Molecular microbiologist wins Georgina Sweet award

First published 12 October 2020

A leading QUT molecular microbiologist has been recognised by the Georgina Sweet Awards in support of gender equality in sciences, as announced today by the University of Melbourne.

The awards aim to promote female scientists across Australia who demonstrate excellence in Quantitative Biomedical Science.

QUT’s Associate Professor Makrina Totsika received the $25,000 prize in honour of her strong track record in research and demonstrating the importance of inclusion and diversity.

Watch her speech in acceptance of the Georgina Sweet Award via Dropbox.

The Program Leader for Infection Control at QUT’s Centre for Immunology and Infection Control is at the forefront of research to develop new therapies to beat multi-drug resistant bacteria and passionate promoter for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) studies. 

“My research helps develop novel solutions for the global issue of antimicrobial resistance,” she said.

“My vision is to pioneer the research and development of new types of antimicrobials that can refill our anti-infectives armamentarium with drugs that better control common infections, while sparing precious antibiotics for the critically ill.

“Drugs that inhibit bacterial virulence factors, which are a pathogen’s molecular weapons, are promising to deliver just that.”

The selection committee chose Associate Professor Totsika as the winner of the Georgina Sweet Award for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science, Excellence in Inclusivity based on her “compelling research vision, and the evidence you provided for strong mentoring support”.

Associate Professor Makrina Totsika receiving a QUT 2018 award for excellence from Vice Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil.

Associate Professor Totsika also hosts some of Queensland’s keenest high-school students for a weeklong immersion into the world of microbes through a research internship offered as part of QUT’s Young Accelerators program.

As a role model, Assoc Prof Totsika said she enjoyed breaking long-held stereotypes about so-called science gatekeepers.

“As a Greek-born female scientist working throughout my career in western English-speaking countries, there is nothing I enjoy more than exciting young and young-at-heart people about scientific research and discovery,” she said.

“I am conscious my position allows me to serve as a role model to the next generation of scientists and I take this responsibility with ethos and respect.”

Leaving Greece after high school to study genetics, Assoc Prof Totsika earned a First-Class BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences (Genetics), an MSc by Research (Distinction) and a PhD in Bacterial Genetics from the University of Edinburgh.

Assoc Prof Totsika was named Queensland’s 2016 Young Tall Poppy of the Year and her work has been recognised by the Australian Society for Medical Research 2016 Queensland Senior Researcher Award and the Australian Society for Microbiology 2018 Frank Fenner Award.

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