News and Events in Physiology



The 2017 AW Campbell awardee is Dr Susanna Park
Dr Suzzanna Park Congratulations to Dr Susanna Park, who won the A.W. Campbell Award from the Australian Neuroscience Society in early 2018.
Susanna’s research focuses on the development of neurophysiological and functional assessment measures of nerve and cognitive function, across a spectrum of toxic, inflammatory and inherited neurological disorders.
The A.W. Campbell Award commemorates the eminent Australian Neurologist whose "Histological studies on the localisation of cerebral function" in 1905 founded cerebral cytoarchitectonics. It is awarded for the best contribution by a member of the Society during their first five postdoctoral years.


Recognising Westmead’s academic leadership
Westmead Education and Conference Centre (WECC) Professor David Cook has been recognised by the University for his contributions to Westmead after three years as Academic Director.

David has helped expand the University’s presence in the region and highlighted possibilities for future initiatives through collaboration with a range of faculties and precinct partners.

During his time as Academic Director, David led key initiatives including the development of the Westmead education hub. He also enhanced new academic infrastructure such as the Westmead Education and Conference Centre (WECC) and the Central Acute Services building. In addition, his activities with colleagues from the faculties of Science, Architecture and Engineering and Information Technologies have been commended.

David’s work, and in particular his networking with the precinct’s stakeholders, has provided the Westmead initiative with the impetus to progress to its next stage - growing student numbers and helping solve some of our health system’s pressing issues.

More specifically, he has led the creation of an entirely new Applied Medical Science major, taught only at Westmead; developed a Westmead Science honours program; expanded support for the Talented Students Program/Dalyell; created several new, Westmead-only, units of study in Design and Planning; expanded opportunities for engineering students including a Westmead Industry Placement Program; overseen the development of innovative new facilities including the state of the art Westmead Education & Conference Centre level 1; and recruited a team of excellent academics to deliver these new opportunities, while contributing to ongoing collaborations at the precinct.

David will continue in his various other activities at the University, including his role as Professor of Cellular Physiology.

Professor Chris Peck, who since 2014 has served as the Vice-Chancellor’s representative at Westmead, has recently stepped aside from the dentistry dean’s role. He is now committed to a full-time role as the Director of the Westmead Initiative.

“It’s important to note David Cook’s remarkable accomplishments of reaching out to Westmead partners and developing innovative education and research activities. This work will provide the foundation for further innovative education and research programs that will result in real benefits to the communities which we serve.”

Professor Chris Peck These initiatives provide the basis for the initial phase of the University’s next phase for strategic growth through its Western Sydney campus strategy.


Physiology and Anatomy world rankings are high for the second year in a row
The recently released QS rankings again ranked the field "Anatomy and Physiology" at the University of Sydney,10th in the world, as was the case last year. These rankings are external and have their quirks, but the methodology published on the QS website indicates that the QS group obtain information from students and employers, as well as from academics and also include research citations in their assessment. So the ranking seems to relate to both teaching and research.
This is a remarkable achievement. Congratulations to all staff and students.


HPV test developed by Brian Morris and Brian Nightingale to replace regular pap smears
In the 1980s, Brian Morris, in the Department of Physiology, University of Sydney, and Brian Nightingale developed and Patented the first use of the Nobel Prize-winning polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology for viral detection – specifically for cancer-causing types of the human papillomavirus. Now, 30 years later, the HPV technology has been rolled out to replace the pap smear in Australia, one of the first countries to do so. From the 1st Dec 2017 women will be sampled for a HPV test rather than have a pap smear when they go to their doctor. With time, self-sampling will become available, so increasing coverage to women currently under-screened. The HPV test is more accurate, can detect the virus responsible for virtually all cervical cancers earlier, and, being a DNA test, lends itself to self-sampling by women in the privacy of their home, with the sample then being sent to a testing laboratory. Brian continues to assist industry to bring this about. Prof Emrt Morris was interviewed on 30 Nov by Kate Creedon for the 6 pm Channel 9 evening news in Sydney (at 6.19 pm), Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin), and Southern Cross and NBN regional channels. Footage of the news item can be viewed at


Prof Phil Poronnik has been award a Payne-Scott Professorial Distinction
Dr Phil Poronnik Phil Poronnik has been award an inaugural Payne-Scott Professorial Distinction, which recognises outstanding leaders in research and education. It acknowledges our true leaders in research and education – those whose work is not only recognised nationally and internationally, but who at the same time are helping to develop the careers of others, contributing to educational reform and innovation, and playing a major role in community engagement and public debate. This distinction has been named for Ruby Payne-Scott, just the third woman to graduate in physics from the University and who made a fundamental contribution to the development of radio astronomy nationally and internationally.


