Inaugural Club Melbourne Fellowship winner sets a remarkable pace

Speaking at two major international meetings, commencing work with an international collaborator, publications, grants, joining the editorial board of a new journal and paying it forward – a brisk year’s work.

The Inaugural Club Melbourne Fellowship winner Associate Professor Sarah Spencer, Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT has set an extraordinary pace for those that follow in her footsteps.

The $10,000 Fellowship supported Associate Professor Spencer to attend and present at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, reconnecting with key collaborator Assistant Professor Ruth Barrientos from University of Colorado, Boulder.

Directly following the meeting the collaborators returned to Colorado and commenced experiments to test the effects of a high fat diet in fear-related memory loss in aged rats that provided essential preliminary data for two major grant applications in the US and in Australia.

"To test the idea that obesity causes premature inflammatory ageing of the brain, we examined obesity and ageing-related changes to the brain's immune cells, examining the possibility of reversing the inflammation and restoring cognitive function," explained Associate Professor Spencer. "The work has certainly given us insight into the role of the microglia in aging-related neuroinflammation and how they may contribute to the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s."

The expansion of the initial work the collaborators completed has resulted in a joint publication in esteemed journal Neurobiology of Aging and an unexpected invitation, to both of them, to join the editorial board of a new Nature Publishing Group journal npj Science of Food.

"This very intense period in Colorado delivered exceptional results for me and my research as well as my career in general," said Associate Professor Spencer. "It was a really exciting few months."

Associate Professor Spencer went on to attend and present at a second meeting this year, the PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society. Appointed as the Australian representative to the PNIRS Asia-Pacific Committee, Associate Professor Spencer is engaged in organising a symposium to be held as part of the Australian Neuroscience Society conference in Australia later this year.

"The Fellowship was instrumental in allowing me to promote my research in the field of ageing-associated brain inflammation and cognitive decline to an international audience and establish collaborations with one of the best neuroscience laboratories in the world," Associate Professor Spenser said. "I couldn’t be happier with what the year has delivered. My most sincere thanks to Club Melbourne for this most rewarding Fellowship."