The University of Sydney
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Newsletter Issue #17 - August 2012





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Sir Zelman Cowen

It was with deep regret that we heard the news of the passing of Sir Zelman Cowen on 8 December, 2011.

Sir Zelman had been Patron of the Fund since 1997 having served as a Trustee prior to that time. When the Fund was established in 1978, by the late John Hammond, it was named in honour of Sir Zelman, who had been appointed Governor General in the previous year. The work of the Fund is based on the vision of these two men.

Since its establishment, Sir Zelman had taken an active interest in the work of the Fund and supported the Fund with warmth and generosity ensuring its continuation and growth after the passing of its founder. That the work of the Fund will continue beyond the passing of these two founders, is a tribute to their vision. Sir Zelman’s contribution will be greatly missed.

To read more about Sir Zelman’s life, work and some of the many tributes made to him on the occasion of his 90th Birthday visit our website or contact the Fund on 9351 6558 to have copies mailed to you.

To honour the contribution of Sir Zelman to the work of the Fund, the Trustees have established a Sir Zelman Cowen Memorial Scholarship to support a doctoral student working in a field appropriate to the aims of the Fund.

If you or your organisation would be interested in supporting this very special project with a targeted gift or sponsorship, please contact the Fund on 9351 6558 or



A dinner, in November 2011, hosted by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) in conjunction with the University of Sydney-Israel Research Partnership Forum: Shared Challenges, Future Solutions, was the occasion for announcement of the award of the SIR ZELMAN COWEN UNIVERSITIES FUND Blue Sky Research Grant.

The award was initiated by the Fund to support the development of novel scientific ideas and to promote cooperative work between the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Applications were open to scientists from both Universities and stated a preference for a joint project between scientists of both Universities.
The quality and number of applications received for the Grant resulted in the Trustees’ decision to make two awards, each of $100,000 in the new scheme.

The grants were awarded to:

  • Prof John Rasko, University of Sydney & RPA Hospital, Dr Janet Macpherson (RPAH) and Prof Tony Weiss (USYD) for a collaboration with Prof Dan Gazit, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


  • Prof Yehudit Bergman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for a collaboration with Prof Jacob George, University of Sydney.
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Prof John Rasko

The project headed by Prof Rasko, Optimising stem cell growth in the laboratory for use in regenerative medicine, builds on earlier work. Summarising the project, Prof Rasko said, “We have recently shown that blood-forming cells respond favourably to being grown on an elastic bed or “nano-mattress”. In this project we will test the potential of our “nano-mattress” to enhance the ability of other human cells found in the bone marrow to make bone and connective tissue, such as tendons and cartilage, for applications in diverse diseases including those affecting the heart, joints, bones, and immune systems.”

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Prof Yehudit Bergman

Prof Bergman’s project, Identifying novel factors for improving liver regeneration in the elderly will also build on earlier work. Describing her work, Prof Bergman has said, “Working in mice models of human cancers, we have shown that pregnancy induces the rapid growth of liver cells, accelerating liver regeneration and reducing mortality. In this project, we will identify the factor(s) generated during pregnancy which induce this regeneration. We will explore their ability to reduce mortality and the mechanisms of their action on liver cells. Our aim is to identify therapeutic options for humans requiring resection of liver tumours, whether primary or secondary.”

Speaking at the dinner, Managing Trustee of the Fund, Prof Jonathan Stone said, “The Blue-Sky Grant scheme was established, to provide seed funding for research in emerging areas, such as organ/tissue regeneration, where the investigators would use the funds to gain sufficient momentum to be competitive in larger funding systems. The Trustees hope to provide such an opportunity for quite novel ideas to gain traction, and reach success more quickly than they otherwise would. We are also confident that this project is entirely in keeping with the original vision of the Fund’s founder, the late John Hammond, who understood the value of supporting research in the fight to alleviate human suffering. We believe some very exciting outcomes lie ahead, of which John would be proud.”

The initiative is supported by a special donation from the John Hammond Trust.


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Professor Barry Slobedman

The discovery of how a particular virus can persist in a latent state for the life of the human host has won the 2012 Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery in Medical Research.