NHMRC of an RD Wright Career Development Biomedical Fellowship
Dr Susanna Park Dr Susanna Park has been awarded the NHMRC of an RD Wright Career Development Biomedical Fellowship to her for "Assessment strategies, Treatments and Risk Factors in Neuropathy and Neuromuscular disease" for the period 2018 to 2021.


Promotions to Senior Lecturer
Congratulations to Sharon Herkes and Daniel Johnstone on their well deserved promotions to Senior Lecturer - notified today by the promotions unit and effective from January 1, 2018.


Dario Protti on the award of the HL and PO Bishop Fellowship in Neuroscience 2017–2019.
His award will be officially announced at the forthcoming Bosch Institute ASM on July 20. Dr Protti's project is: Retinitis pigmentosa: Understanding the role of the cannabinoid system Summary: Retinitis Pigmentosa is one of the most common causes of blindness. Recently it was shown that cannabinoids, the active compounds of marijuana, are effective in preventing retinal degeneration in an animal model of Retinitis pigmentosa. The mechanisms by which cannabinoids produce this effect, however, are still largely unknown. We recently found that natural occurring cannabinoids in the retina act on the canonical signalling pathway reducing visual transmission but they also have a paradoxical effect enhancing neuronal excitability. We postulated that this paradoxical effect is mediated by a membrane channel, called TRPV1, sensitive to cannabinoids and other stimuli. In this project we will investigate how cannabinoids and TRPV1 channels modify retinal ganglion cell excitability using optogenetic stimulation. This state-of-the-art technique allows direct neuronal stimulation with highly precise spatial and temporal light patterns, thus enabling stimulation of different neuronal compartments whilst circumventing the technical problems related to electrical stimulation imposed by the intricate morphology of neurones. These results will contribute to our understanding of how cannabinoid-like drugs developed for Retinitis pigmentosa affect the visual system.


Ninety five not out - Professor Emeritus William (Liam) Burke
On Friday April 21 2017, an extraordinary group - all colleagues, family or friends of Liam Burke - gathered in the Courtyard of the Anderson Stuart Building to celebrate his 95th birthday. They came from Queensland (David Vaney), from Canberra (Lauren Marotte, Bill Levick, Eva Elekessy, Bob Tupper), from Melbourne (Sandra Rees, Vidayasagar), from all over the University campus, from retirement. We all wished to celebrate with Liam, and to acknowledge his scholarship, his commitment to science and his humanity. It was a special occasion in the history of the Department of Physiology. Liam Burke's 95th Gallery photos by Clive Jeffery


Prof Phil Poronnik appointed Chair of the National Committee for Biomedical Sciences.
Congratulations to Professor Philip Poronnik who has been appointed as Chair of the National Committee for Biomedical Sciences of the Australian Academy of Science for the next three years. The National Committee for Biomedical Sciences (NCBMS) aims to foster the biomedical sciences in Australia, link the Academy to Australian biomedical scientists and relevant scientific societies, and serve as a link between Australian and overseas scientists, primarily through the unions of the International Council for Science. The NCBMS provides input into relevant submissions or responses from the Academy, and meets with grant funding agencies to discuss items of interest to the biomedical sciences community. The committee also supports the work of the Biosciences Education Australia Network (BEAN).


Dr Sharon Herkes joins Peer Observation and Review of Teaching Program (PORT) team.
The PORT program emerged from an Office of Learning and Teaching National Teaching Fellowship awarded to A/Prof Manju Sharma in 2014. The program encourages collaboration and best practice in learning and teaching by formalizing and extending the mentoring of teaching staff (particularly new academics). Staff participating reflect on their teaching practices by observing teachers in action and by being observed and reviewed in a positive and encouraging environment. Dr Sharon Herkes of Physiology/SoMS has joined the PORT team, with other members including Prof Adam Bridgeman from the Faculty of Science, Dr Hilary Lloyd from Pharmacology/SoMS and Dr Graham Hendry from Educational Innovation. Their role as reviewers is to observe participants, provide guidance and feedback. For more information on the PORT program join the eCommunity by signing onto blackboard and from the top banner select eCommunity => eCommunity self-enrolment => Peer Review of Teaching. The PORT program aligns with University Strategic Plans, in particular, taking a scholarly approach to teaching and learning. The recent Week 4 Educational Observathon, run through the Education Innovation team, was a key step in this direction. Dr Sharon Herkes opened her lectures for observation as did 63 others from across the university.


Congratulations to honours student Adelina Romano
Adelina Romano has been awarded a Travelling Fellowship by the Company of Biologists. Adelina is a member of the Blood Cell Development Lab supervised by Dr Stuart Fraser, investigating the origin and regulation of a newly identified macrophage population found in the mouse yolk sac. As an extension of her research, she will be visiting the laboratory of Professor Daisuke Sugiyama at Kyushu University, Japan. We wish her success in this collaborative project.


