Remarkable year keeps getting better for QBI neuroscientist

23 Sep 2010

Queensland Brain Institute neuroscientist Dr Michael Piper has topped off a remarkable year by receiving a 2010 Research Excellence Award from The University of Queensland Foundation.

Dr Piper is currently studying the genes that regulate stem cell differentiation in the embryonic brain, as this is crucial for development. If the brain fails to form correctly it can lead to a number of different developmental disorders.

“The brain is very complex, being made up of over one hundred billion nerve cells, and we don’t have a great understanding of how these cells develop during embryogenesis,” the developmental neuroscientist said.

“My research is important for understanding how the brain forms correctly. It is really at the beginning of the process, trying to understand at the molecular and genetic level the genes that regulate stem cell differentiation.

Dr Piper added: “Also, we now know that the adult brain contains stem cells, and much research is now focused on harnessing these adult brain stem cells to help combat such devastating disorders as such as motor neuron disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

“Therapeutics based on stem cell replacement for such disorders are a long way from fruition, but basic research directed towards understanding of how stem cell function is controlled is absolutely vital for this to occur.”

Dr Piper’s research efforts have already been widely acknowledged.

In the last 12 months he has received the Australian Neuroscience Society’s AW Campbell Award for outstanding early to mid-career research, the American Association of Anatomists 2010 CJ Herrick Award for comparative anatomy and he was a finalist in the Queensland Government’s Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year Awards.

“It’s very humbling to get awards like these, as they represent acknowledgement from your peers in the scientific community. I’m also very flattered to receive this award from UQ, as it will give me the opportunity to pursue my research into brain development and function,” he said.

However, the accolades are unlikely to stop for Dr Piper – he already has his sights set on the next challenge.

“Establishing an independent laboratory is my next goal, trying to conduct research under my own auspices. For me the challenge is getting up and running and doing my own research as my own boss.”

QBI was incredibly successful in this year’s awards – with two of the 11 awards presented to QBI researchers.

Find out more about Dr Pipers's research in the video below [37MB MP4]


Notes to the Editor:

Dr Michael Piper completed his PhD at the Institute for Molecular Biosciences, The University of Queensland, before moving to the Department of Anatomy, Cambridge University, to research the visual system. He returned to The University of Queensland to take up an NHMRC Fellowship at the Queensland Brain Institute in 2006.


The Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) was established as a research institute of The University of Queensland in 2003. The Institute is now operating out of a new $63 million state-of-the-art facility and houses 28 Principal Investigators with strong international reputations. QBI is one of the largest neuroscience institutes in the world dedicated to understanding the mechanisms underlying brain function.