Understanding how insects taste and smell has helped Dr Wei Xu to develop environmentally-friendly pest control strategies, and earned him a prestigious Business Events Perth Aspire Award.
The $5,000 Murdoch University Aspire Award will enable the insect biologist to attend two international conferences to support his professional development and strengthen his global networks.
Dr Xu completed his PhD at the University of California, Davis and post-doctorate work at the CSIRO before joining Murdoch in 2015.
As an emerging leader in the science of chemical ecology, his research at Murdoch’s Food Futures Institute and Harry Butler Institute is providing a roadmap for the development of more environmentally friendly control strategies to protect human health, native insects and animals, food crops and livestock.
Dr Xu’s work has significant implications for WA and Australian food producers, as well as global impact.
“Essentially, the aim of my research is odour-based behaviour control,” he said.
Insects have fine-tuned their chemical sensory systems to sense their environment, for example, they rely upon smell to detect mates, food and where to lay their eggs, while they rely on taste to evaluate which foods to feed on and which to avoid.Dr Wei Xu
“If we can identify scents that can attract pests, we can create safer traps that protect crops and thus, reduce the need for the use of heavy chemical pesticides - this is good for biodiversity and our environment.”
Interim Vice Chancellor Romy Lawson said Dr Xu’s critical research made him a worthy winner of this year’s Murdoch Aspire Award.
“Wei’s area of research applies to some of WA’s most important industries, but it is also global in scope, promising important breakthroughs in managing mosquito-borne diseases and providing solutions to food insecurity – a major problem facing much of the world’s population,” she said.
“It is also really important that our emerging research leaders are given the opportunity to extend their professional networks at an international level, so they can develop new collaborations and bring what they’ve learnt back to Murdoch.”
He has recently been appointed to the role of councillor at both organisations, and hopes to host future ISCE and APACE conferences in Perth.
“It is an invaluable chance for me to show my research, build new networks, attract excellent international students, strengthen my collaboration in my research field of chemical ecology and actively participate in the society administration as a new ISCE councillor,” Dr Xu said.
Business Events Perth chief executive Gareth Martin said he was thrilled to be supporting Dr Xu to attend the conferences, where he would have an opportunity showcase his expertise and innovation on a global platform, network with likeminded professionals, and explore new avenues for collaboration, trade, and innovation into Western Australia.
“The research and developments coming out of Western Australia, such Dr Xu’s development of environmentally friendly pest control strategies, show that our State is truly an incubator for knowledge, and Business Events Perth’s Aspire Awards provide opportunities each year for our brightest minds to showcase this knowledge on a global platform,” Mr Martin said.
“In-person attendance at business events provides opportunities for career and professional development that are invaluable, and we are honoured to be supporting Dr Xu and his work through the Aspire Awards.”