said. "There's no doubt that the strength of the collaboration with Dr Barker where we have applied fundamental chemistry to a very visible real-world application, in COLORBOND® steel, has attracted the attention of the other scientists within the centre and at least partially led to the invitation to join." BG The latest National Health and Medical Research Council grants demonstrate the University of Wollongong's growing strength in health-related fields. Mental Health and Ageing Minister Mark Butler made the Project Grants announcement in November, with UOW receiving $2.26 million for five grants -- an increase of more than $750,000 in funding compared to last year. "It's obvious that our developments such as the Graduate School of Medicine and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute are now starting to take effect," Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper said. UOW's grants went to: • Professor Nicholas Dixon, Professor Gottfried Otting and Associate Professor Aaron Oakley - $570,048 over three years for a project called: Targeting lagging strand DNA replication in model and pathogenic bacteria • Dr Nadia Solowij, Professor Rodney Croft, Dr Juanita Todd, Dr Francesca Fernandez, Emeritus Professor Patricia Michie, Professor Philip McGuire and Professor Robin Murray - $499,006 over three years for: Vulnerability markers in the association between cannabis and schizophrenia • Professor Brett Garner and Dr Tim Karl - $440,312 over three years for: Defining the function of apolipoprotein-D in Alzheimer's disease • Dr Justin Yerbury and Dr Leila Luheshi - $390,812 over three years for: Investigating the propagation of protein aggregation in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis • Dr Chao Deng - $359,182 over three years - for: Understanding the mechanisms of functionally selective drugs: implication for new generation antipsychotic drugs UOW researchers involved in collaborative grants: • Dr Todd Mitchell (Health and Behavioural Sciences) - Targeting ceramide metabolism to improve lipid-induced insulin resistance (led by Dr Carsten Schmitz-Peiffer from the Garvan Institute) • Dr Todd Mitchell - Ancient proteins and disease (led by Professor Roger Truscott, University of Sydney) • Professor Simon Eckermann (Sydney Business School and Centre for Health Services Development) - A double blind randomised controlled multi-site study of sentraline compared with placebo for refractory breathlessness (led by Professor David Currow, Flinders University). BG Funding heading in healthy direction Associate Professor Stephen Blanksby and BlueScope Steel's Dr Phil Barker at one of the company's field testing sites for COLORBOND® coated steel.