Faculty of Medicine Awards
At the recent Faculty of Medicine dinner, Dr Daniel Johnstone was officially congratulated for receiving a Young Tall Poppy Award from the Australian Institute of Policy and Science and for his nomination as President-Elect of the Australian Society for Medical Research. Under International Awards, it was noted that Professor John Hearn had been awarded a prestigious degree - an Honorary Doctorate of Science by University College Dublin. Senior Technical Officer Adel Mitry received a richly deserved award for "Exceptional performance by professional staff". We join the Faculty in congratulating Dr Daniel Johnstone, Professor John Hearn and Mr Adel Mitry


Educational Innovation Grants for Physiology

Prof Philip Poronnik awarded a Large Educational Innovation Grant

Philip Poronnik together with grant partners Margot Day and Tina Hinton were awarded $25,000 for the project: "Creative coding tools for immersive engagement and learning of statistical analysis" Statistical analysis and thinking forms the basis of all scientific endeavour, yet in the biosciences we continue to battle with students whose grasp of statistics is less than optimal for dealing with the kinds of data that we are generating in our practical classes and research activites. This project aims to use a creative coding framework to develop a suite of statistical tools to allow a new level of creativity and hence student engagement in the learning of statistics and the analysis and representation of data. This project is in collaboration with Dr Oliver Bown, a world expert in coding and multimedia in Design UNSW.

Dr Dario Protti awarded Small Educational Innovation Grant

Dario Protti together with grant partners Rebecca Mason, Bill Phillips and Tina Hinton who were awarded a $9,975 for the project “Deeper learning engagement through hands-on experience with equipment assembly and collection of electrophysiological data.” The project aims to develop a new set of practical classes for Advanced Neuroscience students (NEUR3906) designed to enhance their hands-on experience and assembly of do-it-yourself equipment for electrophysiological recordings. Students will learn about alternative ways of collecting data from electrophysiological experiments using off-the-shelf electronics. The new practical classes will allow students to gain an understanding of the process and constraints involved in electrophysiological experiments and data acquisition.


Sydney Medical School Awards
Congratulations to the intermediate Physiology team: Dane King, Sharon Herkes, Isabel Arnaiz, Clare Gordon-Thomson and Nick Randall (now at MEU), on receiving a Sydney Medical School Award for Support of the Student Experience for "Introducing a blended learning program for practical classes". The award includes $5000 to be spent on consumables or equipment. The award will be announced by the Dean at the Sydney Medical School Faculty meeting on December 3rd. An enormous amount of effort, teamwork and ideas has been put in by the awardees to build up experience with the LabTutor and associated programs for prac classes. The outcomes have been very positive and able to be translated to other student learning experiences. A richly deserved award!


Congratulations to Dr Dan Johnstone
Dr Dan Johnstone received a prestigious Young Tall Poppy Science Award at a ceremony held at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science in Sydney on the 22nd October. The Young Tall Poppy program, run by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS), aims to promote awareness and recognition of Australia’s outstanding intellectual achievers and to encourage younger generations to follow in their footsteps through undertaking further study and careers in the sciences. Applicants are assessed on both “excellence in research achievement in the sciences” and “excellence and passion in communication and community engagement to promote understanding and engagement in science”. Dan, as many may know, has served on the ASMR Council for some time. Dan was nominated for the award by A/Prof Kay Double from the Discipline of Biomedical Sciences.


Honours Boards for Physiology Prize-winners
A function was held on 23 July 2015 in the Common Room of the Anderson Stuary building, for the unveiling of Honours Boards (see picture below), that list the names of former winners of the major undergraduate Physiology prizes: the Colin Dunlop Prize, Frank Cotton Prize, PO Bishop Medal and the Claude Bernard Prize. The function was attended by approximately 40 former winners of these prizes, and members of their families. The Honours Boards will be hung in the Anderson Stuart Common Room. The Honours Boards project was initiated by the Heritage Committee of the Anderson Stuart building, and was funded by the Discipline of Physiology. Photographs of people attending the unveiling function were taken by Clive Jeffery, and can be seen here.


University to launch Brain and Mind Centre
The BMRI has received the wonderful accolade of being chosen by the University Executive to be a Strategic Priority Area for Collaboration (SPARC) in the future strategic planning of the University. The BMRI is about to transition to become the hub of a Brain and Mind Centre of the University. The Brain and Mind Centre will bring together all of the University’s various disciplines in health and medical research, science, psychology, engineering, and information technology, and also its expertise in ethics, law, philosophy, economics, education, workplace structure and social organisation. Now, as the Brain and Mind Centre, it will significantly expand the breadth and depth of our multidisciplinary research to set new standards in brain and mind sciences both in Australia and internationally.

