Three Moreton Bay Region residents are among the 112 recipients of this year’s Churchill Fellowship Awards.
Carl Cutler from Murrumba Downs, Stuart McGruddy from Bongaree and Michela Mitchell from Wights Mountain are among just 16 Queenslanders to receive an award this year.
The Churchill Fellowship recognises and rewards the commitment of individual Australians to create positive change within the community and paves the way for the trio to travel overseas to investigate their chosen fields of research.
Churchill Trust CEO Adam Davey says the award traditionally offers recipients a life-changing opportunity to meet and work with leaders of influence around the world to gain and exchange knowledge.
“With international travel on hold for some time due to COVID-19, we will be supporting our new Churchill Fellowship recipients in making good use of this additional preparation time by connecting them with some of our highly achieved Churchill Fellows who work in similar fields or project areas via virtual networking and collaboration events,” Adam says.
“All untravelled Churchill Fellowship recipients have been granted an extended timeline to undertake their Fellowships to allow them the opportunity to experience the real-life benefits of meeting ‘in person’ with their international counterparts.”
Michela Mitchell’s research will take her to Israel, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and the United States to look at new strategies for translating venom into bio-applications.
Michela, with a Doctorate in Medicinal Chemistry, says such bio-applications include medicine to treat diseases like stroke or Parkinson’s, developing anti-venoms and controlling parasites and pests that are detrimental to the agriculture industry.
Much of her Churchill Fellowship research will focus on the venom of sea anemones. She is only one of two people in Australia who are qualified in sea anemone taxonomy – the science of naming, describing and classifying sea anemones.
“They’ve been on the earth for 700 million years, which is why I like to study their venom, because they’ve obviously nailed it,” she laughs.
“They all use venom in different ways and have different types – they are an amazing animal.”
Her journey overseas will build on knowledge gained in Australia, and Michela is looking forward to seeing cutting-edge anti-venom development techniques and exploring ways of creating anti-venoms more quickly.
“The labs are all coming up with different techniques and solving problems in different ways.
“I have studied with the best of the best here and I need to go further afield so I can bring that knowledge back.
“You can read papers, but it’s different to interacting with that person face to face.”
Stuart McGruddy, who founded My Berries with wife Allison in 2013, aims to use his award to expand his knowledge and understanding of the process between farm and manufacturer.
He will travel to Serbia, France, the USA and Chile to research and investigate technologies used in freezing whole soft berry fruits and, in doing so, will address the number of imported fruits dominating the Australian market.
“I’m thrilled to be given the opportunity to speak with growers and manufacturers overseas - to better understand business relationships, logistics and the equipment used to acquire and process quality frozen fruit,” Stuart says.
Carl Cutler is a senior investigator with the Queensland Police Service Forensic Crash Unit.
His research will take him to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to investigate better ways of clearing fatal and serious road crash sites, while maintaining the integrity of evidence.
The Queensland Police Forensic Crash Unit has reduced road closure times by using a crash investigator on a motorcycle that’s equipped with a survey-quality remotely piloted aircraft, which boosts the response time and the capture of critical evidence.
“There is $80 million a year in health-related costs from people being stuck in traffic and exposed to pollution,” Carl says.
“And the loss of productivity as a result of traffic crashes causes economic losses of tens of millions of dollars every year.
“But we’re responsible for capturing information at the end of someone’s life and reporting it to the coroner and the courts, and trying to explain what happened to a person’s family.
“We have to be able to balance being able to capture that data with people stuck in traffic.”
Carl says the survey-quality drone and crash investigator on a motorcycle combination were a world first, with four motorcycles operating in Queensland.
“All the other states and territories come to Queensland for training,” he says.
Carl says he’s extremely grateful for the opportunity provided by the Churchill Fellowship and is looking forward to learning how other nations have improved their clearance times for serious accidents while maintaining the integrity of evidence collection so Australia could further refine operations.