Latest News

2017 Hugh Rogers Fellows announced

Fellowships send Melbourne artists and researchers to Boston

Friday, 15 December 2017

A Melbourne artist focused on issues surrounding climate change and two Melbourne researchers focused on human health will travel to Boston in 2018 as Hugh Rogers Fellows to research, explore, learn, collaborate, and create international taskforces to build Melbourne’s knowledge capital.
The Melbourne Boston Sister Cities Association (MBSCA) in partnership with The City of Melbourne today announced three 2017 Hugh Rogers Fellows who will undertake research and projects that will expand and enhance Melbourne’s and Boston’s reputations as centres of knowledge excellence.

The three recipients will embark on a diverse range of self-contained research projects at world-renowned institutions in Boston. The breadth of research projects reflects the diversity that Melbourne and Boston offer as centres of excellence in various knowledge sectors. 

The 2017 recipients are:

Thea Rossen - Music for our Changing ClimateIn collaboration with Boston artist Maria Finkelmeier, Thea Rossen will develop a brand new work for percussion that engages with the issues surrounding climate change. The work will engage with collections of relevant scientific data and feature an immersive lighting component and sound installation. With the support of the Kadence Arts organisation, Maria and Thea will create an inspiring performance piece capable of reaching large international audiences with a positive and informative message about climate change.

Dr Jennifer Payne, Monash University - The fight against superbugs: developing antibiotics that arm our immune system
No new antibiotics have reached pharmacy shelves in 20 years. Unless new treatments become available, the death toll from antibiotic-resistant bacteria is predicted to overtake cancer by 2050. The deadly pathogens we face are not only resistant to current treatments, but can also evade the body's own defence strategy – our immune system. The new antibiotics Jennifer is developing directly attack resistant bacteria, while simultaneously activating the immune system and inciting the body’s inherent defence capability. Dr Payne will visit Harvard Medical School as well as the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.

John-Paul Plazzer, The Royal Melbourne Hospital - Enhancing the InSiGHT Databases by building capabilities with ClinGen
Medical advances will be strongly influenced by genetics and genomics, and while the technical capacity to sequence the human genome is now close to routine, the interpretation of genetic variation remains a ‘road block’. InSiGHT is considered a leading exemplar of addressing the issue of imbalance between DNA sequencing capacity and its interpretation. The InSiGHTdatabases of most genes responsible for gastrointestinal (GI) cancer predisposition is curated and managed in Melbourne at The Royal Melbourne Hospital. John-Paul Plazzer, who is the professional curator of the InSiGHT databases, will engage directly with the US professionals working on this issue. This will achieve the important goal of harmonising internationally the challenging task of interpreting variants of uncertain significance in genes responsible for familial GI cancers with the most informed and authoritative interpretation based on the combined expertise of genomic centres in Boston and the international InSiGHT databases.

The Hugh Rogers Fellowships were established to honour the unique contribution that MBSCA co-founder Hugh Rogers made to these two great global cities. The purpose of the Hugh Rogers Fellowships is to encourage and support innovative people and ideas by funding research and projects that expand and enhance Melbourne’s and Boston’s reputations as centres of knowledge excellence in three areas of research and practice. Depending on the quality of applications and the availability of funds each year, one or more Fellowships of up to $10,000 may be awarded in these nominated areas of endeavour.  

The Fellowships are awarded to practitioners and researchers in the early stages of their careers. Each Fellowship is intended to assist the longer-term development of the Fellow’s career by furthering their research or project and by providing them with opportunities to create new professional networks.

The 2017 fellowship recipients will embark on their trips to Boston in early 2018.

For more information about past and present recipients, visit

Boston’s Record-Breaking Snow Season

Friday, 17 April 2015

You have probably heard that Boston and other parts of Massachusetts have been experiencing one of their coldest and snowiest winters on record.

For Bostonians, spring could not have come soon enough, and as the snow slowly melts away scientists are unravelling the secrets behind this chilly season.

Here are some of the top clippings from the snow season, and our thoughts are with our friends in Boston as the weather recovery begins.

Five fellowships awarded during Melbourne Knowledge Week

Fellowships awarded across the arts, education, and healthcare & medical research

Friday, 31 October 2014

A French horn player, a bioinformatician, two science teachers and a researcher building a low-cost, electricity-free oxygen concentrator have received the 2014 Hugh Rogers Fellowships presented by the Melbourne Boston Sister Cities Association and the City of Melbourne during Melbourne Knowledge Week.

The recipients, who received their fellowships on Thursday, 30 October 2014 at the Melbourne Town Hall, included three women and two men selected from a large pool of high-quality applications to travel to Boston and continue their studies and research. 

