L'Oreal Fellowship win for WEHI's Erika Cretney

August 26, 2008

WEHI immunologist, Dr Erika Cretney, has been honoured with a L'Oreal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship. Dr Cretney was one of just four Fellowship winners selected by a jury of eminent Australian scientists from a competitive field of 212 nominees.

Dr Cretney is studying fascinating cells known in the trade as Tregs - regulatory T cells. These specialised T lymphocytes are critical modulators of the immune system. They help maintain immune tolerance to "self", thereby avoiding the accidental onset of inflammation, transplant rejection or autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Dr Cretney's long term goal is the development of new immunotherapies.

The $20,000 L'Oreal Fellowships, which are supported by the Australian National Commission for UNESCO and endorsed by the Australian Academy of Science, recognise early career researchers in a wide range of scientific fields. The goal of these Fellowships is assist women to consolidate their careers and rise to leadership positions. Unusually, the funds can be used to defray childcare costs in addition to research costs.

This is of particular significance for Dr Cretney, who in late 2006 gave birth to a son and took a period of maternity leave. Balancing the demands of a scientific career and parenthood is challenging, but the support of her husband combined with the windfall from the fellowship will help to relieve the pressures of life - including the significant financial pressure of child care fees.

As Mr Mark Tucker, Managing Director of L'Oreal Australia observes, "We recognise the need to encourage women to persist in their science careers. We want to encourage and support women early in their careers - whatever those needs might be - and to promote them as role models to encourage young women to stick with science."

Reflecting on the significance of Dr Cretney's research and her L'Oreal Fellowship, the Director of WEHI, Professor Suzanne Cory, said, "This highly competitive award recognises Dr Cretney's outstanding research achievements and predicts a very bright future for her in Australian medical research. WEHI is very proud to be fostering her further career development." She added, "I warmly congratulate L'Oreal for encouraging our young women to pursue long-term careers in science."

Research Australia

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