The recipient is Associate Professor Barry Slobedman, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney and Centre for Virus Research, Westmead Millennium Institute.

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a virus which still escapes all our biological defences. It is a herpes virus which infects most humans. After initial infection, it stays latent in our tissues causing little disease until our immunity is compromised, for example by the HIV virus or in transplant recipients. Then it can grow rapidly to produce a new infectious virus and cause serious and sometimes fatal infections.

Despite the critical importance of latency to HCMV disease, this phase of infection has remained extremely poorly understood. As a virologist, Professor Slobedman has defi ned fundamental mechanisms which enable herpes viruses, particularly HCMV, to persist in a latent state. His discovery will assist the development of therapies to interrupt latency and limit or prevent the devastating consequences of reactivation in immunocompromised individuals. It may lead to development of a live HCMV vaccine. Its potential for clinical applications has led to an international patent sponsored by Sydnovate, the commercialisation arm of the University of Sydney.

Managing Trustee of the Fund and Chairman of the Prize Assessment Committee, Professor Jonathan Stone, presenting the Committee’s recommendations to the Trustees of the Fund said, “In their consideration of this nomination, the Committee noted the strong impact this discovery has already had on the understanding of HCMV infections.”

The Prize, an award of $10,000 and a medal crafted by Melbourne sculptor, Michael Meszaros, will be awarded to Professor Slobedman at a function to be held later in the year.

Schwartz Foundation

The 2012 award of the SZCUF Prize for Discovery in Medical Research is sponsored by The Schwartz Foundation.



Following the success of grants previously awarded to infrastructure projects in the Bosch Institute (USYD), in December 2010 the Fund undertook to support two further Bosch Institute infrastructure projects. In the new projects the Fund provides support of salaries for officers to manage an Animal Behaviour Facility (ABF) and an Oxidative Stress Bioanalytical Facility (OSBF).

Reporting on the first twelve months of operation of the facilities, both Prof Nick Hunt, Professor of Experimental Pathology, reporting on the ABF and Prof Roland Stocker, Head, Centre for Vascular Research reporting on the OSBF indicated high usage for the facilities and the training programs offered by their recently appointed Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Facility Research Officers, Tom Burton (ABF) and Magda Lam (OSBF).



In late 2011, the Fund received advice that it would be the beneficiary of a bequest made through the will of the late Mrs Hermina Rich who passed away in October 2010.

During her lifetime, Mrs Rich had supported the Fund as well as a number of other organisations with a scientifi c research focus. In keeping with these interests, the terms of Mrs Rich’s bequest prescribe that it be used to establish a research scholarship to honour her beloved husband who had suffered an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s Disease before he died and that it be named The Leslie Rich Scholarship.

The bequest of $200,000 will provide a scholarship of $10,000 annually.

The terms of the Scholarship are in the process of being decided. The Trustees hope the inaugural award will be made in 2013. The Fund acknowledges this gift with great appreciation.

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Mrs Ann Macintosh

The office of the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund is located at the University of Sydney, in the historic Anderson Stuart Building, the original home of Australia’s first Medical School and the University of Sydney’s Department of Anatomy.

Mrs Ann Macintosh who died on 1 July 2011, was a figure whose name was synonymous with both that of the building and the Department through her long and multi-faceted association with both.

Mrs Macintosh’s paternal grandfather, Dr Robert Scot Skirving, a Sydney physician and surgeon, studied at the University of Edinburgh with Anderson Stuart for whom the building is named in recognition of his enormous contribution to the establishment and construction of the first Medical School in Australia in 1883. Later, Dr Scot Skirving also taught in the Department of Anatomy with Anderson Stuart. Mrs Macintosh’s personal association with the building and Department began in 1947 when she became a secretary in the Department of Anatomy. She continued in this role for 18 years till her marriage to Professor N.W.G. Macintosh, Challis Professor of Anatomy at the University of Sydney. She later became an Honorary Research Associate in the Department pursuing her own interests in anatomy, physical anthropology and natural history.