In the area of education, fellowships were awarded to Mr Sandor Kazi and Ms Emily Rochette, both science teachers from Melbourne Girls College with a focus on promoting science education among female students. An arts fellowship was awarded to Ms Susan de Weger, a French horn player interested in developing entrepreneurship among musicians. In the healthcare & medical research category, fellowships were awarded to Dr Bryn Sobott from the University of Melbourne who is working on a medical device that could assist people living in poverty, and Dr Natalie Thorne from the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance who will bring back experience in large scale genome testing.

The City of Melbourne Fellowship, awarded to an applicant who works within the city boundaries, was presented to Dr Natalie Thorne based at the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

The five fellows will travel to Boston over the next six months to visit leading institutions including MIT, prestigious Boston schools, the New England Conservatory, Harvard, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The purpose of the Hugh Rogers Fellowships is to encourage and support innovative people and ideas by funding research and projects that expand and enhance Melbourne and Boston’s reputations as centres of knowledge excellence in three areas of research and practice. These areas of focus are education, healthcare and medical research, and the arts.

Depending on the quality of applications and the availability of funds in each year, one or more of the fellowships may be awarded in these nominated areas of endeavour. Selected by a panel of prominent experts, fellowships are awarded to practitioners and researchers in the early stages of their careers. Each fellowship is intended to assist the longer term development of the fellow’s career by furthering their professional skills, research or project and by providing them with opportunities to create new professional networks.

The official announcement event, which formed part of Melbourne Knowledge Week, included a showcase of the 2013 Hugh Rogers Fellows and an update on their collaborations with Boston.

Dr Bryn Sobott with Mr Rob Trenberth AMSusan de Weger entertaining the crowdThe 2014 recipients of the Hugh Rogers Fellowships and selection panel members
Mr Sandor Kazi with supporters of Hugh Rogers Fellowships and MBSCAMr Rob Trenberth AM with Ms Emily Rochette and Dr Natalie ThorneMr Robert Trenberth AM with City of Melbourne's Kathy Knowles
Susan de Weger performing on Melbourne Town Hall PorticoMs Susan de Weger with Mr Robert Trenberth AM

Hugh Rogers Fellows go wireless


Our Hugh Rogers Fellows having been taking over the Einstein a Go Go studio at Melbourne’s independent radio station RRR.

RRR’s radio program Einstein a Go Go, well known for its “Weird and wonderful science” and proudly described as a “discussion and dissection of science ideas, made digestible for public consumption” has already featured a couple of our Hugh Rogers Fellows over the past few weeks, and on Sunday, 3 May, Dr Sandor Kazi will also feature on the program.

In the meantime, listen to Ms Emily Rochette from Melbourne Girls College here discussing young women in STEM subjects.

Education fellowships were received by Mr Sandor Kazi and Ms Emily Rochette, both science teachers at Melbourne Girls College who focus on promoting science education among female students. Both these great teachers are alumni of The University of Melbourne.

Also in RRR’s studio was Dr Natalie Thorne, Clinical Bioinformatics and Genomics Project Manager for the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance based at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Dr Thorne received her fellowship in 2014 in the Hugh Rogers science field and went to Boston to further her research and share her knowledge in Genomics.

This type of recognition is excellent news for the MBSCA and allows for our fellows discuss their knowledge and share with the greater community. It also allows our Fellows to showcase their unique experiences.

Congratulations and thanks to our three Hugh Rogers Fellows. 

You can find all the interviews on the Einstein a Go Go website.

Hugh Rogers Fellowships: 13 fellows; 5 years

Outcomes of Hugh Rogers Fellowships since 2010

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Hugh Rogers AM was instrumental in founding the Melbourne Boston Sister Cities Association in 1985 and remained a driving force throughout his life. Hugh recognised early on the importance of promoting educational exchange between Melbourne and Boston, particularly in the strengths of medical research and the arts. The Hugh Rogers Fellowships honour and continue his outstanding contribution to the life of both cities.

For the past five years, the Hugh Rogers Fellowships have delivered a boost of knowledge for Melbourne’s health, education and artistic communities. Drawing on the networks and knowledge gained through the three decade long sister cities relationship between Melbourne and Boston, the Fellowships have contributed new ideas, new approaches and new collaborations to the city. 

In this time, the MBSCA has provided support for 13 Melbourne innovators to develop their networks and knowledge in Boston. In healthcare and medical research fields, the fellowships have supported the development of a global player in the area of coeliac disease; in the education sector the program has trained several teachers focused on teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics to girls, and in the arts field the fellowships have brought a new focus on musical entrepreneurship to Melbourne.

Six weeks in Boston, six years of collaborations

Bob Anderson [2010] -

As the inaugural Hugh Rogers Fellow, Dr Bob Anderson spent six weeks in Boston to further his work in developing treatments into coeliac disease. He has subsequently made significant inroads in the development of a treatment for the disease, grown a company with connections in both cities, and contributed to research in both Boston and Melbourne. Bob now lives and works in Boston and is the Chief Scientific Officer for ImmusanT. In 2014, ImmusanT was selected as one of Informa’s Top 10 Autoimmune/Anti-Inflammatory Projects to Watch. Clinical development of Nexvax2® in patients with coeliac disease is underway in the USA and Australia.

