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Young UTS researcher wins Amplify Ignite award

14 June 2017

Samira Aili and Noushin Nasiri with finalists at the AMP Amplify Ignite competition in June, 2017.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Noushin Nasiri has taken home first prize at the AMP Amplify Ignite competition held last week.

Dr Nasiri was one of 20 researchers selected as a finalist for the competition, with UTS PhD candidate, Ms Samira Aili, also making the final.

The AMP Amplify Ignite competition provides researchers with the opportunity to work with a professional performance coach, and experience the rush and spontaneity of pitching based on the theme “the edge of the possible”.

This year’s program included two days of mentoring sessions in May, and a final event on June the 6th, where finalists presented a 150 second pitch to a live audience of 250 people.

“People in this program are interested in challenging and empowering university PhD students to expand their research into real-world application,” Dr Nasiri said.

“They are trying to bridge the gap between students and entrepreneurial communities, both locally and abroad.”

Noushin Nasiri won first prize at the AMP Amplify Ignite competition.

Having done her PhD at ANU, Dr Nasiri has been working at UTS in the ARC funded IDEAL Research Hub with Professor Dayong Jin since the start of 2017 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, where she is working with industry partners developing a nanosensor to be applied in the early detection of diseases using human breath and/or saliva. Her initial PhD research revealed that when diseased, the biochemistry of the human body changes. This change can be detected in the breath or saliva and can be harnessed as an effective medical tool in place of current practices.

“This research will result in a simple breath test that is significantly cheaper, less painful and almost instantaneous,” Dr Nasiri said.

“It will make disease detection more accessible to millions who do not have ready access (either through geographical, time or financial constraints) to primary healthcare and will reduce burdens on already overstretched GPs, hospitals and pathology providers.”

Dr Nasiri’s research ultimately aims to fabricate a book-size device, to be installed in any clinic or pharmacy where patients can simply breathe onto a sensor and receive instantaneous results. The next step would be to work on making the device small enough to put into smartphones for everyday application.

Fellow finalist, Ms Samira Aili, is a PhD candidate currently researching how ant venom could be used to develop insecticides that will help reduce the burden of insect pests.

“The world population is increasing at a staggering rate and unfortunately the current food supply is not sufficient, which raises the need to find novel ways to increase crop yields,” Ms Aili said.

“One way to do so is to tackle the insect pest problem, as they destroy up to 20 per cent of all crops.

“The majority of the synthetic insecticides we use at this moment are either ineffective (due to resistance by the insects) or harmful to human health,” she said.

Ants are predatory insects that use their venoms to paralyse their prey before taking it back to their nest. Ms Aili seeks to identify the components within the venom that are used to kill and paralyse the prey and use these to develop a naturally-derived bioinsecticide.

“This research is important, as we need to find new ways to stop the spread of insect pests that cause destruction of crops and transmit diseases, such as malaria and zika.”

The AMP Amplify Ignite competition (formerly known as Bright Sparks) is an annual event open to PhD students across the country. The winner is awarded a $6000 grant and $1000 is awarded to each of the finalists.