Tag Archives: Prime Ministers Prizes for science

Prime Minister's Prize for Science

2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Main image: Winners of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science (Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science)

Prime Minister’s Prize for Science: Revealing the breathing Earth

 

Kurt Lambeck. (Photo Cedit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Emeritus Professor Kurt Lambeck AO

Emeritus Professor Kurt Lambeck AO has revealed how our planet changes shape—every second, every day, and over millennia. These changes influence sea levels, the movement of continents, and the orbits of satellites.

Kurt’s original work in the 1960s enabled accurate planning of space missions. It led him to use the deformation of continents during the ice ages to study changes deep in the mantle of the planet. It also led to a better understanding of the impact of sea level changes on human civilization in the past, present and future.

Today’s highly accurate GPS-based systems build on his work and enable precision agriculture, new ways to explore for minerals, and the remarkable navigation tools we all use in our smartphones.

For transforming our understanding of our living planet, Kurt Lambeck receives the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. He is an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation: Switching light for faster, more reliable internet

Prime Minister's Prize for Science

The Finisar team: (L to R) Steven Frisken, Simon Poole, Andrew Bartos, and Glenn Baxter (Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

inisar have created technologies that make global internet connections faster and more efficient. About half of the world’s internet traffic travels through devices developed by the team and made in Sydney.

The global internet we rely on is carried by optical fibres that link continents, countries and cities. The speed and volume of internet traffic was limited by the need to convert data from light to electrical signals for switching and processing. To tackle the problem, the Finisar team created light-bending switches using prisms, liquid crystals and silicon, which have dramatically improved the capacity and reliability of the internet. One switch can handle a million simultaneous high-definition streaming videos. The team are now working on boosting the capacity of their devices further to meet the demands of 5G and the Internet of Things.

For creating and commercialising technologies that underpin the global internet, Dr Simon Poole, Mr Andrew Bartos, Dr Glenn Baxter and Dr Steven Frisken receive the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation. Their company, Finisar Australia, is based in Sydney.

Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year: Saving frogs, and revealing new extinction threats

Prime Minister's Prize for Science

Lee Berger (Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Dr Lee Berger

Dr Lee Berger solved the global mystery of disappearing frogs and challenged paradigms about wildlife health, all in the course of her PhD.

Starting in the 1970s frogs disappeared in pristine habitats in Queensland and in Central America. Whole species vanished; there was worldwide concern. Was it pollution or UV from the hole in the ozone layer? Were frogs the ‘canary in the coal mine’? Would we be next?

Lee and her mentors thought that an introduced infection such as a virus could explain the pattern of declines. The dogma of the time was that infectious diseases don’t cause extinctions. Now, thanks to Lee, we know they do. She didn’t find a virus, but she did find a fungus growing on the skin of sick frogs. This chytrid fungus is now known to be the cause of a global mass extinction of frogs. Hundreds of species have declined, and at least six species have disappeared entirely in Australia.

It took over a decade of research and debate to persuade the sceptics. Today, quarantine protocols recognise the threat of disease to biodiversity, recovery programs are designed to reduce the risk of infection, and wildlife health experts are alert to the spread of diseases such as those found in bats and salamanders in recent years.

For solving the mystery of frog extinction, Dr Lee Berger receives the $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Lee is based in Townsville and holds Adjunct Research Fellowships at James Cook University and the University of Melbourne.

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year: Making flexible crystals and new separation technologies

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Jack Clegg (Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Associate Professor Jack Clegg

Our smartphones, like all modern electronic devices, are packed with crystal semiconductors. When we drop them, it’s not just the screen that breaks. Crystals as we know them are brittle, but that will change in the future. Associate Professor Jack Clegg has designed new kinds of crystals that are so flexible you can tie them in a knot. These crystals use common elements such as iron, copper, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

He has also created molecules that can be customised to act as sieves for a vast range of manufacturing processes from the oil industry to water filtration and pharmaceuticals. He hopes the first applications will be in drug production where much of the cost of making new drugs is in the purification process. About 15 per cent of the world’s energy use is for separation processes, so more efficient technologies will find eager customers.

For creating flexible crystals and new separation technologies, Associate Professor Jack Clegg receives the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.

Prize for New Innovators: A steerable guidewire to improve the treatment of heart disease

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Geoff Rogers (Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Dr Geoff Rogers

Dr Geoff Rogers has created a robotic guidewire that cardiologists can steer with a joystick through the body to reach a damaged artery.

The use of guidewires has replaced open heart surgery for many cardiac patients. However, about 20 per cent of cardiac patients can’t be treated using current guidewire technology, which the cardiologist has to twist and turn by hand to guide it through the arteries. The guidewires can’t always get through.

