5 December 2002

Around 800 Faculty of Biological and Chemical Sciences graduands will receive their degrees at two ceremonies in The University of Queensland’s new $20 million UQ Centre on Monday, December 9.

Executive Director of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries’ Agency for Food and Fibre and Adjunct Professor with UQ’s School of Land and Food Sciences Dr Rosemary Clarkson will be guest speaker at the 3pm ceremony while the Director of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) Professor Michael Good will address graduates at the 6pm ceremony.

Cindy Trevor, who will receive her Bachelor of Agricultural Science with honours at the 3pm ceremony, will deliver the student valedictorian address while Nathan Kilah, who will receive his Bachelor of Science degree, will deliver the student valedictorian address at the 6pm ceremony.

While at UQ, Ms Trevor won a string of prizes and scholarships including the Dean’s Commendation for High Achievement on two occasions; the William Woolcock Memorial Prize 2000; the Wilhelmina Gladstone Jameson Scholarship 2001; the Slade Scholarship 2001; and the Robert Philp Scholarship 2002.

Similarly, Mr Kilah won the Dean’s Commendation for High Achievement three times while at UQ; the 2001 Australian Laboratory Prize in Analytical Chemistry; and the Edward Taylor Memorial Prize 2001.

Other graduates of interest at the ceremonies include the following:

Fish on Prozac™
• Vision, Touch and Hearing Research Centre student Joshua Barton uncovered more evidence about the way Prozac™ works on the brains of people with depression by administering the drug to Queensland’s humble sandlance. Mr Barton, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science with first-class honours, observed the “switching” between brain hemispheres of the fish through the activity of each of the fish’s eyes. The left hemisphere of the brain is thought to promote a more positive mood in vertebrates including humans while the right a more negative mood. Mr Barton says his work found Prozac™ was definitely causing the fish’s brain to “switch” into the more positive hemisphere after a short period of time. It has been estimated that Prozac™ has been used to treat more than 40 million people in some 90 countries since its introduction to the global pharmaceutical market in 1986. It was the first of a new class of drugs called Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) to be approved for use in the United States. Mr Barton will further his neurological studies through combined PhD and Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery studies at UQ. A keen sportsman, Mr Barton plays AFL for the Murray Mavericks in Kedron and skis “whenever I can”. He can be contacted at his Clayfield home on telephone 07 3262 8843.

Delving into the musical brain
• Also from the University’s Vision, Touch and Hearing Research Centre (VTHRC), Katrina (Kate) Sewell measured the hemispheric switching rates in the brains of music, science and mathematics university students. She found the music students’ switching rates were much faster than science students and more than double that of mathematics’ students. She says the finding tallies with previous studies suggesting musicians need to simultaneously access and integrate information from both sides of the brain (for example, the left hemisphere is thought to govern rhythm while the right oversees melody). Ms Sewell, herself an accomplished double bass player, used optically challenging diagrams – where it is possible to see two images depending on which hemisphere is dominant – to test the brain hemispheric switching rates of around 1000 students. She also developed a test which could be used to test the brain switching activity of several hundred people in just 10 minutes. “As people with bipolar disorder have been shown to have very slow rivalry or switching rates, this test may be useful as a screening test to detect people with an increased risk of developing such disorders,” she said. Highlights of her honours’ year were working with musicians and dancers from the Queensland Orchestra and Queensland Ballet and staff and patients at the Belmont Private Hospital and Gold Coast Private Hospital, she said. Next year, she will begin a PhD supervised by Professor Jack Pettigrew (VTHRC and School of Biomedical Sciences) and Dr Guy Wallace (School of Human Movement Studies) measuring the degree of communication between hemispheres in groups of people working or studying in different areas; developing a fun and interesting method of testing perceptual rivalry characteristics of primary- and high-school students; and using training in dance or study of musical instruments to increase the level of communication between hemispheres in children believed to be at risk of developing bipolar disorder. Ms Sewell can be contacted on telephone 07 3206 0879 at home, 07 3365 3929 at work or mobile 0407 797 057.

Study towards a sustainable future
Jonathon Heim will graduate with a Bachelor of Environmental Science with honours majoring in the Earth resources stream. His degree included study in fields such as environmental modelling, environmental law, environmental impact assessment and environmental management. Mr Heim says the world is spending a great deal of time and money on issues related to the environment because humankind now realises how important it is to manage the environment properly to sustain the future. “I chose to study environmental science because of my interest in the environment and there are always going to be jobs related to this field as we try to achieve a sustainable future. Study at UQ has been a great learning experience and lots of fun. The Earth Science Department is a relatively small department but it provides the opportunity to get to know and interact with all the staff and students, both postgraduate and undergraduate. The close student–teacher interactions, social activities and friendships have made study at UQ a fulfilling experience,” Mr Heim said. “Earth sciences offers a number of great field trips and I took full advantage of them. I travelled to Rockhampton and Mt Isa for studies in geology but I most enjoyed a week away to the UQ Research Station on Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef last year.” During his final year at UQ, Mr Heim worked with the Earth Science Department, the Brisbane City Council Environment and Parks Branch and the Environmental Protection Agency characterising the landforms, geology and soils in a “Land Zone”. The zone was used to classify vegetation for the management and conservation of biodiversity. Analysis of soil trace metals (for example, copper, zinc, nickel, and chromium) in this environment provided an indication of the sensitivity of this environment and the contribution of potentially toxic trace metals to background levels of waterways in the Brisbane watershed. Mr Heim can be contacted on telephone 07 3263 4542 at home or 07 3286 3455 at work.

Finding something fishy about UV light
Dr Ulrike Siebeck will graduate with her PhD examining visual communication in reef fish, particularly their ability to see ultraviolet (UV) light. Dr Siebeck began her studies at UQ after a 1994–95 exchange visit from Germany where she was completing a masters degree. With her thesis supervised by the Vision, Touch and Hearing Research Centre’s Professor Justin Marshall, she began studying reef fish colours and their use for communication. Professor Marshall had already discovered that many reef fish had areas on their bodies reflecting UV light. “Study at UQ has been fantastic due to the wonderful, stimulating atmosphere at the Centre (VTHRC). Professor Jack Pettigrew has created a fantastic scientific and social environment where all researchers are supportive of each other, students are fully integrated and there is always someone happy to help,” Dr Siebeck said. “Professor Marshall was a great supervisor who not only helped me with my research but was also very generous with support for conferences, field trips and any equipment I needed. Throughout my PhD I spent a lot of time in the field in Australia on Lizard Island, Heron Island and Stradbroke Island and also eight weeks in the United States. Some of the highlights of my studies to date have been the deep-sea field trip where I had the chance to dive to 800 metres in a submarine (Johnson Sealink, Harbour Branch Oceanographic Institute); the Aquarius Habitat field trip where part of our international team spent nine days in a submerged research station and the last field trip to Lizard Island where it became clear that UV patterns did play an important role in the communication of some damselfish.” Dr Siebeck will now begin postdoctoral studies with Professor Marshall and others working on an Australian Research Council (ARC) project dubbed “Prawns in Space”. Dr Siebeck and Professor Marshall will investigate animal eyes (optics, processing circuitry etc.) to try and improve camera systems and image-processing methods used in remote-sensing. She can be contacted on telephone 07 3365 1536 (work) or 07 3379 9625 (home).

Media: contact Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 2339).