Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

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The 2016 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science winners will be awarded in the Great Hall of Parliament House on Wednesday 19 October.

In 2016, seven prizes will be awarded recognising the contributions that our scientists, science teachers and innovators are making to Australia’s current and future scientific capabilities.

This year, the contribution of science to our economy will be explicitly recognised with another new prize: the Prize for New Innovators, recognising the commercialisation of early career scientific research.

The new prize joins the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, which was first awarded in 2015 to recognise excellence in Australian innovation and research commercialisation.

For more information contact Niall Byrne on (03) 9398 1416, 0417 131 977 or niall@scienceinpublic.com.au

Read more about the history of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science and all past recipients at the Australian Government’s Science website.

Media overview: 2015 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Announced Wednesday 21 October 2015

This post includes: media call information, summary of recipients and links to the full profiles, photos and videos.

Prizes were announced at a press call: 12.30 pm Wednesday 21 October 2015, Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra with the winners, and the Chief Scientist.

Dinner: from 7 pm 21 October, Great Hall Parliament House

The winners are available for interview until 6pm on Wednesday, then from 7am (AEDT) on Thursday morning.

The winners are:

  • Graham Farquhar (ANU, Canberra)—Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
  • Graeme Jameson (University of Newcastle)—Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation
  • Cyrille Boyer (UNSW)—Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
  • Jane Elith (University of Melbourne)—Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
  • Ken Silburn (Casula High School)—Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools
  • Rebecca Johnson (Windaroo State School)—Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

For interviews and further information contact Niall Byrne, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au, 0417-131-977.

Please use the official website link in reporting: http://science.gov.au/pmscienceprizes

Follow @inspiringaus and @scienceinpublic for live tweeting and pictures and use #pmprize to follow the conversation.

Read on for more about the 2015 winners.

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Address to Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science Dinner

22 October 2015
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
E&OE

Address to Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science Dinner | Prime Minister of Australia

Well, thank you very much, Christopher, and can I say right at the outset, before I embark on the extravagant praise that is due to Ian Chubb, can I second the remarks that Christopher made about his predecessor in the industry and science portfolio, Ian Macfarlane.

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2015 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science – Graham Farquhar

Graham Farquhar (Photo credit: WildBear)

Graham Farquhar (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Feeding the world, and asking where the wind went

Life on land depends on plants. Every plant balances opening its pores to let in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis; and closing its pores to retain water.

Graham Farquhar’s work has transformed our understanding of the world’s most important biological reaction: photosynthesis.

His models of plant biophysics have been used to understand cells, whole plants, whole forests, and to create new water-efficient wheat varieties. His latest project will determine which trees will grow faster in a high carbon dioxide world.

His work has also revealed a global climate mystery. Evaporation rates and wind speeds are slowing around the world, contrary to the predictions of most climate models. Life under climate change may be wetter than we expected. [click to continue…]

2015 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation – Professor Graeme Jameson

How trillions of bubbles earned billions of dollars for Australia

Graeme Jameson_headshot

Graeme Jameson (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Graeme Jameson’s technologies use trillions of bubbles to add billions of dollars to the value of Australia’s mineral and energy industries.

He created the Jameson Cell in the 1980s to concentrate base metals such as copper, lead, and zinc.

And it’s all done with bubbles. Graeme took flotation, a century old technology developed in Broken Hill, and transformed it. A turbulent cloud of minute bubbles are pushed through a slurry of ground-up ore where they pick up mineral particles and carry them to the surface.

The technology found many more applications, most profitably in the Australian coal industry, where the Jameson Cell has retrieved fine export coal particles worth more than $36 billion.

Now, Graeme Jameson is working on a newer version of his technology. The Novacell can concentrate larger ore particles, and save up to 15 per cent of the total energy expended in extraction and processing in mining—reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well. [click to continue…]

2015 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year – A/Prof Cyrille Boyer

Making polymers with light

Cyrille Boyer_headshot

Cyrille Boyer (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Cyrille Boyer uses light to make new and complex polymers.

