'Junk DNA' research inspires Higher Education Journalist of the Year

3 Mar 2011

3 March 2011

COSMOS journalist Elizabeth Finkel has won the Universities Australia Higher Education Journalist of the Year Award for 2011 for an article on research conducted by IMB's Professor John Mattick.

The article, "The Trouble with Genes", was published in Issue 31 of Cosmos in February 2010 and details Professor's Mattick theory that so-called 'junk DNA' actually helps regulate our development. 

This research runs counter to the traditional scientific dogma that the only useful genetic material is genes, which contain the instructions to make proteins, and everything else in the genome is 'junk'. Dr Finkel, who herself has training as a geneticist, said Professor Mattick's view "puts him way ahead of the curve".

"We know he is leading the scientific world with his ideas and we really ought to be writing about them but it is difficult to understand what he has discovered - one seems to require degrees in both computing and genetics," Dr Finkel said.

The Higher Edcuation Awards, conducted in conjunction with the National Press Club, are judged in two categories, each with awards for print and broadcast. The Journalist of the Year is selected from the category winners and is awarded a $10,000 study tour funded by Universities Australia. Dr Finkel's category win was for excellence in communicating research and innovation, teaching and learning, equity and access, social inclusion or Indigenous education issues in print.

National Press Club President and Chair of the judging panel, Laurie Wilson, said, "Elizabeth's story displayed all the hallmarks of outstanding journalism - she tackled an extremely complex topic, translated it into layman's language and turned it into a great story."

The other judges were: Dr Matthew Ricketson, author and former journalist who is now Professor of Journalism at the University of Canberra; Mischa Schubert, NPC Vice-President and political reporter for The Age; and Malcolm Colless, journalist, media consultant and former Director of News Ltd.

To read "The Trouble with Genes", please click here.

Media contacts:

National Press Club of Australia - 02 6121 2188

Institute for Molecular Bioscience - 07 3346 2134 or 0418 575 247