Species savers, medical groundbreakers, Zika mosquito searchers, radar revolutionaries, forensic specialists, food production innovators, environment guardians and curious kids are just some of the finalists in Australia’s leading science awards, the 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.
The 47 finalists announced today are in the running for one of 16 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes in the categories of:
– Research & Innovation
– Science Engagement
– School Science
Among the finalists are projects using waste products to clean up industrial pollution, the genetic rescue of one our tiniest possums, research which is helping cystic fibrosis patients live longer, a community whale shark tracking program and the genetic discovery helping to identify babies at risk of developing Type-1 Diabetes.
Considered the ‘Oscars’ of Australian Science, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes reward excellence in science and offer more than $160,000 in prize money. Now in their 29th year, the 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes will be announced at a gala award dinner at Sydney Town Hall on the evening of Wednesday 29 August 2018.
Australian Museum Director and CEO, Kim McKay AO, said the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are a key part of the Museum’s role at the forefront of Australian scientific research, education and awareness.
“The quality of science in Australia is astounding. We are leading the world in so many scientific fields, from quantum physics to wildlife genetics,” said Ms McKay.
“The breadth of finalists in the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes shows how Australian researchers are tackling the big issues facing science and humanity – from national security and global climate change to marine conservation and affordable health care treatments.”
Finalists for the 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are:
The unique Mountain Pygmy Possum population of Mt Buller had been isolated for 20,000 years but was facing imminent extinction just ten years after it was discovered. Through a program of cross breeding isolated populations of the threatened species, the Burramys Genetic Rescue Team was able to boost genetic variation, translating to population growth, healthy breeding and improved survival rates. Australia’s first genetic rescue has become a template for saving other species under threat.
Some of Australia’s rarest birds could soon be back from the brink of extinction, thanks to the pioneering conservation efforts of the Difficult Bird Research Group. The team has devised a series of strategies for rescuing the populations of three endangered Tasmanian bird species, which they were able to rapidly implement following a successful crowdfunding campaign. Swift Parrots, Orange-Bellied Parrots and Forty-Spotted Pardalotes are slowly coming back thanks to imaginative scientists who gathered community support and participation to tackle challenges of large areas and shy birds.
Professor Andrew Blakers, Dr Matthew Stocks and Bin Lu have challenged the barriers to renewable energy in Australia. The team discovered 22,000 sites that are suitable for cost-effective pumped hydro energy storage, raising the profile of opportunities for pumped hydro investment within the clean energy industry. At 100 times more than needed for a totally renewable electricity system in Australia, the team’s study proves cost and storage are no barrier to a clean, green future.
A multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers and clinicians has produced the ‘Biopen’, a handheld 3D printer that can be used in surgery to repair damaged cartilage. The technology was developed with a view to preventing osteoarthritis, a debilitating and painful condition that affects over 1 million Australians. The revolutionary Biopen creates a living implant for osteoarthritis or damaged joints and has provided a platform to develop 3D printing strategies for repairing corneal damage, wound healing and a printer to enhance the efficiency of islet cell transplantation to treat diabetes.
· eReefs Project Team, Great Barrier Reef Foundation; Australian Institute of Marine Science; CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere; Bureau of Meteorology; and Department of Environment and Science
Understanding a complex ecosystem and marine environment as large as the Great Barrier Reef takes a ‘village’ of scientific skills and resources. The eReefs Project Team has produced a world-first integrated system transforming the way reef managers assess, communicate and report on the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. Spanning the entire reef, from catchments to ocean, eReefs combines comprehensive data collection, enhanced monitoring and modelling, and innovative visualisation platforms.
· Optical Physics in Neuroscience, University of Queensland
The Optical Physics in Neuroscience team has devised cutting-edge methods for studying how our brains work to detect gravity and motion. Using optical trapping and novel microscopes, they successfully imaged the functioning brain circuits that process gravity and motion and combine this information with other senses. Bringing together two separate, specialist teams solved one of science’s greatest challenges – how to study movement systems without the subject moving.
Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research
· ACT Now for Tuberculosis Control, UNSW, University of Sydney and Woolcock Institute
Tuberculosis is the leading infectious disease killer in the world, yet one third of cases are not diagnosed. Using innovative screening techniques in robustly-designed clinical trials, the Act Now for Tuberculosis Control Team has made major breakthroughs that promise to transform global efforts to eliminate the disease. In their study, the team found pro-actively screening people who share households with other TB patients has more than doubled the detection rate of TB and reduced the mortality rate by 40%.
· CF Air, Metro North Hospital and Health Service; The Prince Charles Hospital; QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute; Children’s Health Queensland; University of Queensland; Griffith University; Gold Coast Health; and Queensland University of Technology
The CF Air team has uncovered the process by which the deadly pathogens causing airway infections are transmitted between cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Their research has attracted considerable attention from the CF community, impacting clinical practice and policy and ultimately reducing infection rates amongst CF patient groups.
Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research
· NEXGEVA, University of Queensland Diamantina Institute
Flexible cancer vaccines are a long-sought treatment strategy in cancer immunotherapy. NEXGEVA has developed a vaccine delivery technology that enables treatment to be tailored precisely for different cancers. The versatility and efficacy of their platform provides important building blocks for tailoring vaccines to individual patients, improving personalised cancer immunotherapy.
· T1D Research Team, University of Queensland
Type 1 diabetes affects more than 120,000 Australians and usually occurs in childhood. The T1D Research Team has uncovered a genetic pattern that indicates type-1 diabetes risk amongst infants, bringing a simple screening test one step closer. Their discovery could help clinicians to focus monitoring of children with the highest risk, transforming management of the condition.
· Professor Tony Weiss AM, University of Sydney
Professor Tony Weiss has developed an adhesive surgical glue that quickly seals wounds without the need for common staples. The technology, made from natural elastic protein, has the potential to revolutionise treatment at emergency sites and was recently sold to an international pharmaceutical company.
ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative use of Technology
· Professor Wendy Erber, Dr Kathryn Fuller and Henri Hui, University of Western Australia
The groundbreaking invention by Professor Wendy Erber, Dr Kathy Fuller and Henry Hui can detect abnormal chromosomes inside leukaemia cells. This fast, accurate and sensitive automated method can detect just one leukaemia cell in 10,000 normal cells, a major advance that will lead to personalised treatments and better patient care.
· Professor Justin Gooding, Dr Parisa Khiabani and Dr Alexander Soeriyadi, UNSW
One in three Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70, so knowing when you’ve had too much sun is crucial. The UNSW team has created a simple and affordable, paper-based sensor that indicates to the wearer when to seek shade or apply more sunscreen. Created with existing materials and manufacturing technologies, the sensor has the potential to deliver long-term benefits to public health.
· Megasonics for Enhanced Edible Oil Recovery, CSIRO
With his global team of collaborators, Dr Pablo Juliano is set to revolutionise the process by which edible oils are extracted from oil bearing fruits and seeds. Using high-frequency sound waves, the team’s unique megasonic vessels extract oils with higher efficiency and less waste than current processes. Large Australian oil processors are now collaborating with the team to further develop industrial opportunities for this technology.
Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
· Dr Caitlin Byrt, University of Adelaide
Rising salinity and more frequent droughts are challenging our agricultural ecosystems and posing a significant threat to Australia’s future food security. Dr Caitlin Byrt’s research has identified sodium transport genes, which are now being used globally to produce salt tolerant crops that are better adapted to changing environments.
· Dr Justin Chalker, Flinders University
Mercury pollution threatens the environment and human health across the globe, with thousands of tonnes emitted each year. By converting industrial by-products into polymers which can ‘mop up’ industrial accidents and spills, Dr Justin Chalker has developed a novel and cost-effective solution for remediation of harmful mercury substances. His work promises to help make our environments cleaner, healthier, more sustainable and is attracting the attention of business, government and environmental agencies.
· Dr Mohsen Rahmani, Australian National University
Imagine being able to see in dark by accommodating a layer of smart particles, 500 times thinner than a human hair, on your eye glasses or car windscreen. Nano and meta technology – where everything is smaller, finer, lighter and more sensitive – can do just that. Dr Mohsen Rahmani has developed a new class of nanoscale surfaces that have transformed the capabilities of today’s miniaturised consumer devices. His research has a wide range of applications including night-vision technology, smart mirrors & lenses and ultra-sensitive biochemical detectors, and several organisations are interested in commercialising his work.
Defence Science and Technology Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
· Causality, University of Adelaide; Australian National University; and Defence Science and Technology Group
Pinpointing the source of radio signals faster and more accurately during defence operations can save lives. The Causality team has developed and patented a technology that exploits the space-time geometry of the light cone to greatly improve the precision and time taken to locate radio signals. Potential applications include locating explosives, securing communications and navigating in a GPS-denied environment.
· Centre for Forensic Science, University of Technology Sydney and Western Sydney University
Forensic traces can provide intelligence agencies and first responders with critical clues on security threats. The Centre for Forensic Science is developing a suite of next-generation forensic capabilities, including techniques to identify invisible fingerprints and detect traces of hazardous materials.
· The Sapphire Clock Team, The Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, University of Adelaide; and Cryoclock Pty Ltd
A clock which keeps time within one second over 40 million years offers the potential for an upgrade to Australia’s safety, allowing the Jindalee Over-The-Horizon Radar Network (JORN) system to emit signals that are 1,000 times purer than current methods and therefore see smaller objects at greater distances. Combining two decades of pioneering research with cutting-edge engineering, the Sapphire Clock Team’s technology offers the potential for a step change in the performance of the JORN, a vital Australian defence asset. The Sapphire Clock can help Australian defence agencies better identify threats to the nation.