It’s the latest in a series of techniques that have enabled him to create materials which are being applied in areas as widespread as non-stick coatings, anti-fouling technology, precision drug delivery, medical diagnosis and imaging.

His ideas are built on the revolutionary RAFT techniques for which David Solomon and Ezio Rizzardo received the 2011 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. His latest technology uses light and chlorophyll to catalyse the creation of polymers using up to ten building blocks.

He’s using it to create nanoparticles that can carry drugs into the human body to break down bacterial biofilms associated with implants, cystic fibrosis, and sticky ear.

His patented technologies will herald a new era of smart polymers and eventually he believes he will be able to reconstruct complex polymers such as proteins and even DNA. [click to continue…]

2015 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year – Jane Elith

Where are the plants and animals we want to conserve, and the invaders we want to control?

Jane Elith_headshot

Jane Elith (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Jane Elith is one of the most influential environmental scientists in the world, though she rarely ventures into the field.

She develops and assesses species distribution models, which are used by governments, land and catchment managers and conservationists around the world—in short, for applying the lessons of ecology.

In Australia for example her models can help farmers restore damaged soils, map the spread of cane toads, and compare the implications of development options in the Tiwi Islands for threatened plants and animals that have largely disappeared from the mainland.

Jane is an early career researcher, yet in the field of environment and ecology, she is the 11th most cited author worldwide over the past 10 years, and is the only Australian woman on the highly cited list, according to the information company Thomson Reuters. [click to continue…]

2015 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science – Secondary teaching – Ken Silburn

Bringing students to science

Kenneth Silburn_headshot

Ken Silburn (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Fifteen years ago Casula High School was just an average state school in Sydney’s south-western suburbs with just eight students doing science at year 12. But something extraordinary has happened. Two-thirds of Year 11 and 12 students now choose science subjects and they are performing well above the state average.

The transformation is largely due to the work of Dr Ken Silburn, the head of science at Casula.

Ken has transformed the way his students engage with science, through extension programs, interactive and hands-on activities, and a great deal of encouragement.

In the classroom, Ken focuses on what his students are most interested in or fascinated by, and makes it a big part of his science teaching curriculum. A highlight is the use of space science as a core element of the classes.

For his leadership in science teaching, Dr Ken Silburn receives the 2015 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. [click to continue…]

2015 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science – Primary teaching – Rebecca Johnson

Improved primary science teaching at no extra cost

Rebecca Johnson_headshot

Rebecca Johnson (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Fifteen years ago Rebecca Johnson, from Windaroo State School, initiated a new method for teaching science more effectively in primary schools without costing the government anything extra.

“No-one ever questions the need to have specialist teachers for subjects such as music, physical education and languages other than English, in primary schools,” says Rebecca.

“Particular skill sets and qualities are required to teach these subjects effectively, and I believe the same applies to teaching science.”

With a fully-resourced science room Rebecca, with her teaching partner, teaches science to every student at Windaroo State School. Because of this designated space and the importance that has been assigned to this subject area, the children are able to experience a depth of science learning usually reserved for high school. And it’s all effectively done during the classroom teachers’ non-contact time, at no extra cost. [click to continue…]

2015 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science – photos of winners

  • For photos from the night, email Niall on niall@scienceinpublic.com.au
  • Graham Farquhar – Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
  • Graeme Jameson – Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation
  • Cyrille Boyer – Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
  • Jane Elith – Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
  • Ken Silburn – Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools
  • Rebecca Johnson – Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

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Media release from the Prime Minister and the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP

21 October 2015
Prime Minister
Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science
The Hon. Christopher Pyne MP

OUR BRIGHTEST SCIENCE MINDS RECEIVE PRESTIGIOUS PM’S PRIZES

An Australian National University professor whose work has transformed our understanding of the world’s most important biological reaction – photosynthesis – is one of the recipients of the prestigious Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, announced today.

