Through the vision of a local artist, the series is an annual celebration of HMRI’s researcher of the year which was launched – and continues to thrive – thanks to the support of Adjunct Professor Chris Piggott and Shirley Piggott.
Each year, the artwork is auctioned at the HMRI Ball and proceeds go toward powering our medical research.
The first installment was unveiled in 2006 and depicts the work of 2005 Medical Researcher of the Year, Laureate Professor John Aitken. Professor Aitkin, who went on to be named 2012 New South Wales Scientist of the Year, explores infertility and contraception through his research. The artwork, titled The Miracle of Conception, was created by Rachel Burgess and is described as “a moment in time, when one egg and one sperm combine to produce a unique individual, is captured and enlarged to scale for our wonderment.
” Seedling, the most recent Art Series installment, is a representation of the work of 2022 Researcher of the Year, Professor Brett Nixon. In a product of serendipity, Professor Nixon is a fertility and reproductive researcher who, upon his return to Newcastle, was mentored by Professor Aitken.
“John is the pre-eminent sperm biologist. We are so fortunate to have someone like John and his stature,” Professor Nixon said “
For some reason he saw something in me and he recruited me back to Newcastle in 2001. “Since then, with John’s vision, we’ve been able to establish a really world-class research program.”
Professor Nixon’s research is focused on male infertility, an area he is passionate about but which earned him some pushback in the early days. “I used to get the feedback that infertility isn’t really that important,” he said. “Held up against all the other types of medical research how do you justify doing work on infertility? Because no one ever dies from infertility.”
Around one in 20 children in Australia is now conceived through assisted reproductive technologies, a figure Professor Nixon says is likely to grow. “Imagine the devastation of being diagnosed with infertility. Being told you can’t have your own children,” he said. “Medical research isn’t just about prolonging life, it’s about the quality of life.”
“It might seem cliché but for me there has been no greater point in my life than welcoming my children."
The artwork was created by local artist Mitch Revs, who was inspired by a poem written by his friend Andrew Sambell. “I know how it feels to be holding on and hoping for it to be your time to bring life into the world and I can tell you the poem was magic and it’s what the artwork needed,” Mitch Revs said. “It’s an honour to be given this opportunity to showcase my work in appreciation for the research that Brett and his team devote their life to. And to have my name alongside an amazing list of artists from over the years.” “I want to personally thank Chris and Shirley Piggott who continue to make this Art Series possible every year.”