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04 Sep 2023

Dr Carolien van de Sandt granted coveted Victorian Young Tall Poppy Science Award

University of Melbourne Dr Carolien van de Sandt, a Senior Research Fellow and early-career researcher at the Doherty Institute, has been conferred the Victorian Young Tall Poppy Award for her work in virology and immunity. Her research aims to understand the underlying mechanisms that drive differences in virus disease outcome, especially in high-risk groups, including the elderly and immune-compromised.

The Young Tall Poppy Awards, an initiative of the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) held in all the country’s states, aim to recognise excellence in research and science communication beyond the walls of the laboratory. Awardees will work with the AIPS to promote interest in science among school students, teachers and the broader community.

Speaking on her award win, Dr van de Sandt said she was honoured and grateful to receive the Young Tall Poppy Award in recognition of her public outreach activities.

“This is such a fabulous acknowledgement of the work I do both inside and outside the lab, and also an opportunity to expand on my science public engagement activities,” said Dr van de Sandt.

AIPS Co-Chair Professor Maria Kavallaris OAM said: “A more scientifically engaged society is something every scientist should aspire to and the reason that Tall Poppy winners are so important.”

Tall Poppies showcase high standards of world leading research and work on projects that will benefit all Australians well into the future.

Dr van de Sandt, who currently leads the aging-immunity program at the Doherty Institute, is interested in understanding why the body’s immune system loses its ability to respond to viruses with age. Her findings will be used to develop vaccines and treatment strategies, which provide the elderly with the same optimal immunity found in children, thereby protecting them from severe infections.

Dr van de Sandt said she is looking forward to the communications and community engagement activities she will be working on as an awardee.

“I firmly believe that engagement with the public about scientific processes and findings, and with my research in particular, is of great importance to raise awareness, trust and understanding,” she said.

“I especially enjoy communicating my research to the younger generation, sparking their curiosity, hoping that it will inspire them to pursue a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).”