2023 JDRF Australia PhD scholarships announced

August 10, 2023

JDRF Australia is delighted to announce the recipients of our 2023 PhD top-up scholarships: Rachel Hicks from Western Sydney University and Amanda Purcell from The Kolling Institute.

The top-up scholarship is designed to support and encourage PhD students pursuing research in the field of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in line with JDRF’s mission – to treat, prevent and cure T1D. The competitive scholarship selects the best and brightest scientists in the field to ensure the next generation of T1D researchers can carry out their ground-breaking research.

Our first recipient, Rachel, is investigating the perspectives of pregnant women with diabetes with the aim of improving pregnancy outcomes and medical care. Rachel will look at how pregnant women living with diabetes interact with the health care system and how they perceive pregnancy care. Rachel will also undertake a pilot study to improve communication with health care practitioners and develop a service model to improve the engagement of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

The overall aims of Rachel’s project are to support women with diabetes through their pregnancies and strengthen ties between healthcare professionals and consumers in working together to advocate for better health outcomes.

Image of Rachel Hicks, who has red hair and green eyes, against a pale blue background. This is next to a quote extrapolated from the following paragraph.

Of her top-up scholarship, Rachel says: “I feel so honoured and grateful as a person with type 1 diabetes and researcher to receive this top-up scholarship. This scholarship will enable me to successfully continue my studies whilst supporting my young family, so I can help cultivate in them a lifelong love of learning. It also allows me to pursue additional opportunities to attend and present at domestic and international conferences and collaborate further with the global diabetes community. I am so thankful to JDRF for this opportunity!”.

Our second recipient, Amanda, will investigate a drug called semaglutide to see if it can be used to treat diabetic kidney disease (DKD) in those with T1D and obesity.

T1D often leads to complications, including DKD which can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, the incidence of T1D is increasing, and obesity is also on the rise among individuals living with T1D, which can make blood glucose management more complex.

Semaglutide is widely used in type 2 diabetes to induce weight loss and improve how cells respond to insulin. It is also used to delay progression of DKD in those with type 2 diabetes, but it is not known whether it would have these same benefits in those with T1D.

Using a pre-clinical model, Amanda’s project aims to determine if using semaglutide in cases of T1D and obesity can improve kidney health. The findings from this work will influence preventative care for DKD in people with T1D and obesity.

Image of Amanda Purcell, who has blonde hair in a low bun and is wearing glasses, against a bright blue background. This is next to a quote extrapolated from the following paragraph.

Of receiving the PhD top up scholarship, Amanda said “The JDRF PhD Top Up Scholarship represents an opportunity to create meaningful change and gives me the privilege to be part of a community dedicated to making a difference in the lives of people with type 1 diabetes. This support will provide me with the opportunity to attend conferences and workshops, allowing me to connect with experts in the field and share my research findings.”

Why the scholarships are important

JDRF Australia continues to support excellence in research and clinical care in the field of T1D. We are committed to supporting up-and-coming researchers in T1D so that they can continue to undertake their ground-breaking work in the future. We have a number of opportunities for early career researchers, including PhD top-up scholarships and travel grants, to ensure future breakthroughs in the T1D space are ensured.

At JDRF Australia we are passionate about not only supporting well-established T1D scientists who are leading the field, but also the best early career researchers, to foster the future T1D researcher pipeline and ensure breakthroughs can continue to happen now and in the years to come,” said Dr Dorota Pawlak, Chief Scientific Officer, JDRF Australia.

About the PhD top-up scholarships

JDRF Australia provides PhD scholars with a top-up of up to $6,000 per year for a maximum of three years to supplement their PhD stipend. The top up scholarship allows PhD scholars to attend scientific conferences, to present their findings and to establish critical networks with other researchers both nationally and internationally. The scholarships are competitively assigned and are part of our commitment to nurturing the next generation of talented T1D researchers.

See what past PhD top-up scholarship recipients said about their award.

Head to our website for current research funding opportunities.