The M.C. Ainsworth Research Fellowship in Epigenetics


The M.C. Ainsworth Research Fellowship in Epigenetics
A powerful new addition to SRI’s research program

Dr Murray Cairns, awarded the M.C. Ainsworth Research Fellowship in Epigenetics.

Epigenetics is an emergent field of research arising from the last decade’s flood of information about genes. It focuses on the chemical ‘switches’ which turn genes on and off, and how these switches may be affected by their molecular environment and factors such as nutrition or
stressful experience.

The view of schizophrenia as a genetic predisposition triggered by environmental effects is still widely held, but has now broadened to encompass proteomics (the study of how genes produce the proteins which may alter organic functions) and epigenetics (the study of factors which
may alter genetic expression and change the amount of proteins produced).

To establish a focus in this emerging field, we are extremely grateful for the generosity of Mrs Margarete Ainsworth, one of SRI’s loyal sponsors who has extended her financial commitment to create SRI’s first ever targeted postdoctoral fellowship. Located at the University of Newcastle, Dr Murray Cairns will take up the M.C. Ainsworth Research Fellowship in Epigenetics, a four year commitment, which adds a vital new force to the Institute’s ongoing research effort.

Profile of SRI Scientists….


Profile of an Institute scientist

Dr Carmel Loughland, Senior Research Fellow, Manager of Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank.

I have worked for SRI for 10 years, primarily in the development of large scale schizophrenia
research infrastructure resources such as the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank (ASRB), the Schizophrenia Research Register (NSRR) and the Hunter DNA Bank. I currently manage all three resources but also oversee a program of research at the Centre for Mental Health Studies, University of Newcastle, where I have an Eye Movement Laboratory and conduct research investigating social cognition and face processing deficits in people with schizophrenia.

What does SRI mean to you?

The strength in numbers gained by all the researchers and bright minds focused on a single
purpose – to cure schizophrenia. It is both awesome and humbling to be a part of that focus.

What got you interested in researching schizophrenia?

Before SRI, I worked for a few years in womens health and ran programs providing support for women with schizophrenia who had recently become mothers. I had little experience working with people with mental illness at that time and I was struck by the enormous difficulties many of these women experienced, even with doing simple things in life like interacting meaningfully with their baby. This work kicked off my interest in schizophrenia, and face processing research, in particular.

What is the most difficult thing about your work?

Currently, my most challenging role is overseeing the establishment of the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank (ASRB) and rolling it out across six Australian sites (Sydney, Newcastle, Orange, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth) to develop a national resource that can be accessed by Australian researchers investigating the genetic factors underlying schizophrenia. The ASRB will collect and cross-reference clinical, neuropsychological, MRI brain scan and genetic data in 2,000 people with schizophrenia and 2,000 healthy controls.

If you were not a scientist, what would you be doing?

This is very difficult to answer as I am doing exactly what I love to do – working with people and conducting research in schizophrenia. However, if for some reason I could no longer be a researcher then I would probably escape the city and make a tree change. I grew up in the country and still have a passion for living on the land and growing my own food.

What do you do when not researching?
My partner Ian and I have been renovating our old 1930’s home for more than five years. It
is a labour of love and we have managed to do much of it ourselves – mostly on weekends.

Spark of Genius Raises $250,000


‘Spark of Genius’ Raises $250,000 for Schizophrenia Research

“That was the best event I’ve ever been to!” Andrew Denton

The front cover of the 90-page ‘Spark of Genius’ program featured the 42 ‘Genii’, each of whom hosted a table of 10 at the gala dinner in Sydney’s Town Hall.

It is difficult to imagine that a more eclectic assembly of talent has ever gathered together in Sydney.

At 7pm on Friday 24 March, 42 remarkable individuals and over 50 of Australia’s leading corporations joined together with the Governor of NSW and 600 guests at Sydney Town Hall to focus on the importance of research into schizophrenia.

With Macquarie Bank Foundation as principal partner, the event was staged as a celebration of the creativity and achievements of the human mind – in aid of those whose abilities in such areas are diminished by mental illness.

MC Adam Spencer gets the show on the road.

St. George Bank provided an electronic bidding system for auction items donated by the 42 ‘genii’ – many of whom are represented by ICMI Speakers and Entertainers. Major partner smart Australia donated a brand new ‘smart forfour’ car for which guests competed by buying keys. Special thanks also to InterContinental Sydney for demonstrating their world class hospitality
to our Sparks of Genius.

With such tremendous support, ‘Spark of Genius’ is now set to become a regular fixture
on Sydney’s social calendar.

Photo’s from the event can be viewed on-line. Please click here

Images by Matthew Duchesne of Milk & Honey Photography (02) 9555 7966.