Australia-Harvard Fellowship awards for 2017

Australia-Harvard Fellowship awards for 2017

HCA Foundation is proud to recognise four outstanding researchers to become the 2017 Australia-Harvard Fellows. Recipients will be contributing to the advancement of scientific research in Australia, and to the enhancement of links between Harvard University and Australian academic institutions.

The four 2017 Fellows are:

  • Dr. David Haig, George Putnam Professor of Biology at Harvard University’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
  • Dr. Noel Michele Holbrook, Charles Bullard Professor of Forestry at Harvard University’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
  • Dr. Zdenka Kuncic, Professor of Physics, at the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, University of Sydney
  • Dr. Sean W. Cain, Senior Lecturer at Monash School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University

Professor David Haig

Prof. Haig is one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists. The 14,000 or so citations achieved by his publications put him in the top 1% most cited researchers. His current research interest in genetic conflicts within individual organisms exemplified by genomic imprinting with implications in medicine and understanding of human evolution. He will be visiting the Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects lab at the University of Sydney to work with their unique Cape honey bee colony to test whether male honey bees can epigenetically modify their genome to enhance the reproductive success of their daughters, relative to the daughters of other males.  This work may help understand the development of genetic diseases. Originally from Australia, Prof. Haig also chairs the Australian Studies Committee at Harvard University. While in Australia, Prof. Haig will talk about the work of the Australian Studies Committee at Harvard and the history of Australian students at Harvard University (from 1876).

Professor Noel Michele Holbrook

Prof. Michele Holbrook studies the physics and physiology of vascular transport in plants with the goal of understanding how constraints on the movement of water and solutes between soil and leaves influences ecological and evolutionary processes. She will be visiting the Dept. of Plant Sciences at the University of Tasmania to study how the strength of liquid transport channels in plants impacts their ability to draw water from the soil, and thus sustain photosynthesis during drought. This work may lead to new ways of breeding or engineering drought-resistant crops, and provide insights to help model how native species will respond to climate change.

Professor Zdenka Kuncic

Prof. Kuncic leads a highly interdisciplinary research program at the interface between physics and medical/life sciences, applying fundamental physical principles to advance our understanding of complex living systems and human diseases. Prof. Kuncic will visit Gordon Center for Medical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital to further her collaboration with 2013 Fellow, Dr Georges El-Fakhri. Their project aims to develop a novel nanotechnology platform for medical imaging that would enable sub-clinical detection, diagnosis and targeted elimination of metastatic tumour cells, improving survival rates in cancer. They will also work on developing a detailed plan for a first-in-human clinical study in Sydney.

Doctor Sean Cain

Dr. Cain’s research focuses on basic circadian rhythms, learning, arousal and cognition. He will visit Harvard’s Broad Institute to work on a study of the genetics of circadian system’s response to light, and in particular how genetic markers of a propensity for circadian disruption lead to disabling conditions such as Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and Type 2 Diabetes. He will also continue his collaboration with 2016 Fellow Dr. Elizabeth Klerman, on a study that aims to better understand how sleep habits of college students affect their mood and academic performance.


These awards take to 64 the total number of Australia-Harvard Fellowships granted since the program’s inception in 2004. Harvard Club of Australia Foundation congratulates these 2017 recipients and offers heartfelt thanks to our volunteers involved in selecting, monitoring and administering the program.

Galina Kaseko
Program Director
Australia-Harvard Fellowship
25 February 2017