The University of Queensland (UQ) has awarded fellowships to two of Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research’s best and brightest last month in recognition of their potential as future research leaders.

Dr Renata Pertile and Ms Kyna-Anne Conn, both from QCMHR’s Developmental Neurobiology Research Stream, were awarded UQ Research Stimulus Fellowships, enabling them to continue their vital work in understanding how factors such as changes in dopamine signalling and vitamin D deficiency impact the development of disorders like schizophrenia and autism.

Professor Darryl Eyles, who heads the Developmental Neurobiology Research Stream said the funding was a leg-up for his team, which is renowned for its work in establishing that low maternal levels of vitamin D are a risk factor for schizophrenia, and Associate Professor Thomas Burne’s work showing that adult vitamin D deficiency can impact neurotransmitter systems in a number of neuropsychiatric conditions, including autism, schizophrenia and depression.

“The UQ Researcher Retention funding will allow Dr Pertile to complete three separate projects within my team all showing how the absence of vitamin D adversely affects dopamine neuron development and differentiation,” Professor Eyles said.

“The UQ Graduates Job-Ready funding for Ms Conn will provide much needed support during her transition from student to post-doctoral researcher.

“It will allow her to work with Associate Professor Burne to investigate the role of dopamine in decision-making in preclinical animal models of schizophrenia.

“Without such funding, we may have been in danger of losing their expertise, and I have no doubt this investment will be leveraged in spades as Dr Pertile and Ms Conn will be extremely competitive future applicants to prestigious research funding agencies here in Australia and internationally.

“We are very grateful to UQ and look forward to reporting on the successes of Renata and Kyna as they progress through their careers.”

Both Fellowship recipients are based at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute where QCMHR funds two separate research streams – the Developmental Neurobiology Research Stream and the Psychiatric Genomics Research Stream – both of which are focused on identifying the biological and genetic basis for severe mental disorders.

The University of Queensland was able to award UQ Research Stimulus Fellowships through the Federal Government’s provision of a Research Support Package over 2021 and 2022 to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s research workforce, initiatives and activities.

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