Moving to Tasmania to pursue a PhD in aerobiology at the University's Menzies Institute for Medical Research was a big step for Melbourne born student Lachlan Tegart, but one that has reaped dividends.
His hard work in the field, which focuses on the health effects of airborne living particles, will now enable him to study in West Virginia in the US for 10 months as the recipient of a prestigious and highly competitive Fulbright Future Scholarship.
The scholarship will see him continue his current research into the health effects of airborne pollen, using immunology and DNA sequencing to examine the effects of Australian native species on people’s health - including species that are not often associated with asthma and allergies.
The project follows on from his research at Menzies under the supervision of Dr Penelope Jones and Associate Professor Fay Johnston, as part of the AirRater team.
The team’s work is centred around data collected by the AirRater app, which alerts vulnerable people when they are at risk from airborne pollutants such as pollen and smoke and collects valuable information on symptoms from allergy and asthma sufferers.
“The suspicions around Australian natives as allergy triggers came to light as a result of data collected by the AirRater app and my research in the US will prove or disprove whether those iconic Australian plants are allergens,” Mr Tegart said.
The native species being focused on, (including eucalypts and sheoaks) are all found in Tasmania, as well as many other parts of Australia and other parts of the world.
Mr Tegart said he was thrilled to be able to take this research further as part of the Fulbright Futures Scholarship.
“The opportunity will give me access to world leading techniques and the chance to increase my expertise and knowledge, which I can bring back to Tasmania,” he said.
Having lived with hay fever his whole life, Mr Tegart can relate passionately to his field of research.
“It’s a hugely debilitating condition,” he said.
“If we can better diagnose and treat asthma and allergies it’s going to improve the quality of life of a large number of people.”