Young Tall Poppy Science Awards: Murdoch Uni researcher gains award for shining light on hidden ingredients in traditional medicines

Murdoch University lecturer and researcher Garth Maker.
Murdoch University lecturer and researcher Garth Maker.

A MURDOCH University researcher shining a spotlight on the questionable hidden ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine has been recognised as one of the state’s best young scientists.

Biochemistry lecturer and researcher Garth Maker is one of seven recipients of the prestigious Young Tall Poppy Science Awards, handed out at Edith Cowan University on Monday.

Dr Maker is part of a group of scientists who recently found a number of alarming, undeclared ingredients in traditional Chinese medicines.

According to their findings, 92 per cent of the herbal treatments analysed had some form of contamination or substitution, including undeclared pharmaceutical agents such as warfarin, an anticoagulant that can be found in rat poison.

Dr Maker has been active in speaking about his research in the media and the community, and is regularly involved in the student engagement and recruitment activities of Murdoch University.

“Science communication is hugely important for early-career researchers,” he said.

“Being compelled to explain why your work is important and how it will translate to everyday life makes you focus on what you are doing, and why you are doing it.

“Talking about our work on herbal medicines has really made me think about what we can achieve from this work, and has led us to change some of the questions that we ask, to maximise the potential benefit for consumers and patients.”

Dr Maker said it was important to communicate good science to the community.

“In an area such as herbal medicine research, there is a lot of poor quality information readily available on the internet,” he said.

“One of our key goals is to raise public awareness of the issues surrounding herbal medicine safety, and to help consumers ask the right questions about these products.

“We can use our data to join the push for greater regulation of these products by government agencies.”

The Young Tall Poppy Science Awards are run by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science to honour up-and-coming scientists who combine world-class research with a commitment to communicating science.