The winners of Australia’s premier science awards were announced last night at a gala event at the Sydney Town Hall, attended by leaders from science, government, industry and the media.

2016 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes winners announced

Thursday 1 September 2016: Sixteen awards were presented for outstanding contributions to Australian science and innovation at a ceremony last night for the prestigious Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, likened to the Academy Awards of science.

The winners ranged from researchers who have forced a rethink of evolution by studying 3.5 billion year old rocks in the ocean, to an emerging leader in science who has built a highly successful research group and is now Deputy Director of a $30 million Micro Nano Research Facility.

Kim McKay AO, Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum, said that the Eureka Prizes represent the best of Australian science.

“These awards represent not only the best in research, but also in often overlooked areas such as mentorship, promotion of research and school science though the much-loved Sleek Geek Science prizes, which celebrate the next generation of scientists who will help us face the challenges of the future,” she said.

“With the support of the wider science community along with our sponsors, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes help ensure Australian science is recognised and rewarded as it should be – as a focus for Australian innovation and achievement on the global stage.”

The winners of the 2016 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are:

  • SYDNEY, NSW AND BENDIGO, VIC: For developing a new generation of armoured vehicles, the Hawkei protected mobility vehicle, to keep Australian soldiers safe in war zones, Thales Australia has won the 2016 Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.
     
  • SYDNEY, NSW: Based at CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith is a Research Astronomer and also the Project Scientist for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). She has won the 2016 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research as the face of ASKAP. This award recognises her enthusiasm for the project and her capacity to articulate complex science to the general public with an insatiable appetite for all things astronomy.
     
  • SYDNEY, NSW: Professor Patricia Davidson, now based in the U.S.A but previously in NSW as Director of the Centre for Cardiovascular and Chronic Care at the University of Technology Sydney and Professor of Cardiovascular Nursing Research at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, now Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Maryland, is the winner of the 2016 University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers. Professor Davidson has mentored more than 35 doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, working tirelessly and with passion to build the capacity of early career researchers.
     
  • SYDNEY, NSW: Professor Ewa Goldys from Macquarie University and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics and Dr Martin Gosnell from Quantitative Pty Ltd have been awarded the ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology for their development of hyperspectral imaging technology which enables the colour of cells and tissues to be used as a non-invasive medical diagnostic tool.
     
  • SYDNEY, NSW: For his discovery and development of novel treatments for serious brain disorders, Dr Michael Bowen from the University of Sydney is the winner of the Macquarie University Eureka prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher. His research has established oxytocin and novel molecules that target the brain’s oxytocin system as prime candidates to fill the void left by the lack of effective treatments for alcohol-use disorders and social disorders.
     
  • SYDNEY, NSW: Hayden Ingle’s short film, The Bluebottle and the Glaucus, introduces us to the Bluebottle, a common sight on Sydney beaches, and its lesser known predator, the Glaucus atlanticus. Hayden, in Grade 6 at Banksmeadow Primary School in Sydney, has won the 2016 University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for Primary Schools.
  • WOLLONGONG, NSW: For taking his vision of ‘intelligent polymers’ or ‘smart plastics’ and growing it into a $25 million preeminent centre of electromaterials science – one that has created conducting biocompatible composite structures able to promote muscle and nerve cell growth, and produced new types of artificial muscles based on carbon nanotubes – Professor Gordon Wallace, from the University of Wollongong is the winner of the 2016 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science.
     