Giving Melbourne musicians an international voice

Xenia Hanusiak [2011]

Singer Ms Xenia Hanusiak spent her fellowship as artist-in-residence at NorthEastern University, undertaking performance and teaching and conducting research on Sylvia Plath and the dramatic monologue. Xenia is now representing Melbourne on an international stage as a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University.

Thinking differently

Mr Paul Beekman and Ms Nerida Mellerick [2012]
In 2012, the Hugh Rogers Fellowships focused on education with two Melbourne teachers spending time in Boston schools. Mr Paul Beekman from Melbourne High School brought back a deeper understanding of heritage to assist students to become active local and global citizens. Ms Nerida Mellerick from Clifton Hill Primary School gained an insight into new curriculum approaches that differentiates learning for gifted and talented students.

A clearer vision

Dr Lauren Ayton [2013]

The Hugh Rogers Fellowship allowed Lauren to form strong collaborations in Boston and to greatly advance her research. With the support of the MBSCA and the City of Melbourne, she travelled to Boston twice in 2014, spending a total of seven weeks working with Dr Joseph Rizzo at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. In this time, they developed, refined and launched an International Task Force to gain consensus in the methods for testing and reporting of patient outcomes in vision restoration trials, which has been enthusiastically received by the research field, medical practitioners and patients alike. Subsequently, Dr Rizzo has visited Melbourne and joint projects have been initiated.

From Heide to Isabella Stewart Gardner to the Shrine

Christine Healey [2013]

Christine Healey’s fellowship allowed her to gain an understanding of how educators at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum develop, implement and evaluate their education programming. The Hugh Rogers Fellowship enabled her to shadow the Director of School and Teacher Programs at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which focuses on delivering unique teaching and learning experiences through engagement with the visual arts. Since returning to Melbourne she has moved into a new role as Education and Volunteer Coordinator at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Invited to return

Gemma Turvey [2013]

Gemma’s project was to undertake an intensive mentorship with improvisation specialist, pedagogue and multi Grammy Award winning cellist, Professor Eugene Friesen at the Berklee College of Music, Boston in order to develop her skills as an improvising pianist, composer and Director of chamber ensemble The New Palm Court Orchestra (NPCO). The fellowship was a huge success. As a result she significantly improved her skills and fluency as an improvising pianist, and gained new composition techniques which she has already begun applying to new compositions for the NPCO. She also made several significant professional and industry connections, including meeting the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Arts, Tourism and Special Events, which has resulted in the NPCO being invited to perform at the 2015 Boston Arts Festival. Most recently a quartet for the NPCO performed at the 30th Anniversary celebrations of the MBSCA.

Collaborating to help premature babies

Dr Rebecca Lim [2013]

Dr Rebecca Lim’s fellowship allowed her to foster a new collaboration with a Boston-based team of clinician-scientists and generate preliminary data towards a jointly held grant that would help with the financial support of this collaboration. During her time in Boston, she learnt hands-on techniques and protocols for isolating endogenous lung stem cells. These techniques are currently bring used by Dr Lim to understand how amnion-derived stem cells can help repair the lungs of premature babies and overcome initial development problems associated with injurious but necessary ventilatory support. Dr Lim was also invited to give a faculty seminar to senior medical staff and academic faculty from the Dana Farber Institute, Brigham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Tufts University. It afforded an unprecedented opportunity to present the quality and breadth of medical research undertaken by Melbourne-based researchers.

Girls and physics

Mr Sandor Kazi [2014]

Sandor Kazi gained an insight into teaching physics to girls by witnessing firsthand the education pedagogy and methods used by Professor Eric Mazur in the “Applied Physics 50, Physics as a Foundation for Science & Engineering” course. He attended classes to witness a range of in-class activities, saw novel uses of technology in the classroom, attended group meetings, and had discussions with researchers in science education. He has begun implementing in-class and out-of-class activities in the physics classroom, implementing the novel technology in an effective way, and sharing findings with other educators.

Encouraging young women in STEM

Ms Emily Rochette [2014]

Emily’s project sought to investigate young women’s engagement with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects by studying the integration of technologies into Science. A major part of this research was completed at secondary schools in the Boston area including the Woodward School for Girls, the Dexter Southfield School and the Dana Hall School. Simmons College, Boston College and the Rotary Club of Boston provided opportunistic venues for data collection and further promoting relationships between Melbourne and Boston.

