Swinburne science researchers awarded Fulbright scholarships

Monday 4 February 2019

Dr Truong and Dr Cook

The Fulbright scholarships will enable Dr Truong and Dr Cook to advance their research by working in the US during 2019.

In summary

  • Two Swinburne researchers have received 2019 Fulbright scholarships for their innovative, impact-focused science research
  • Dr Cook is Swinburne's lead researcher on “Project Geldom” to develop the next-generation hydrogel condom
  • Dr Truong’s research explores novel methods and materials to treat microbial infections

Dr Simon Cook and Dr Vi Khanh Truong, researchers from Swinburne University of Technology’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology, have been awarded prestigious 2019 Fulbright scholarships.

The scholarships will enable them to travel to the US in 2019 to work alongside others in their field to advance their research. 

Project Geldom

Dr Simon Cook has been awarded the Fulbright Future Scholarship for innovative, impact-focused scientific research. He is Swinburne’s lead researcher on “Project Geldom” – an Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute and Centre for Design Innovation supported project to develop the next-generation hydrogel condom. The project is a collaboration with the University of Wollongong and aims to increase usage to help stem the rising worldwide rates of HIV, STIs and unplanned pregnancies.

The scholarship enables Dr Cook to work at the Kinsey Institute in Indiana with world-leading experts in sexual health and reproduction for four months. There he will survey user acceptance of the product, generate data to support regulatory and market clearance, and undertake commercialisation activities to accelerate the uptake and use of the next-generation condom.

Dr Cook is excited to conduct research in a new environment, and to make connections which will help increase the project’s potential impact.

“Science research drew me in because I wanted to make an impact on health and wellbeing. If I can deliver something that actually improves people’s lives, I’ll feel like I’ve had a successful career,” he says.

Dr Cook is thankful for the encouragement he received from Swinburne colleagues to apply for the scholarship. “It was really staff and friends at Swinburne that made me believe that I could go for it. I never thought I would have been competitive without their support,” he says.  

Fighting microbial infections

Dr Vi Khanh Truong from Swinburne’s Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology has received the Fulbright Postdoctoral scholarship which will allow  him to work at North Carolina State University for ten months.  He will develop novel methods and materials to treat microbial infections and work alongside another researcher. 

Microbial infections (which includes many bacterial infections) are a threat to human health and microbes can rapidly develop resistance to common market drugs. Dr Truong will develop novel non-drug-based approaches to treat multidrug resistant bacteria and fungi cells using his expertise in cellular interactions with nanomaterials.

Dr Truong is excited for the fruitful research that will come about as a result of his time in North Carolina.

“This scholarship means I can innovate new methods and materials to eradicate microbial infection problems by developing materials which will be detrimental to bacteria but non-toxic to the mammalian cells,” he says.

About the Fulbright program

The Executive Director of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, Thomas Dougherty, says Fulbright is proud to support the two Swinburne researchers.

“Senator Fulbright, after whom the Fulbright Program was named, said that the most sensible way to build trust and confidence between nations was to ‘engage the parties in joint ventures for mutually constructive and beneficial purposes, such as trade and medical research’. Dr Cook and Dr Truong are perfect candidates to further the Fulbright mission,” says Mr Dougherty.

The Fulbright program is the largest educational scholarship of its kind and was created by US Senator J William Fulbright and the US government in 1946 aimed at increasing research collaboration, cultural understanding and the exchange of ideas. Since its inception in Australia in 1949, the Fulbright Commission has awarded over 5,000 scholarships, creating a vibrant, dynamic, and interconnected network of Alumni.