University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Excellence in Data Science
· Professor Jie Lu, University of Technology Sydney
The first to integrate transfer learning and fuzzy logic as a means for enhancing data-driven decision intelligence, Professor Jie Lu has transformed the way organisations use data to make predictions and improve decisions in complex situations. Her methods inform organisations in dynamic environments and are already being used by Australian industry to facilitate improved business outcomes.
· Smart Infrastructure Team, CSIRO’s Data61
Assessing the condition of water pipes is an expensive and disruptive process and water utilities operators typically inspect just one percent of network assets every year. The Smart Infrastructure Team has developed an analytical tool that makes intelligent predictions about failures, helping prioritise the selection of pipes for maintenance, reduce costs and minimise disruption to water supplies.
UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research
· Professor Sally Dunwoodie, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
What if a vitamin could prevent miscarriage, foetal death and birth defects? Professor Sally Dunwoodie and her multidisciplinary team have discovered the potential of vitamin B3 to treat a molecular deficiency causing miscarriages and multiple types of birth defects. Their finding could prevent developmental defects through a common dietary supplement, which may transform the way pregnant women are cared for around the world.
· The Invisible Catalyst Team, Australian National University and Curtin University
Developing efficient ways to catalyse reactions has been an important quest for scientific research. A game-changing discovery has turned traditional thinking around chemical reactions on its head. The Invisible Catalyst Team, Professor Michelle Coote, Dr Simone Ciampi and Dr Nadim Darwish, has shown that electric fields can be used to manipulate chemical reactions. This breakthrough may enable greener and safer methods for fabricating materials, from drugs to plastics.
3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
· Dr Jason Brouwer, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Dr Jason Brouwer is a structural biologist committed to making science and scientific institutions more accessible and accountable to all Australians. He has made contributions to gender equality and reconciliation initiatives, and endeavours to progress the social landscape within science and beyond.
· Dr Brett Hallam, UNSW
Dr Brett Hallam has established himself as a national and international leader in the field of crystalline silicon photovoltaics. He supervises and mentors a growing, world-class research team, and the effects of his innovation and commitment are felt on a global scale in the solar energy sector.
· Associate Professor Elizabeth New, University of Sydney
Regarded as one of Australia’s brightest young inorganic chemists, Dr Elizabeth New’s leadership extends beyond her research to encompass teaching, outreach and mentoring. Committed to developing the next generation of scientists, she has built a strong network of collaborators and works tirelessly to improve research culture and environments.
CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science
· Professor Michelle Haber AM, Children’s Cancer Institute and UNSW
Professor Michelle Haber is a global authority in childhood cancer research, setting the agenda for this field in Australia. She is the driving force behind Zero Childhood Cancer, a world-leading initiative that unites researchers and clinicians from every child cancer research and clinical care facility nationwide.
· Professor Thomas Maschmeyer, University of Sydney
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer is a world leader in the chemistry of catalysis. He aims to generate and translate new knowledge into commercial solutions as part of his vision for a more sustainable world. His discoveries allow widespread use of renewables and recyclables in the chemical, material and energy spaces. His discoveries have resulted in 23 patents and the foundation of four companies.
· Professor Andrew Pitman, ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, UNSW
Professor Pitman transformed how Australian climate science thinks and works – moving from competitive silos to a collaborative community focused on national and global outcomes.
Over the past 15 years he has demonstrated visionary leadership in the field of climate science. By bringing together and maintaining a consortium of leading universities and institutions, he has transformed the scale and impact of Australian climate science research.
University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
· Professor Nalini Joshi AO, University of Sydney
Professor Nalini Joshi has been instrumental in training and mentoring dozens of individual researchers and countless others through the broader mechanisms that she has established. A strong advocate for gender equality, her influential actions have transformed the research landscape and supported young female scientists across Australia. Nalini was an initiator of Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) which is transforming the research landscape by increasing the encouragement, support and retention of female researchers in STEMM.
· Dr Barry Pogson, Australian National University
Dr Barry Pogson’s vision is to create a nexus of researchers, industry leaders and policy makers that collectively shape agriculture for the benefit of global food security. Using a dynamic and sustainable multi-tiered mentoring approach, he has a profound impact on the personal development, career prospects and learning experiences of students at all tertiary levels.
· Professor Neil Saintilan, Macquarie University
Professor Neil Saintilan is a committed mentor for young scientists at the boundary of scientific research and government policy. As both an academic and government science leader, his mentoring helps young researchers solve pressing environmental issues by building a more effective interface between science, policy and management.
SCIENCE ENGAGEMENT —