- 2016 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science winners announced last night
- We want to hear about your collaborations with Indonesia and Japan
- And CSL’s $25 million ‘birthday present’ to Australian science—meet the first two Centenary Fellows.
Last night, the Prime Minister presented the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science to seven of Australia’s top scientists, innovators, and science teachers.
The 2016 recipients are:
- Rick Shine, defending Australia’s snakes and lizards, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science (The University of Sydney)
- Michael Aitken, making stock markets fair and efficient, Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation (Capital Markets CRC/Macquarie University)
- Colin Hall, creating manufacturing jobs by replacing glass with plastic, the inaugural Prize for New Innovators (The University of South Australia)
- Richard Payne, for re-engineering nature to fight for global health, Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year (The University of Sydney)
- Kerrie Wilson, conservation that works for government, ecosystems and people, Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (The University of Queensland/ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions)
- Suzy Urbaniak—a geologist by trade—is turning students into scientists, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools (Kent Street Senior High School, Perth)
- Gary Tilley, creating better science teachers, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools (Seaforth Public School, Sydney/Macquarie University)
Plus, you can see images, video footage and read more online at science.gov.au/pmscienceprizes
Check out all the action from last night on Twitter #pmprize and feel free to tweet your congratulations.
In this bulletin:
- 2016 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science winners
- $2.5 million awarded to Brisbane scientists Steven Lane and Geoff Faulkner
- We want to hear about your collaborations: with Indonesia, and also Japan
- Grants for National Science Week 2017 – now open
- $150,000 flexible funding for female researchers
- Clunies Ross Award nominations close 28 October
2016 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science winners
Northern Australia’s peak predators—snakes and lizards—are more likely to survive the cane-toad invasion thanks to the work of Professor Richard Shine.
Using behavioural conditioning, Rick and his team have successfully protected these native predators against toad invasion in WA.
He has created traps for cane toads, taught quolls and goannas that toads are ‘bad,’ and now plans to release small cane toads ahead of the invasion front, a counterintuitive ‘genetic backburn’ based on ‘old school’ ideas that his hero Charles Darwin would have recognised.
Following in the footsteps of Darwin, Rick loves lizards and snakes.
“Some people love model trains, some people love Picasso; for me, it’s snakes.”
For his work using evolutionary principles to address conservation challenges, Professor Richard Shine from The University of Sydney has been awarded the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.
Global stock markets are fairer and more efficient thanks to the work of Professor Michael Aitken. Now he’s applying his information technology and markets know-how to improve health, mortgage, and other markets. He says there are billions of dollars of potential savings in health expenditure in Australia alone, that can go hand in glove with significant improvements in consumers’ health.
Michael and his team created a service that captures two million trades per second, enabling rapid analysis of markets.
Then he created the SMARTS system to detect fraud. Bought by Nasdaq Inc., it now watches over most of the world’s stock markets.
One of the companies he established to commercialise his innovations was sold for $100 million and the proceeds are supporting a new generation of researchers in the Capital Markets Cooperative Research Centre.
Now his team of IT researchers are taking on health and other markets with a spin-off company and large-scale R&D program that are identifying large-scale inefficiencies and fraud in Australia’s health markets.
A powerful advocate of scientific and technological innovation, Professor Michael Aitken from the Capital Markets Cooperative Research Centre has been awarded the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation for creating and commercialising tools that are making markets fair and efficient.
Dr Colin Hall and his colleagues have created a new manufacturing process that will allow manufacturers to replace components made from traditional materials like glass, in cars, aircraft, spacecraft, and even whitegoods—making them lighter and more efficient.
Their first commercial success is a plastic car wing-mirror. The Ford Motor Company has already purchased more than 1.6 million mirror assemblies for use on their F-Series trucks. The mirrors are made in Adelaide by SMR Automotive and have earned $160 million in exports to date. Other manufacturers are assessing the technology. And it all started with spectacles.
Colin used his experience in the spectacle industry to solve a problem that was holding back the University of South Australia team’s development of their new technology. He developed the magic combination of five layers of materials that will bind to plastic to create a car mirror that performs as well as glass and metal, for a fraction of the weight.
For his contribution to creating a new manufacturing technology, Dr Colin Hall from the University of South Australia receives the inaugural Prize for New Innovators.
Richard Payne makes peptides and proteins. He sees an interesting peptide or protein in nature, say in a blood-sucking tick. Then he uses chemistry to recreate and re-engineer the molecule to create powerful new drugs, such as anti-clotting agents needed to treat stroke.
His team is developing new drugs for the global challenges in health including tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. They’re even developing synthetic cancer vaccines. His underlying technologies are being picked up by researchers and pharmaceutical companies around the world and are the subject of four patent applications.
For his revolutionary drug development technologies, Professor Richard Payne from The University of Sydney has been awarded the 2016 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.
What is the value of the services that ecosystems provide—services such as clean air, water, food, and tourism? And what are the most effective ways to protect ecosystems? Where will governments get the best return on their investment in the environment? These questions are central to the work of Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson.
Kerrie can put a value on clean air, water, food, tourism, and the other benefits that forests, rivers, oceans and other ecosystems provide. And she can calculate the most effective way to protect and restore these ecosystems. Around the world she is helping governments to make smart investments in conservation.
For example, in Borneo she and her colleagues have shown how the three nations that share the island could retain half the land as forest, provide adequate habitat for the orangutan and Bornean elephant, and achieve an opportunity cost saving of over $50 billion.
In Chile, they are helping to plan national park extensions that will bring recreation and access to nature to many more Chileans, while also enhancing the conservation of native plants and animals.
