Mater Research awards 2023 Strategic Grant for Outstanding Women


Mater Research is proud to have some of the most outstanding women in research work within our Institute, turning scientific discovery into the best possible treatment, care, and patient outcomes.

Thanks to the generous support of the Mater Foundation, since 2017, Mater Research has awarded one woman each year with a $90,000 grant to help close the ‘research academic gender gap’, better positioning women for success in research and accelerating their progress toward academic promotion.

Mater Research is delighted to announce that this year’s grant recipient is Dr Sahar Keshvari, a rising star in the Chronic and Integrated Care research program.

Dr Keshvari joined Mater Research in 2011, when she started her Honours under the supervision of Associate Professor Jon Whitehead, going on to also complete her PhD at Mater Research in 2016. She is an early-career researcher with 24 published peer-reviewed articles who has received over $800,000 in grants and fellowships since 2019.

Dr Keshvari said she was honoured to been chosen as the 2023 recipient of the Strategic Grant for Outstanding Women.

“This grant is one of many opportunities that make Mater Research an outstanding place to work for women who are passionate about their career,” Dr Keshvari said.

Dr Keshvari plans to use the grant to employ a part-time Research Assistant to assist with her investigations into the potential use of macrophage growth factors as a novel treatment in children with childhood non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a burgeoning health problem globally.

Macrophages are specialised immune cells in all tissue that help keep tissue healthy as well as fight infection. Dr Keshvari has found that increasing these cells by treating with their growth factor leads to reduced body fat and blood sugar and increased body lean mass, which may help reverse the damage caused by NAFLD.

“My project aims to investigate novel macrophage-targeted therapies for paediatric metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, obesity, and chronic liver diseases, which will also benefit the Australian Indigenous community,” Dr Keshvari said.

“This project aligns well with the Mater Research bench to bedside philosophy.”

Dr Keshvari’s research career has been interrupted due to her family and carer responsibilities.

“I am a single parent and the only carer of my chronically ill mother. After the birth of my child in 2018, I took maternity leave,” Dr Keshvari said

“Upon my return to work I had to restrict the number of national and international conferences that I attended and the number of students I supervised.

“As for all carers, these additional responsibilities impact on the time I have to devote to my research and to take up career development opportunities.”

Mater Research’s Director of Biomedical Research, Professor Allison Pettit said that Mater Research was proud to champion Dr Keshvari as an outstanding female researcher.

“This grant is intended to amplify women who have excelled in their field despite circumstances and barriers that have hindered their career progression,” Professor Pettit said.

“We recognise that there are significantly fewer women in lead investigator roles and senior academic positions because of gender-based career interruptions, resulting in protracted career progression.”

Associate Professor Katharine Irvine, Group Leader of Mater Research’s Innate Immunity and Inflammation research program, said that Dr Keshvari is an asset to Mater Research.

“She is a promising and dedicated early career researcher who is highly engaged in professional and community activities,” Associate Professor Irvine said.

“She is a key member of our research team with a clear potential to succeed as an independent researcher.

“This grant will give her the opportunity to develop independence at this critical stage in her career to develop her own research niche, including recruiting students as a principal supervisor. Having the budget for a research assistant will enable her to reduce bench work so she can focus on developing ideas, writing manuscripts and funding applications, as well as networking and other professional activities.”

To learn more about our Chronic and Integrated Care research program, click here.

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