For more information and the Brain & Mind Research Institute history can be found here.


Professor John Hearn conferred a Doctor of Science (Honoris causa)
In July, 2015, Professor John Hearn was conferred Doctor of Science (Honoris causa) by University College, Dublin, on 16 June 2015. The citation noted his research and teaching in fertility, stem cell science, international policy in regenerative medicine, and in higher education reform. Also cited was his leadership in international universities, agencies and networks. The occasion was also a personal celebration of the 50th anniversary of the meeting of John and his now wife, Margaret, when undergraduates sharing a lab at UCD.

Hearn in Dublin Photo shows UCD Vice Chancellor Andrew Deeks, Professor John Hearn, Professor Thomas Bolger – head of the school of biological and environmental sciences, UCD.


Movember Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia Grant
An International, multidisciplinary team has been awarded $3.25M over 3 years from the Movember Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA). Led by A/Prof Lisa Butler in Adelaide and including Dr Andrew Hoy, the project will address one of the most urgent needs in prostate cancer management – the ability to distinguish, at the time of diagnosis, between patients with significant life-threatening cancer, and those with organ-confined cancer that may not need to be treated at all. The project will focus on lipids in prostate tumours as a completely new way of predicting the cancer’s future behaviour. The aim is to identify a specific signature of lipids that can be readily detected in the tumour tissue, using state-of-the-art imaging, to help determine which tumours are more likely to spread aggressively through the body.

Dr Hoy will be leading the investigation into the link between obesity and prostate cancer. Currently, a link exists between obesity and the incidence of prostate cancer. Additionally, obesity influences lipid metabolism in prostate cancer. This project will also help to better understand the role of altered lipid metabolism and prostate cancer biology and disease progression, the role of exogenous fatty acids (dietary and from fat stores), and therefore the potential modifying role of obesity in disease and treatment.

  Movember Foundation
  Movember Revolutionary Team Chief Investigators L to R: Dr Andrew Hoy, Prof Gary Wittert, A/Prof Lisa Butler, Prof Andrew Scott, Prof Wayne Tilley, Prof Johannes Swinnen

Associate Professor Lisa Butler (Team Leader) from the Uni of Adelaide’s Prostate Cancer Research Group, SAHMRI – Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health

Professor Wayne Tilley from the Uni of Adelaide’s Adelaide Prostate Cancer Research Centre, Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories, Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health

Professor Gary Wittert, University of Adelaide, Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health

Professor Andrew Scott, The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Melbourne

Dr Andrew Hoy, the University of Sydney

Professor Johannes Swinnen, the University of Leuven, Belgium

Arthur V. Everitt, 1924–2014
Arthur Everitt passed away on 30 Dec 2014 at age 90. After his retirement in 1983 Arthur maintained a close association with Physiology. He graduated BSc First Class Honours and University Medal in 1953 and was made a Teaching Fellow, then temporary Lecturer in 1955, Lecturer in 1960 and Associate Professor from 1972. In 2008 he received the Distinguished Achievement award from the American Aging Association.


Brian Morris awarded Irvine Page - Alva Bradley Lifetime Achievement Award
Congratulations to Professor Emeritus Brian Morris who received the prestigious Irvine Page-Alva Bradley Lifetime Achievement Award for 2014 at the American Heart Association Council for High Blood Pressure Research annual scientific meeting in San Francisco held from 8-12 September. The Council noted that this important honour is bestowed only on outstanding cardiovascular investigators and leaders. The accompanying photo shows the President of the Council (left) presenting the plaque to Professor Emeritus Morris (right) following his award Lecture at the conference.

  Brian Morris

Call for Circumcision Gets a Boost
In an important new study published in advance in Mayo Clinic Proceedings on April 2, Professor Emeritus Brian Morris and his colleagues showed that the benefits of infant male circumcision to health exceed the risks by over 100 to 1. The study showed that over their lifetime half of uncircumcised males contract an adverse medical condition caused by their foreskin. Further analyses showed an alarming six percentage points fall in circumcision prevalence in the United States from a high of 83% in the 1960s. Whereas prevalence is currently 91% in whites, it is 76% in blacks and only 44% in Hispanics. The overall fall was mostly due to the rise in the Hispanic population and the lack of Medicaid coverage for circumcision in public hospitals in 18 states. The findings add considerable weight to the latest American Academy of Pediatrics policy that supports education and access for infant male circumcision as a desirable public health policy. The Editor reported that the article attracted unprecedented news media coverage internationally, including the New York Times and American TV broadcasters NBC and CBS. For an overview see the accompanying youtube