Mrs Macintosh was a great benefactor to the University in general, and to the Department in particular. The Fund’s focus on scientific research and its association with both the Department and the University gained Mrs Macintosh’s attention. The Fund was honoured to be the beneficiary of her great generosity over many years during which she contributed in excess of $100,000 to the Fund.

Her very generous annual gifts were greatly valued. Her association with the Fund, the Department and the Anderson Stuart Building will be much missed.


However you wish to support the Fund, you will be making a valuable contribution to the Fund’s work. Though, you may also wish to consider making a more substantial gift over time, or through your will.

Or you may wish to:

  • give a donation in the name of a friend, relative or associate as a special gift
  • share the joy of your special event by requesting a donation to the Fund as a gift to you for your celebration
  • make a donation targeted towards your own area of interest
  • sponsor one of the Fund’s projects

To discuss these and any other forms of contribution to the Fund’s work, or to suggest areas of potential mutual interest which could be explored as focuses for sponsorship, please contact the Fund Office,
Ph: 9351 6558 or Email:


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Prof Igal Galili

Prof Igal Galili, Head, Amos deShalit Science Teaching Center and Science Teaching Department, HU visited Sydney in 2011, supported by the Fund. He worked with Professor Manjula Devi Sharma, Head, Sydney University Physics Education Research Group on a number of projects aimed at improving teacher education for future teachers of science and on developing a new science curriculum with the ultimate aim of attracting more students to pursue a career in science. Some further collaborative activities are planned to ensue from these projects.

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Prof Tony Weiss

Prof Tony Weiss, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology, USYD visited Dr Assaf Zemel, Institute of Dental Sciences, HU to establish a new collaboration with the potential to lead to improved biomaterials and formulations that promote the repair of human tissue. They may also lead to development of more effective skin repair materials including those used in burns repair.

Prof Weiss reported that the opportunity to meet face-to-face with colleagues had been invaluable to both this project and to establishment of future scientific relationships. Benefits which have already flowed from his visit, include a recent grant application in collaboration with Prof Koby Nahmias, Director, Center for Bioengineering HU and participation in successful funding with Prof Dan Gazit, Head, School of Dental Medicine, HU.

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Dr Russell Hobson

Dr Russell Hobson, Honorary Associate, Dept of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, USYD visited Prof Wayne Horowitz, Dept of Archaeology, HU in late 2011 to work on a joint project, “The God of my enemy: Jeremiah, Cyrus and Nebuchanezzar”. This project aims to produce a new publication on an important Persian period text , “The Verse Account of Nabonidus” to improve understanding of the theology of regime change in the early Persian period. The most recent comprehensive edition of this text was published in 1924, so a great deal stands to be gained from an updated edition. Dr Hobson’s visit will be followed by a visit from Prof Horowitz later in 2012 to ready the book for publication.

Reporting on his visit, Dr Hobson noted that the opportunities to consult several important collections, and to visit important archaeological sites around Jerusalem and Israel had been invaluable to his work on this project as had been the opportunity to establish working relationships with colleagues at a number of academic institutions in Jerusalem.



During 2011 five students were involved in the exchange program between HU and USYD. Their diverse backgrounds and goals demonstrated well the ability of the program to cater for all.

On exchange from Sydney were Houston Ash, Katherine Sassoon and Natalie Mylonas. Though all were final year arts students, Houston was majoring in History and English and planning to undertake a JD law degree at USYD in 2012; Katherine was majoring in Hebrew with a focus on a career in translating and interpreting or speech therapy and Natalie was looking forward to following her exchange with an honours year.

Students from Sydney generally take all their courses at HU’s Rothberg International School where all courses are taught in English. They usually stay in the student apartments available close to the Rothberg Campus, both of which are a bus ride away from downtown Jerusalem and the main HU campus. Before the commencement of their semester, all students do an Ulpan – a course to learn/improve their knowledge of Modern Hebrew.

In this group, on all points there was great variation between the students in both their needs and expectations - Houston had no knowledge of Modern Hebrew; Katherine had undertaken the exchange to take Advanced Hebrew, which is unavailable to undergraduates at Sydney and Natalie was somewhere in between.

