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RESTORING human vision, reducing carbon emissions, fitter gamers and fire regeneration for grapevines will be addressed by four University of Melbourne researchers named as winners of this year’s Australian Fulbright Scholarship.

RESTORING human vision, reducing carbon emissions, fitter gamers and fire regeneration for grapevines will be addressed by four University of Melbourne researchers named as winners of this year’s Australian Fulbright Scholarship.

The bionic eye will be closer to reality thanks to the work of award recipient, Dr Byron Wicks from the University’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Dr Wicks will travel to Berkeley with his scholarship to further work he has been doing with the National Information Communication Technology Australia (NICTA) Victorian Research Laboratory.

“We aim to develop a device that will restore human vision lost to diseases which destroy the photoreceptor cells in the retina but leave the subsequent neurons such as retinal ganglion cells relatively intact and functional,” he said.

“These diseases include retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration and are responsible for 48% of all blindness in Australia.”

Secondary applications of his work include gigabit wireless communication which will enable electronic devices to transfer information instantaneously without the need for wires.

The research of Award recipient Dr Tina Bell is timely in the aftermath of Black Saturday. Dr Bell will travel to the U.S and further research on the effects of smoke from fires on grapevines.

“Relatively little is known about the effect of smoke on plant physiology making this project particularly important for improving our understanding of the ‘unseen’ effects of fire,” she said.

The University’s other winners were:

- Floyd Mueller, a PhD candidate at The University of Melbourne, will travel to Stanford University to help designers create video games that help make you fit. Mr Mueller hopes his project will address a growing obesity issue and promote the health of computer gamers.

- Colin Scholes, a Research Fellow at the Cooperative Research Centre Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) at the University will head to the University of Texas to work on cheaper ways to minimise carbon emissions.

Congratulating the four winners, University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Peter Rathjen, said he was delighted to see the broad representation of disciplines among this year’s Fulbright Award winners.

"These Awards foster the creation of international links for these talented researchers, which enhance the research performance of the University,” he said.

Professor Rathjen also acknowledged the significant role that the Fulbrights have played over many years in developing opportunities for Australian researchers.

The four researchers were among 23 recipients of the prestigious award which is issued annually by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission.

The Scholarships aim to develop relations between the two nations and Alumni include a distinguished list of Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, governors and senators, ambassadors and artists, prime ministers and heads of state, professors and scientists, Supreme Court Justices, and chief executive officers.