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2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science – recipients in brief

The winners of the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are:

  • Sam Berkovic and Ingrid Scheffer, the genetics of epilepsy: bringing hope to families, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
  • Ryan Lister, regulating genes to treat illness, grow food, and understand the brain, Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
  • Matthew Hill, Australian crystals set to take over industry, Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
  • Geoff McNamara, a taste of real-world science to take to the real world, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools
  • Brian Schiller, combining play, science and language, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

winners group photo

On this page

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were presented by the Prime Minister and The Minister for Industry at the prize dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House on Wednesday 29 October. Adam Spencer, mathematician and broadcaster, was the m/c for the dinner.

The official website for the prizes is www.industry.gov.au/scienceprizes. Please use this address in publications. [click to continue…]

Winners’ acceptance speeches for the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

This post includes the winners’ acceptance speeches for the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science award dinner.

Ingrid Scheffer – Prime Minister’s Prize for Scienceingrid

Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and Distinguished Guests.

Thank you for this wonderful honour.

Scientific discovery is about curiosity, critical thinking and above all, passion. It is clear tonight that the winners bring their passion for science to both education and research. [click to continue…]

2014 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science – photos of winners

(left to right) Dr Matthew Hill, Malcolm McIntosh Prize, Physical Scientist of the Year award recipient; Professor Ryan Lister,  Frank Fenner Prize, Life Scientist of the Year Award Recipient; Professor Ingrid Scheffer, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science joint award recipient; The Hon Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of Australia; The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP, Minister for Industry; Laureate Professor Sam Berkovic, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science joint award recipient; Mr Geoff McNamara, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching (Secondary Schools) award recipient; Mr Brian Schiller, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching (Primary Schools) award recipient.

(left to right) Dr Matthew Hill, Malcolm McIntosh Prize, Physical Scientist of the Year award recipient; Professor Ryan Lister, Frank Fenner Prize, Life Scientist of the Year Award Recipient; Professor Ingrid Scheffer, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science joint award recipient; The Hon Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of Australia; The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP, Minister for Industry; Laureate Professor Sam Berkovic, Prime Minister’s Prize for Science joint award recipient; Mr Geoff McNamara, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching (Secondary Schools) award recipient; Mr Brian Schiller, Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching (Primary Schools) award recipient.

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2014 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science

Download the video footage

The genetics of epilepsy: bringing hope to families

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Ingrid Scheffer (Photo credit: WildBear)

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Sam Berkovic (Photo credit: WildBear)

Sam Berkovic and Ingrid Scheffer have changed the way the world thinks about epilepsy, the debilitating condition that affects about 50 million people.

Twenty years ago doctors tended to regard most forms of epilepsy as acquired rather than inherited. In other words, they believed epilepsy was mostly due to injury: the result of things like a crack on the head in a car accident, a bad fall in the playground, a tumour, or something having gone wrong in labour. Parents felt responsible, and the resulting guilt was enormous.

The two clinician-researchers from the University of Melbourne have led the way in finding a genetic basis for many epilepsies, building on their discovery of the first ever link between a specific gene and a form of epilepsy. Finding that answer has been of profound importance for families.

Along the way, Sam and Ingrid discovered that a particularly severe form of epilepsy, thought to result from vaccination, was actually caused by a gene mutation. This finding dispelled significant concerns about immunisation.

Their discoveries of the connections between epilepsy and genes have opened the way to better targeted research, diagnosis and treatment for epilepsy. Together with collaborators, they have shown that genes can lead to seizures in different ways in different forms of epilepsy. An important cause, for instance, is interference with the movement of nutrients across nerve cell membranes. In one of these cases, treatment using a diet that avoids glucose is effective.

For their contribution to the study of epilepsy, its diagnosis, management and treatment, Laureate Professor Sam Berkovic of the University of Melbourne and Austin Health and Professor Ingrid Scheffer of the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and Austin Health have been awarded the 2014 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

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