Sustainable food heads PhD scholarship success

Andrea Bertram is one of two Flinders University winners of the Playford Trust’s PhD scholarships this year, amid a strong cohort of Flinders students sharing in almost $500,000 awarded last night to build South Australia’s capacity in strategic STEM areas.

Ms Bertram is in the first year of her PhD project in the field of molecular ecology, where she is sequencing thousands of DNA markers across the genome of snapper to help inform its sustainable management.

Under the supervision of Professor Luciano Beheregaray and Associate Professor Luciana Möller, she will generate and collate genomic data from over 1,500 samples of the fish sourced from southern Australian waters spanning commercial snapper fishing areas in Western Australia through to Queensland, using next-generation DNA sequencing technologies.

The Playford Trust PhD scholarships supplement candidates’ existing PhD scholarships to the tune of $17,500 each. This year, Flinders University students took out two of the three scholarships on offer, with biotechnology graduate Nick Booth also securing one of the prestigious prizes – following an earlier Playford Trust honours win last year.

Mr Booth’s agricultural project will uncover how legumes uniquely harness and use atmospheric nitrogen, while other crops do not. A symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria enables this nitrogen to be transferred to the legume plant, and carbon to the bacteria, but precisely how this occurs remains unknown.

With the support of supervisors Professor Kathleen Soole, Professor David Day and Associate Professor Colin Jenkins, together with Associate Professor Penny Smith from LaTrobe University, Mr Booth will identify the genes involved in the carbon and nitrogen transporters. He hopes to inform a more efficient and sustainable model for agriculture, which relies less on commercial nitrogen-based fertilizers. He presented on his project at the Playford Trust ceremony event on 10 April 2019.

Flinders University 2019 Playford Trust Scholarship winners:

Playford Trust Regional Science & Engineering Scholarships

Awarded $4000 each to students entering the first year of their university course:

  • Breigh Angove (Bachelor of Secondary Education / Bachelor of Science)
  • Nicholas Graham (Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Enhanced Program for High Achievers)
  • Clayton Parker (Bachelor of Engineering – Robotics)
  • Rebecca Pedler (Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Enhanced Program for High Achievers

Adelaide Hills Council / Playford Trust Scholarship

Awarded one $6,000 scholarship:

  • Oliver Russell (Bachelor of Science – Geography)

Fay Fuller Foundation/Playford Trust Honours Scholarship in Health Sciences

Awarded $7000 to one Honours student majoring in Public Health:

  • Taylor-Jade Woods (Bachelor of Medical Science – Honours)

Playford Trust Honours Scholarship

Awarded $5000 each to students studying priority STEM areas:

  • Matthew Evans (Bachelor of Engineering – Software) / Bachelor of IT – Digital Media)
  • Jai Meyers (Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Biotechnology, Enhanced Program for High Achievers)
  • Susanne Sahlos (Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Nanotechnology)
  • Laura Schroder (Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Enhanced Program for High Achievers)
  • Samuel Tonkin (Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Enhanced Program for High Achievers)

Playford Trust PhD Scholarships

Awarded $17,500 at the rate of $5000 per annum for three-and-a-half years:

  • Andrea Bertram (Science – Marine Science)
  • Nicholas Booth (Science – Biotechnology)
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