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Pharmacy student wins John A Lamberton Research Scholarship


12 June 2012

Scholarship winner Vivian Wan Yu Liao
Scholarship winner Vivian Wan Yu Liao

Vivian Wan Yu Liao, a postgraduate student in the Faculty of Pharmacy, has been awarded a John A Lamberton Research Scholarship. Established in 2004, these scholarships provide financial support for postgraduate scholars of exceptional ability who are working toward higher degrees at the University of Sydney in areas emanating from and inspired by the work of Dr John A Lamberton or in the area of science aimed at chemical understanding of brain function and malfunction.

The scholarships are for the purpose of fostering research and aim to recognise and encourage excellence. Dr John A Lamberton's main research interests were in the chemistry of many classes of natural products, especially alkaloids leading to greater understanding of the relationships between chemical structure and biological activity.

Ms Liao said: "I am very grateful for this scholarship because it helps me financially but more importantly, I am proud that my PhD project has been recognised by others to have great potential."

Vivian initially completed a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) with majors in chemistry and pharmacology then undertook Honours in pharmacology. Her Honours project was focused on anti-cancer drug design. She then took a year off to work as a research assistant to continue work on her Honours project. The following year, the Faculty of Pharmacy offered her a scholarship to start her PhD. At the beginning of 2012, Vivian was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship as well.

"I have chosen to do postgraduate research because I want to learn more about drug design, and I like the freedom ofdesigning and carrying out experiments independently," said Vivian.

Vivian's project aims to provide a greater understanding of the relationship between the chemical structure and anti-cancer activity of the natural product, curcumin and its derivatives. Curcumin is a bright yellow/orange solid which is responsible for the colour of the Indian spice turmeric (Curcuma longa), a member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.

Curcuma longa
Curcuma longa

The focus of this project is on the design and synthesis of new libraries of curcumin derivatives based on the structure-activity relationships of known curcumin analogues. The aim is to improve the physicochemical stability and anti-cancer properties of curcumin while retaining its low toxicity profile.

Ms Liao said: "My hope for this project is that it will contribute to our existing knowledge of the relationship between naturalproduct, itsanalogues and its biological activities."

Vivian's work is multi-disciplinary and she is part of a multi-disciplinary research team from the Faculties of Pharmacy, Medicine and Science.

Curcumin
Curcumin


Contact: Kate Sanday

Phone: 02 9351 2311

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