Low cost, electricity free oxygen concentrator for babies

Dr Bryn Sobott [2014]

Dr Bryn Sobott is a Grand Challenges Research Fellow on the Saving Lives at Birth Grant awarded in 2013 to complete a prototype of the FRE02 system. As the Principal Investigator he is responsible for seeing the project from prototyping, through to field trials and eventually scaling up to achieve widespread social impact. Bryn is passionate about addressing the needs of people living in poverty and recognises that specific scientific breakthroughs have repeatedly transformed seemingly insurmountable development challenges into tractable problems. His time in Boston helped develop a low cost, electricity free oxygen concentrator appropriate to low resource settings. He spent time at the D-Lab program at MIT with a proven track record in advancing low-cost technological solutions to address dire needs of people living in poverty. Collaboration with D-Lab will expedite the design and rigorous testing of core components of the device - a required milestone before clinical trials.

Two cities, shared genes

Dr Natalie Thorne [2014]

Boston is a world-leading centre for large scale genome testing. Travelling to Boston, Natalie learned how to refine her approaches to ensure higher standards in genome testing by improving accuracy in diagnosing genetic diseases for people in Melbourne. Her comparison of the Boston process for genome testing revealed new ways to use information from the large numbers of collective tests gathered in Boston. This was an unexpected outcome that is now shaping research avenues in Melbourne for clinical bioinformatics. Natalie has been able to share this knowledge with the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance and now they are able to better anticipate and manage the adoption of future advances in genome testing. Recognising the value of the Melbourne-Boston interaction in this field, a large research grant application in the US has recently been submitted by the Boston group that lists Melbourne as collaborators. The grant aims to develop the next generation of genome tests, including testing and using new technology not available in Melbourne yet. If successful, this grant will cement the relationship between Melbourne and Boston for ongoing collaborations and exchange of knowledge on genome testing.

Developing Melbourne’s entrepreneurial musicians

Ms Susan de Weger [2014]

The Hugh Rogers Fellowship allowed Susan to investigate the Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department at the New England Conservatory in Boston. She also benefitted from private Horn tuition with Richard Sebring, faculty member, Associate Principal Horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Principal Horn of the Boston Pops. With the knowledge and connections she brought back from Boston, Susan established to support her work as an advocate and practitioner for arts entrepreneurship education to improve career outcomes for music graduates. Through this consultancy, she has been engaged by the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music to develop a strategic delivery plan for entrepreneurship education within the faculty.

Find out more about the Hugh Rogers Fellowships.

Melbourne celebrates 30 years with art, music and Boston Spirit

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Michael Rowland talks with 2014 Hugh Rogers Fellows Natalie Thorne and Emily Rochette during the 30th anniversary gala

The Supper Room at Melbourne Town Hall came to life on Thursday, 28 May 2015 for the Melbourne Boston Sister Cities Association’s 30th anniversary gala.

Michael Rowland, who spent several years in the US as Washington Correspondent for ABC News, captivated the ballroom with his witty and honest appraisal of the relationship between the two cities. While Michael is well known in Melbourne as the co-presenter of ABC News Breakfast, he is also a seasoned journalist who has covered many major US stories over the past 25 years. His links with both Melbourne and Boston made him the perfect conversation leader for the evening.

Conversations among the leaders in the room ranged from business to the arts, research to education and the Charles to the Yarra. Memories of the cities were further highlighted with two videos capturing the pulse of the two great cities, and speeches from MBSCA committee members reminded guests of the innovative beginnings of the MBSCA and plans for the next 30 years. 

Along with conversations about the two great cities, guests enjoyed a performance from the New Palm Court Orchestra, which is led by past Hugh Rogers Fellow Gemma Turvey as artistic director. The musical numbers continued with a moving performance by French horn players Susan de Weger, another Hugh Rogers Fellow, and Stuart McPherson.

While guests enjoyed the NPCO playing a composition closely linked with Boston, the room was filled with images of Boston from the 1920s and 30s. Yet another reminder of the deep connections our two cities share.

As people sampled Boston Spirit cocktails created by Melbourne Gin Co, new connections were formed and old friendships re-energised.

Proceeds from the evening will support the next round of Hugh Rogers Fellowships, which opened this week

Among the auction lots were hand made accessories from committee member Georgie Morrell, a cricket bat signed by the Australian Team and arts and culture tickets from iconic Melbourne venues such as the NGV and Recital Centre.

In the spirit of the evening, Melbourne Gin Company donated a signed bottle of Gin, which added an extra ‘spirit’ and amount to the MBSCA fundraising efforts.

For a special 30th anniversary live auction, Melbourne artist Kerry Armstrong donated a significant piece from the collection she had exhibited in Boston in 2014. The piece from the Highline series went to a family of art lovers connected with the two cities.

Overall it was a fabulous evening, with proceeds going towards furthering the Hugh Rogers Fellowships. 

There was much joy and exuberance among the attendees as those with shared links of Melbourne and Boston celebrated the evening.