Francis Logan

Francis Logan

Minister for Energy; Resources; Industry and Enterprise

    Student finds way to healthier fruit and vegetables

    15/05/2008 12:00 AM

    The fresh fruit and vegetables we eat could become even healthier, thanks to a Perth high school student who will now be competing against the world’s best biotechnology students.


    Two Perth students will take their groundbreaking research to San Diego next month to compete with America’s best biotechnology students at the sanofi-aventis International BioGENEius Challenge.


    Industry and Enterprise Minister Francis Logan today congratulated Bindhu Holavanahalli and Oliver Tester on becoming Western Australia’s representatives in the challenge.    


    Mr Logan said the challenge was designed to capture the inquisitive nature of high school students in Years 8 to 12 with an interest in science.


    “It provides an opportunity for the State’s motivated and talented high school students to undertake outstanding research in biotechnology,” he said.


    “We are the first country from outside North America to compete in the Challenge."


    Bindhu, who lives in Kingsley, is a 17-year-old former Shenton College and first-year university student who used cutting-edge GeneChip technology to understand how sulphur dioxide affects table grapes.


    Sulphur dioxide is put on grapes to give them a longer shelf life but Bindhu’s research found that it also increases the production of antioxidants, giving greater nutritional value to the consumer.


    Her research now means that testing can begin on natural alternatives to current sulphur dioxide treatments on grapes and other food crops for an even healthier outcome for the consumer.


    Bindhu was mentored by Dr Aneta Ivanova, a researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Energy Biology.


    Oliver is a 16-year-old student from Martin who attends Murdoch College.


    He established a subterranean peptide marker clover library that will catalogue the different types of clover available to sheep farmers. This will help to quickly identify the varieties that contain high levels of oestrogen that could lead to clover disease in sheep.


    His research has improved the accuracy and reduced the time it takes to carry out a seed purity test of clover varieties to only two days, a time saving of six weeks.


    He was mentored by Adjunct Associate Professor Chris Florides, Managing Director of Saturn Biotech Ltd (based at the WA State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre at Murdoch University).


    The BioGENEius Challenge has been an exciting journey for me,” Oliver said.


    “It has opened my eyes to the many exciting job and study opportunities I can choose from, and helped me to establish connections within the science sector.”


    The Minister said both Oliver’s and Bindhu’s research was groundbreaking.


    “I know the judges had a hard time deciding in this year’s winners because the calibre of the entrants was so high,” Mr Logan said.


    “Through their projects, Bindhu and Oliver have both discovered knowledge that will be vital to many sectors including agriculture and health. Their research has the potential to directly benefit the everyday consumer, amazing outcomes from two WA students.


    “These students are our future scientists and this competition creates so many fantastic opportunities for them.


    “Students work with cutting-edge technologies and world-leading experts, but they also learn how to research and liaise with the science industry well before they start university. Schools just don’t have access to this technology or advice.”


    More information on the challenge is available at


    Minister's office - 9222 8950