As an undergraduate engineering student Geoff heard a clinician express his frustration with the technology. So, for his undergraduate project and PhD Geoff invented a steerable guidewire with a diameter of just two human hairs. Following his PhD, he co-founded a company and worked with cardiologists at the Epworth and Melbourne Private Hospitals to develop the IntelliWire.

In 2017 the guidewire and the company were purchased by Merit Medical Systems, a global leader in surgical devices, which is now working to bring the guidewire to market.

Now Geoff is leading two new initiatives: the first as CEO of a biomedical start-up company developing new solutions to antibiotic resistance; the second is a real-time system to adjust car wheel alignment. He’s also mentoring future biomedical entrepreneurs.

For creating and commercialising his pioneering biomedical engineering, Dr Geoff Rogers receives the $50,000 Prize for New Innovators.

Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools: A school where everyone teaches science

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Brett Crawford (Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Mr Brett Crawford

Mr Brett Crawford has transformed science teaching at Warrigal Road State School in Brisbane. All the school’s 50-plus teachers now actively teach science in their classes.

Warrigal Road is a large primary school in Brisbane with more than 1,300 students. The students are from 54 cultures, English is a second language for 60 per cent of them, and there’s also a cohort of hearing-impaired children.

The local high schools have recognised that Warrigal Road students come to them curious about the world and ready for secondary science. Test results back that up, showing the school’s science performance is well above national averages.
Brett is the lead science teacher at the school. He believes that science teaching in primary schools is easy.

Primary school students are curious about the world. You can engage them with simple, inexpensive experiments.

But Brett also knows that many primary school teachers are anxious about teaching science.

So, at Warrigal Road he led a program in which he spent two days every week mentoring his fellow teachers.

The results speak for themselves and other schools are now picking up his ideas and programs.

For creating an environment in which every teacher is engaged in science, Brett Crawford receives the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools. Brett is the lead science teacher at Warrigal Road State School in Brisbane.

Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching in Secondary Schools: Opening young eyes to careers in science, technology, engineering and maths

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Scott Sleap (Credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Dr Scott Sleap

Cessnock in New South Wales was traditionally a mining town, but today’s high-value jobs in the Hunter Valley are in agriculture, tourism and increasingly in aerospace. Williamtown is already a maintenance base for Australia’s F/A-18 fighters. Soon it will be a maintenance hub for the Joint Strike Fighter in the Asia-Pacific.

Many of Cessnock’s students don’t believe that the new jobs are for them. Dr Scott Sleap is opening their eyes and showing them that they can participate in the new economy. He’s done that by creating the Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence, a partnership between Cessnock High School, its feeder primary schools, and local industry.

Students struggling with numeracy are catching up with the help of robotics. A team of Aboriginal girls are making and racing model F1 cars, mentored by Boeing engineers. And the number of students signing up for STEM subjects is growing. NSW Education is now rolling out similar programs in other regional centres.

Dr Scott Sleap receives the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching in Secondary Schools. Scott is Deputy Principal, STEM, for the Cessnock Learning Community.

Originally published by Science in Public.

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science go to…

Winner of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science

What can kangaroos and platypus tell us about sex and humanity?

Distinguished Professor Jenny Graves AO FAA

Professor Jenny Graves AO has transformed our understanding of how humans and all vertebrate animals evolved and function. In the course of her work, she has kick-started genomic and epigenetic research in Australia, and predicted the disappearance of the male chromosome.

Australia’s pouched and egg-laying mammals are a fantastic source of genetic variation because they last shared a common ancestor with placental mammals so long ago. They are truly independent experiments in mammalian evolution.

Jenny Graves’ life’s work has used marsupials and monotremes, birds and lizards, to understand the complexity of the human genome and to reveal new human genes.

She has transformed our understanding of how sex chromosomes work and how they evolved, predicting the decline of the Y chromosome.

Her research has contributed to a deeper understanding of the immune system; prion diseases, blood proteins, and helped understand the tumour driving the Tasmanian devil to extinction.

In a collaboration between La Trobe University and The University of Canberra, she’s studying how bearded dragons change sex in response to temperature, a critical issue as the climate warms.

For her pioneering investigations of the genetics of sex, Professor Jenny Graves AO receives the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation

How Australian dairy milk is saving the world’s teeth

 

Laureate Professor Eric Reynolds AO FICD FTSE FRACDS

Thirty years ago, a young dental researcher discovered a protein in dairy milk that repairs and strengthens teeth. Today, that protein, sold as Recaldent, is used by millions of people every day as they chew gum and visit the dentist.

