The Queensland Brain Institute's Dr Michael Piper has been awarded the AW Campbell Award by the Australian Neuroscience Society.
The annual award recognises the Australian researcher who has achieved the highest standard of work in neuroscience during their first five postdoctoral years.
Dr Piper is a research fellow in the Richards Laboratory at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), where he researches brain development.
In late 2008, Dr Piper also received a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Career Development Award – an Australian Government-funded program to help early career scientists find their niche in the competitive world of research.
Before heading to Cambridge where he spent three years investigating frog vision, Dr Piper completed his PhD with Professor Melissa Little at UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience.
Since returning to UQ and the Queensland Brain Institute in August 2006 on an NHMRC Howard Florey Centenary Research Scholarship, Dr Piper has been working in the laboratory of Associate Professor Linda Richards.
The lab focuses on development of the corpus callosum – the large bundle of fibres joining nerves within the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
"Dr Piper is making significant progress in understanding the mechanisms regulating glial cell differentiation," Dr Richards said.
"Glial cells provide an important substrate for development of the corpus callosum and other nerve fibre bundles in the brain.
"He is one of Australia's top young investigators and it is wonderful that he has been recognised at a national level with this prestigious award."
Dr Piper said, in essence, his work involved examining how neural stem cells "acquire their identity" to form the many different types of cells that make up brain tissue.
The capacity of neural stem cells to differentiate into various types of cells has become a hot topic around the world as it is hoped that harnessing these complex mechanisms could lead to much-needed therapeutic treatments for a host of debilitating human conditions.
For example, the Richards laboratory is seeking to identify the basis of agenesis of the corpus callosum, a condition that results in more than 50 different human congenital syndromes.
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Notes to the Editor
QUEENSLAND BRAIN INSTITUTE
The Queensland Brain Institute was formed in 2003 as part of the Queensland Government’s Smart State Initiative, building on a long history of neuroscience at The University of Queensland. QBI is dedicated to understanding the molecular basis of brain function and applying this knowledge to the development of new therapeutics to treat brain and mental health disorders.