On the Gold Coast, they are helping to ensure that a multi-million-dollar local government investment in rehabilitation of degraded farmland is spent wisely—in the areas where it will have the biggest impact for the natural ecosystem and local communities.
For optimising the global allocation of scarce conservation resources Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson receives the 2016 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year.
Geoscientist Suzy Urbaniak combined her two loves—science and education—by becoming a science teacher 30 years after finishing high school. But she couldn’t believe it when she saw how little the teaching styles had changed over the years.
“I decided then that I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to turn the classroom into a room full of young scientists, rather than students learning from textbooks,” Suzy says.
Starting out as a geoscientist, Suzy found that while she knew all the theory from school and university, she didn’t have any hands-on experience and didn’t feel as though she knew what she was doing.
She realised there needed to be a stronger connection between the classroom and what was happening in the real world, out in the field, and took this philosophy into her teaching career at Kent Street Senior High School.
“The science in my classroom is all about inquiry and investigation, giving the students the freedom to develop their own investigations and find their own solutions. I don’t believe you can really teach science from worksheets and text books.”
For her contributions to science teaching, and inspiring our next generation of scientists, Suzy Urbaniak has been awarded the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.
Gary Tilley is mentoring the next generation of science and maths teachers to improve the way these subjects are taught in the classroom.
“In over 30 years of teaching, I’ve never seen a primary school student who isn’t curious and doesn’t want to be engaged in science. Once they’re switched onto science, it helps their literacy and numeracy skills, and their investigative skills. Science is the key to the whole thing,” Gary says.
Gary recognised a long time ago that the way science was taught in primary schools needed to change. So he has taken it upon himself to mentor the younger teachers at his school, and helps train science and maths student teachers at Macquarie University through their Opening Real Science program.
At Seaforth Public School, he and his students have painted almost every wall in their school with murals of dinosaurs and marine reptiles, and created models of stars and planets, to encourage excitement and a love for science. The school is now known by local parents as the ‘Seaforth Natural History Museum’.
“Communicating science, getting children inspired with science, engaging the community and scientists themselves with science to make it a better place for the kids—that’s my passion,” Gary says.
For his contributions to science teaching, and mentoring the next generation of science teachers, Gary Tilley has been awarded the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools.
$2.5 million awarded to Brisbane scientists Steven Lane and Geoff Faulkner
- Professor Geoff Faulkner from the University of Queensland thinks long-term memory might be stored in our brain’s DNA and he’ll test his theory in brains affected by Alzheimer’s.
- Associate Professor Steven Lane from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute wants to tailor leukaemia treatments to reduce relapse rates in older patients.
They were each awarded one of the inaugural $1.25 million CSL Centenary Fellowships at a ceremony in Melbourne last week.
The Fellowships are part of CSL’s ‘birthday present’ to medical research—a $25 million program established by CSL in its Centenary year to support Australia’s best and brightest biomedical researchers. It’s a big injection of cash for Australia’s early to mid-career researchers.
We want to hear about your collaborations: with Indonesia, and also Japan
This time we want stories about Australia-Indonesia collaborations which are close to a commercial application or have achieved a practical outcome. It could be a research project from 30 years ago or one that’s seeing results now—if it’s work that’s made a difference to both countries, we want to hear it. Please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re also working with the Australian Embassy in Tokyo on a couple of videos profiling Australia-Japan innovations in health and energy. We’re on the lookout for a Japanese invention or discovery that has had an impact in Australia, as well as Australian innovation or discovery that has changed Japan.
I’m thinking things like:
- How Australians rely on Japanese innovation in transport—reliable car engineering, the lean manufacturing techniques that made them affordable and, more recently, hybrid cars.
- Or how Japanese lives are being improved by Australian inventions such as the bionic ear, gum that repairs tooth decay, sleep disorder treatments, lithium to treat bipolar disorder, aircraft black boxes, and anti-flu drugs.
If you have any tip offs, email me email@example.com this week as we’re on a tight deadline to film in Japan during Science Agora in November.
Grants for National Science Week 2017—now open
Grants from $2,000 to $20,000 to a total of $500,000 will be awarded to provide funding support for National Science Week events and engagement projects, from panel discussions on hot topics to film nights, and from online activities to regional science festivals.
Projects need to be largely for general public audiences and be held in National Science Week (12 – 20 August 2017), or in the week immediately before or after.
Applications are open until 4 pm (Canberra time), Wednesday 9 November. We strongly encourage you to submit well before the cutoff time.
For more information, guidelines, and the online application form visit: www.business.gov.au/nswkg
This year’s program saw 1.3 million Australians from all walks of life get involved in over 1,700 Science Week events and online activities, including school students programming robots to dance, forums on food facts and fads, the science of whisky, a tour of a cancer research lab, and footy players versus ballerinas in a scientific fitness challenge.
And the ABC’s online citizen science project ‘Wildlife Spotter’ has seen nearly 50,000 people help scientists identify over 3.2 million animals snapped by automated cameras.
It’s the prime time for science engagement. Now is the time to start planning for your piece of the action.
For more information about National Science Week visit: www.scienceweek.net.au
$150,000 flexible funding for female researchers
Early to mid-career female researchers experiencing or anticipating difficulties juggling a research career with family or carer commitments are encouraged to apply for the veski inspiring women fellowships.
Each worth up to $150,000 over three years, these fellowships support women through their career breaks and enable female leaders to remain competitive in their field of research.
Clunies Ross Award nominations close 28 October
- Clunies Ross Entrepreneur of the Year Award
- Clunies Ross Knowledge Commercialisation Award
- Clunies Ross Innovation Award
If you need a bit of inspiration, you can read more on the 2016 winners: hearing aid pioneer Elaine Saunders; biotech star Maree Smith; and manufacturing innovator Peter Murphy.