Liggins researcher wins Zonta Science Award
Dr Anna Ponnampalam, a research fellow at the Liggins Institute was last night named winner of the 2012 Zonta Science Award at a ceremony hosted by the Wellington club of the international service and advocacy organisation Zonta.
The biennial award is sponsored by the Zonta Club of Wellington and the Jack Illot Trust. “The Award promotes science as a career for women as well as providing encouragement and recognition to those already working in the scientific field,” says Zonta Science Award Convenor, Dr Wendy Saunders.
The application called for an emerging scientist and “all round woman, who contributes to her community, helps others in the wider field of science, and for whom the award would be a means of advancement.”
“Anna amply fits all these criteria and more,” says Liggins Institute Director Professor Wayne Cutfield. “She is one of our institute’s rising stars and this award will give her support and opportunities to advance her career and research interest in an under-recognised area of women’s health.”
The award will allow Anna to develop a promising new line of research into the causes, diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis – a condition in which endometrial tissue (the lining of the uterus) grows outside the uterus.
“Endometriosis is the most common of all gynaecologic disorders and a common cause of infertility and chronic abdominal pain in reproductive age women,” says Anna.
“While the incidence is approximately 10% in the general population, the actual prevalence is much higher because many women and young girls are initially misdiagnosed. Currently, diagnosis requires invasive surgery and since severe pain during periods is considered somewhat the norm in society, many women are reluctant to get help earlier, leading to significant delay in diagnosis and increased severity of disease.”
Anna joined the Liggins Institute in 2006 and has taken a leadership role, supporting and supervising postgraduate research students in the Reproductive and Developmental Biology Research Group, and school science students through the LENScience programmes.
Her own research has focused on the molecular regulation of the processes of embryo implantation and birth, and the menstrual cycle.
An advocate for women in science and in the community, she manages to balance her research career with the demands of her own young family. She also is active in taking an understanding of science into her local Tamil community, where she aims to break down barriers between scientists, clinicians and women through giving talks and writing a blog in her native Tamil language.