Bernie Goldie

Bill Wheeler’s bionics research dream lives on

Unique bionics research taking place at University of Wollongong’s Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) will be highlighted on the international stage thanks to the Bill Wheeler Award.

A prize of $2,000 was awarded to 25-year-old IPRI bionics program PhD student, Amy Gelmi, for her ongoing research into characterising biomaterials using a protein measurement.

By understanding the look, feel and behaviour of biomaterials made at IPRI, scientists can then determine how the materials could be used for various applications, including the creation of bionic devices to assist in regeneration of damaged nerve and muscle.

“The Bill Wheeler award gives me a fantastic opportunity to present this unique work at a conference in Paris,” Amy said.

“In Paris, the leaders in this field will be attending giving me the chance to not only promote IPRI's bionics group but also hopefully develop new collaborations and contacts.

“I will also be visiting a laboratory in Ulm, Germany, where we can further investigate these biomaterials with new, exciting techniques to lead on from the work done here at IPRI.”

Since its inception in 2009, the Bill Wheeler Award has developed into a popular community event. The inventor of the cochlear implant, Professor Graeme Clark, recently presented a fascinating talk about his work to an enthusiastic audience including several recipients of implants and students interesting in the field of bionics.

Bill Wheeler’s enthusiasm for fundraising for bionics research dates back several years. While a member of the Board of the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund, Bill met Professor Clark and discussed his work and the need for more research.

In 2003, with the support of Kiama Rotary, Bill was the instigator and the main organiser of a fund raiser at Hartwell House for bionic research. Professor Clark and IPRI Director, Professor Gordon Wallace, gave presentations on their research.

Bill Wheeler died in 2007, however, his passion for helping the community continues with the annual Bill Wheeler Award, assisting young researchers such as Amy to develop real solutions for the community.


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  • Winner of the Bill Wheeler Award, Amy Gelmi, is pictured with (from left) Professor Gordon Wallace, Lexie Wheeler and Professor Graeme Clark