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Introducing the 2014 Hector Maclean Scholars

image-tools (1)CERA and the University of Melbourne Department of Ophthalmology have welcomed six Hector Maclean Scholars who started in early January on their six-week summer research projects.

The 2014 Hector Maclean Scholars are all high performing University of Melbourne students: postgraduates Bethany Stavert, Brigitte Papa, Michael Zhang and Sivashanth Gnanasekaran, MBBS students Thomas Gin, and David Lawson, a Science and Music student.

Each of them will undertake a short-term research project under supervision from an experienced researcher. The projects include a study of photoreceptor damage in macular degeneration, an analysis of the cause of blindness in South-East Asia, and a review of the referral pathways for people with diabetic retinopathy to eye specialists.

“This short summer scholarship is a great way to experience the work and environment in a medical research institute” says William Tao, who was a Hector Maclean scholar last year. “You can usually work out in six weeks whether something like this suits you or not. If it doesn’t, the experience can help prevent a poor career choice. If it works, the scholarship project introduces you to some great researchers in your field of interest and can set you up for postgraduate study in the Department or employment later on.” In William’s case, his Maclean scholarship was a good experience that confirmed his aptitude for medical research and his chosen career path.

Professor Robyn Guymer, head of the Macular Research Unit where William was a student and where one of this year’s Maclean scholars is working, says the benefits of these summer scholarships flow both ways. “It’s not just the students who get a chance to try out something and see if it suits them. It gives our research group an opportunity to meet some really bright new students and see who really fits into the team. It’s an excellent way of talent-spotting and recruiting the next generation of researchers. These scholarships are really valuable for this process.”
The Hector Maclean Scholarship fund was established through a generous bequest left to the University by Mrs Joan Dickson in 2002, in appreciation of the high level of medical care Associate Professor Hector Maclean provided to Mrs Dickson’s husband Noel. Hector Maclean was a staff member of the Department of Ophthalmology for more than 25 years and served as Deputy Head and Acting Head on different occasions. He had a special interest in ophthalmology education. He died in 2013 and left a bequest in his will to add to the scholarship fund named in his honour.