Regarding where to stay - Natalie was happy to stay in the student accommodation and appreciated its very supportive atmosphere. She enjoyed the help of student mentors and the regular social events, outings and weekend trips they organised allowing her to meet other students on the programme and to see the diversity of the Israeli landscape. Trips included the desert of the Negev and the greenery of Tel-Hai. For Natalie, the focus of her exchange was the studies she was able to undertake. One course, From Jewish Jesus to Christianity has influenced the direction her honours thesis will take and she hopes to return to Jerusalem to do postgraduate studies.

Houston on the other hand, preferred to live away from the Rothberg campus and create his own social encounters and weekend trips. He wrote, “The scholarship funds allowed me to move closer to the centre of Jerusalem, within walking distance of the Old City, the main marketplace, and the Central Bus Station. I explored synagogues and mosques, attended talks and dance performances, and met Israelis and Palestinians, young and old. I also travelled extensively through the rest of Israel and the West Bank, including a memorable hike from Jerusalem to Jericho. Some of these excursions I undertook with various friends and acquaintances I would not have made had I stayed at the student village. I also feel I had many more opportunities to practice speaking Hebrew.” For him the opportunity “to sate a curiosity about Israel” was central to his motivation for being there. He relished the opportunity to “experience the people, great buildings and sounds and smells of the city.” A course he took gave insights into the origins of Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - subjects his previous studies in history had not touched upon. Another looked at the development of Roman law, as the Roman Empire became Christianised, and a third covered aspects of the operation of law in Israel and the Occupied Territories. All of this no doubt, will inform his study of the law in the future.

Katherine, unlike Houston and Natalie, had visited Jerusalem previously as a teenager during a Gap Year. Hence, in addition to wanting to undertake her Advanced Hebrew Course, she looked forward to experiencing Israel now from the perspective of a young adult. Taking Advanced Hebrew entailed the study of Academic Hebrew to enable her to do University studies in the language and converse at an intellectual level. This also meant that she found herself in a class of newly arrived professionals who therefore had a different orientation to that of the undergrads Katherine was used to. Once she realised that for these people, their marks and understanding of the course, would have direct bearing on their future success, both in their careers and socially, she could better understand their enormous eagerness and dedication to their studies. Katherine’s level of Hebrew also allowed her to select courses from the main HU campus. The course she chose was Ladino - or Judeo Spanish, the language of the Sephardic Jews. This course was particularly exciting as she was studying on the HU campus proper; she was studying another language and she was studying it in a course conducted in Hebrew.

HU students visiting Sydney University, Shay Cohen and Ilai Schwarz, unlike most exchange students to Sydney, were both Masters students and both were here with a focus on their future goals.

Shay, a second year MBA student had his sights set on work in a global business consulting company. He was keen to see how his studies at Sydney U and his experience in Australia could help to inform his move into this field. He found the pluralistic and multi-cultural nature of the Sydney U experience provided valuable insights into the business environment. It helped him to appreciate the need for globalization to come hand-in-hand with an understanding of other cultures and their practices in order to achieve best outcomes. Studying in English had improved his language skills, which would benefit him greatly when seeking work in a global company.

Ilai, a Master of Science student, was on exchange to undertake a research project with the Quantum Physics Research Group headed by Prof Stephen Bartlett, School of Physics USYD. Ilai’s project was in the fields of quantum information and quantum optics, which are burgeoning in both Australia and Israel. Aims of the exchange included establishing a scientific collaboration between the Bartlett group and corresponding HU groups, as well as giving Ilai the opportunity to learn and experience state-of-the-art theoretical research which would enable him to introduce and develop this new field of research on his return to Israel.

At the end of his exchange, Ilai reported some original findings as one outcome of his visit, as well as an opportunity he had taken up at Imperial College London to continue a follow-on project. In addition, he reported that two papers would soon be published regarding this work.

Bearing in mind the Fund’s aim to support and encourage collaborative work between the two Universities, it is encouraging to see this being facilitated already at the student level and to note that even students can “introduce and develop a new field of research” on return to their home university.

2011 Student Exchange Program Participants

Natalie Mylonas
Houston Ash
Katherine Sassoon
Shay Cohen
Ilai Schwarz