  • MELBOURNE, VIC: Professor David Huang and his team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research have won the new Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research for taking Australian research discoveries and developing them into a new cancer therapy approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April this year. The drug, venetoclax, was approved for a high-risk sub-group of patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) and is now marketed in the US.
  • MELBOURNE,VIC: For creating a three part documentary that portrayed both the good and the evil of uranium in a television series broadcast internationally, Uranium - Twisting the Dragon’s Tail, Sonya Pemberton, Wain Fimeri, Dr Derek Muller and Steve Westh, won the 2016 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Science Journalism.
  • MELBOURNE, VIC: For recreating human kidney tissue from stem cells, opening the door to the development of cellular therapies for renal failure and even the bioengineering of replacement organs, Professor Melissa Little and Dr Minoru Takasato from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute have won the 2016 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.
  • MELBOURNE, VIC: Bringing together a team with skills ranging from mathematical modelling to cell biology and biochemistry, Professor Leann Tilley and her team from the University of Melbourne have won the 2016 Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Disease Research. The researchers have uncovered an important, and lifesaving, mechanism by which the malaria parasite has developed resistance to what has been a widely used and successful malarial treatment.
  • MELBOURNE, VIC: In just over 6 years since graduating from his PhD, Associate Professor Sharath Sriram has built a research group of 25 staff with a budget of $8 million and is now Deputy Director of the $30 million Micro Nano Research Facility at RMIT University, demonstrating clear vision in science leadership and research facility management. Along the way, he and his team have developed the world’s first artificial memory cell that mimics the way the brain stores long term memory. Associate Professor Sriram is the winner of the 2016 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science.
  • PERTH, WA: For setting up a network of 49 digital cameras in the Australian outback which capture fireball trajectories through the night sky, ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor Phil Bland and the Fireballs in the Sky team from Curtin University have won the inaugural Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science. The Desert Fireball Network (DFN), provides networked observations of fireballs (meteors travelling through space) allowing scientists to triangulate the meteor’s trajectory, track the rock forward to where it lands, and back, to where it came from in the solar system.
  • PERTH, WA; MELBOURNE, VIC, BRISBANE, QLD AND SYDNEY, NSW: Led by Professor Alistair Forrest from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Perth, WA, a group of more than 260 scientists from 20 countries looked at the diversity of more than 400 cell types that make up the human body, studying how each of our genes is regulated, how they interact and how they operate in disease and in health. The Functional Annotation of the Mammalian Genome (FANTOM5) project produced a map that is being used to interpret genetic diseases and to engineer new cells for therapeutic use. The project has been awarded the 2016 Scopus Eureka Prize for Excellence in International Scientific Collaboration.
  • CAIRNS, QLD: For their video Owl Pellets: A Postal System to Scientists which investigates the eating habits of the Barn Owl, Claire Galvin and Anna Hardy, Year 10 students at St Monica’s College, Cairns, have won the 2016 University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for Secondary Schools.
  • TASMANIA AND QUEENSLAND: By conducting the world’s first survey of plastic pollutants, the CSIRO Marine Debris team has given us a confronting snapshot of the impacts on marine wildlife of the 8.4 million tonnes of plastic that enters the oceans each year. Dr Denise Hardesty, Dr Chris Wilcox, Tonya Van Der Velde, TJ Lawson, Matt Landell and Dr David Milton of the CSIRO Marine Debris team have won the 2016 NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.
  • HOBART, TAS: Recruiting an international team of scientists to track the changes in trace elements in the oceans from 3.5 billion years ago to the present day, Professor Ross Large from the University of Tasmania and his international team have been able to understand the events that led to the evolution of life and extinction of life in the oceans. Professor Ross Large and researchers from Russia and the US have won the 2016 UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Research.

Australian Museum Eureka Prizes
In their 27th year, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s premier national science awards, honouring excellence in research and innovation, leadership, science communication, and school science.

Australian Museum Research Institute Medal
Last night, in addition to celebrating the winners of Sixteen Eureka Prizes, the 2016 Australian Museum Research Institute Medal was awarded to Dr Robin Torrence, Senior Principal Research Scientist, GeoSciences, Australian Museum Research Institute. The medal is presented to an individual staff member, senior fellow or team from the Australian Museum for outstanding science and communication of their research outcomes.

Dr Torrence has been recognised for her outstanding contributions to the field of archaeological research and material culture, with particular expertise in the study of stone tools. Dr Torrence is also recognised for her outstanding mentorship and commitment to communicating the results of her research to diverse audiences.

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