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RACI awards for Curtin science education and neurochemistry experts

Media release

Two Curtin University academics have been recognised by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) – in recognition of their work to develop an award-winning training program for tertiary science teachers and advancing neurochemistry.

Associate Professor Mauro Mocerino, from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin, was awarded the Fensham Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Chemical Education for his sustained contributions to chemistry education and in particular a training program he developed for tertiary-level science teachers to be effective in the important role of demonstrator in laboratory classes.

Dr Mark Hackett, also from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin, won the RACI Analytical and Environmental Chemistry Division Paul Haddad Medal in recognition of excellent research and contribution to analytical and environmental chemistry, both nationally and internationally, for developing new imaging techniques for neuroscientists.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry congratulated Associate Professor Mocerino and Dr Hackett on their achievements.

“Associate Professor Mocerino has worked over two decades to establish professional development opportunities for sessional science teaching staff through the program, first here at Curtin and since at many universities nationally and internationally,” Professor Terry said.

“Dr Hackett developed imaging strategies that have enabled neuroscientists to gain new insights into how the brain works, including chemical pathways that may be linked to brain disease.”

Associate Professor Mocerino said he was honoured to be recognised for his work on the training program.

“I have been investigating the role of active learning and guided enquiry in classrooms and laboratories for many years and realised early on that demonstrators play a crucial role in tertiary-level laboratory classrooms,” Associate Professor Mocerino said.

“It’s thrilling that my contribution to chemistry education has been recognised with this award.”

Associate Professor Mocerino and fellow Curtin colleagues Associate Professor Marjan Zadnik and Professor Shelley Yeo were recognised for their work in the professional development of laboratory demonstrators in 2013 with an Australian Award for Programs that Enhance Student Learning, through the Australian Government.

Associate Professor Mocerino is a Fellow of both the RACI and Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) and a member of the American Chemical Society.

The Fensham Medal is the most senior of the RACI awards for excellence in chemistry education.

Dr Hackett said his imaging strategies allowed neuroscientists to study specific molecules or elements in the brain, which were previously difficult or impossible to image.

“The imaging protocols I developed are broadly applicable beyond neuroscience, and the methods have been recently applied to the plant sciences and forensic science,” Dr Hackett said.

“My research is performed in close collaboration with the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI) and the combination of spectroscopy, microscopy, and neuroscience made possible by the collaboration is a great example of interdisciplinary research.”

The Haddad Medal is an Early Career Research award for which Dr Hackett was nominated by Curtin colleagues Professor Damien Arrigan and Professor Simon Lewis.

For more information about the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, visit here.