For the May lecture of the Royal Society we will hear from the joint winners of the 2018 RST Doctoral Thesis Award. This award is given annually to two recently graduated PhD academics who have made significant advances in the course of their doctoral research. The awards are made for excellence in research in any field within the purview of the Society, so we will be have the pleasure of hearing presentations on very diverse topics.
The Royal Society of Tasmania is pleased to introduce the recipients of the 2018 Doctoral Awards,
Jack Mulder and Feng Pan
Tuesday, 7 May 2019
8.00pm in the Royal Society Room,
Customs House Building, entrance from Dunn Place, Hobart
Doctoral Thesis Winner: Feng Pan
Title: Individualised osteoarthritis pain treatment based on phenotypes: are we there yet?
Pain is the most prominent symptom in osteoarthritis. Pain experience is a complex and multifactorial phenomenon. Peripheral structural damage has been traditionally considered a source of pain and this has strengthened with MRI studies; however, a discordance between structural damage and pain severity suggests individual variations in pain presentation which may be determined by genetic, environmental (obesity), psychological and neurological factors. Each of factors may play its role or intact with other factors to contribute to the variation which can partly explain the overall lack of treatment efficacy with the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatment approach. Identifying pain phenotypes in knee osteoarthritis is promising to develop individualised treatments; however, the validity and reliability of osteoarthritis pain phenotypes have not been tested in clinical practice. Given the heterogeneity of osteoarthritis pain, peripheral, psychological and neurological factors are considered key phenotypic dimensions in the identification of pain phenotypes. This new concept allows for patients’ stratification for clinical trials, thus providing potential for individualised interventions in patients with osteoarthritis pain.
Dr Feng Pan is a Research Fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, supported by the NHMRC Early Career Fellowship. His research interests span both epidemiology and clinical interventions to osteoarthritis-related pain. Much of his work has been on identifying biomechanical risk factors for chronic pain and osteoarthritis, identifying pain and osteoarthritis phenotypes and testing new therapeutic treatments.
Dr Pan completed a Masters of Medical Oncology in 2012, having completed a Bachelor of Medicine in 2009. His PhD was conferred in May 2017. His thesis work assessed the genetic and systemic factors in knee osteoarthritis and pain. Prior to his PhD, Dr Pan worked as an oncologist at the Anhui Provincial Hospital affiliated with University of Science and Technology of China where he was involved in running multiple clinical trials and assessing genetic contribution to solid tumors through systematic literature review and meta-analysis.
Doctoral Thesis Winner: Jack Mulder
Title: From Rocky Cape to the Rocky Mountains: The geological journey of Tasmania’s oldest rocks
The iconic rugged landscapes of western Tasmania are underlain by an ancient package of rocks that record the very earliest history of Tasmania. The ancient Tasmanian rocks represent a package of sediments that were deposited between 1.4 and 1.0 billion years ago. These sediments are made up of tiny fragments of even older rocks that were eroded from source regions and transported down rivers before accumulating as layers of sand and mud in a shallow sea. The source of these sediments can be traced and used to explore where Tasmania may have been located 1.4—1.0 billion years ago by studying tiny grains of the mineral zircon within the rocks. Zircons contain an ‘internal clock’ produced by the radioactive decay of uranium, which allows these tiny time capsules to be dated.
Dating several thousand individual grains of zircon from the ancient Tasmanian sediments reveals that they were sourced from older rocks that formed 1.45 and 1.70 billion years ago. Surprisingly, these zircon ages are a poor match for the age of potential source rocks in nearby parts of in Australia. This mismatch in zircon ages indicates that when the Tasmanian sediments were deposited, Tasmania did not form part of Australia. Instead, the zircon ages in the Tasmanian rocks closely match the age of 1.45 and 1.70 billion year old rocks that currently underlie much of the southwest United States. Based on the close match of zircon ages, the ancient Tasmanian sediments were likely sourced from the older rocks in the southwest United States, which supports a connection between these regions 1.4—1.0 billion years ago. A connection between Tasmania and North America at this time is also supported by the recognition that rocks a package of exposed in the Rocky Mountains of Montana and Idaho and in Grand Canyon, Arizona are the same age, rock type, and contain the same zircon age signatures as the 1.4—1.0 billion year old rocks in Tasmania. These 1.4—1.0 billion year old North American rocks may represent parts of the same ancient sedimentary basin in which Tasmania’s oldest rocks formed. This ancient basin was fragmented as Tasmania drifted away from North America and subsequently collided with Australia to achieve its present-day position.
Dr Jacob (Jack) Mulder, Research Fellow, Monash University
Jack is a geologist who studies ancient rocks to understand how Earth’s continents are built and how they have evolved through deep time. Jack grew up in southern Tasmania and studied at the University of Tasmania, completing his undergraduate in 2013 and a PhD in 2017. His PhD research integrated field work in western Tasmania and the western United States with state-of-the-art analytical techniques, and plate tectonic modelling to study the earliest geological history of Tasmania. He is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Monash University where his research focuses on using the sedimentary record to track secular changes in the composition of the continental crust and plate tectonic processes.