The inventor, Eric Reynolds, now leads the University of Melbourne’s dental school and travels the world, working with Australian and global businesses to create new products to further improve oral health.

Products using Recaldent have generated sales of over $2 billion to-date, and it has been estimated they’ve saved over $12 billion in dental treatment costs worldwide.

But he’s not finished on his mission to save the world’s teeth. His team have also developed a test and vaccine for severe gum disease which are now being commercialised by CSL and their partners.

“Oral diseases are the most prevalent diseases of humankind,” Eric says. One in four Australians have cavities and/or gum disease and the cost of treatment in Australia alone is over $8 billion.

For inventing and commercialising Recaldent, Professor Eric Reynolds receives the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.

2017 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year

Unravelling the complexity of height, intelligence, obesity and schizophrenia

 

Professor Jian Yang

The publication of the human genome near fifteen years ago revealed that the human genome is complicated. Jian Yang has created pioneering new techniques to unravel that complexity and solve the ‘missing heritability paradox’.

His work will enable researchers to determine the genetic factors behind complex diseases, opening the way to new drugs and better genomic risk prediction.

Some aspects of the human genome are ‘simple’ – red hair, Huntington’s disease, and haemophilia for example are determined by changes on one or a few  genes. Most inherited traits are far more complex and current gene analysis tools can only track down a small fraction of the DNA variants responsible for many inherited conditions.

Jian Yang developed a new statistical method to analyse genomic variation and showed that genetic variation in obesity, cognitive ability, and schizophrenia are due to the contribution of a large number of genetic variants across the genome.

So, to understand the heritability of complex traits and diseases we will have to analyse the genomes of hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. Jian is now creating the tools to enable these large analyses. Thousands of geneticists around the world are already using his software.

Professor Jian Yang receives the $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year for creating ways to understand inherited traits and the human genome.

2017 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

Watching the processes of life

 

Professor Dayong Jin

We need new ways to detect the early stages of disease and cancer. Dayong Jin believes the key is for physicists, biologists, engineers and doctors to work together. And that’s what he’s doing with his team at the University of Technology, Sydney

He has created new kinds of microscopes that allow us to watch molecules at work inside living cells. Using quantum dots, lasers, nanocrystals and other technologies, these microscopes will allow us to watch the inner workings of our immune system, see how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, and to find one cancer cell amongst millions of healthy cells. He’s working with Olympus to commercialise his inventions.

But his personal vision goes much further.

He believes that his technologies will enable portable, easy to use devices to detect the first signs of disease, evidence of drugs, or of toxins in food and the environment. With the support of the Australian Research Council he’s working to give Australian companies the opportunity to create these new devices.

For creating new technologies to image the processes of life, Professor Dayong Jin receives the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.

2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

The outdoor classroom

 

Mr Neil Bramsen

In the outdoor classroom at Mount Ousley Public School in Wollongong, primary students are watching and recording bird sightings. They’re down at the beach assessing the level of marine debris. They’re reading, or just thinking, in the butterfly garden.

“The outdoor classroom is probably my favourite place to be,” says Neil Bramsen, Mount Ousley’s assistant principal. And it extends far beyond the school. Students have talked with astronauts on the International Space Station and made global connections through Skype with schools in Africa and America.

Neil sees science as an enabler of learning across the curriculum. “It’s a way of hooking kids into learning. We want kids to enjoy school. It’s got to be a balance of fun and learning.”

Mr Neil Bramsen receives the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools for his innovative partnerships with scientists, the community and other schools to foster students’ enthusiasm, knowledge and skills in science.

2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools

Bringing science alive

 

Mr Brett McKay

Kirrawee High School has a rich history in sport and music. Its alumni include six Olympic athletes and several leading musicians. Today, thanks to the work of Brett McKay over the past twenty years, Kirrawee has become a force in science education as well.

Brett McKay is Head Teacher Science, at Kirrawee. As a physics and science teacher he has overseen a four-fold increase in students taking physics. Many have gone on to careers in science around the world. He has inspired young women to consider science careers. A recent year 11 student recently said, “Thanks to Mr McKay… I found my love and passion for science and a highly possible career path for me.”

Importantly he’s brought science to life for students not considering science as a career. He recognises that we all need a grounding in science to make informed decisions in the modern world.

And he’s shared his knowledge of science teaching with his peers through the Science Teachers Association of NSW and with primary schools in his area. He is seen as an encouraging, resourceful, and engaging teacher who brings science alive for students.

Mr Brett McKay receives the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools for his achievements in inspiring his students to love science and to use it in their daily lives.

This information was first published by Science in Public.