Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

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Each year the Australian Government honours Australia’s best scientists, innovators, and science teachers through the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

Prize recipients for 2017 were announced at a black-tie dinner on Wednesday 18 October 2017 in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra.

Read all about the recipients at: science.gov.au/pmscienceprizes

You can follow the announcement at @inspiringaus and #PMPrize

For interviews contact Niall on niall@scienceinpublic.com.au or +61 417 131 977.

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

Re-engineering nature to fight for global health

Richard Payne: Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

Richard Payne (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Richard Payne (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

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.  [click to continue…]

Conservation that works for governments, ecosystems, and people

Kerrie Wilson: Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year

Kerrie Wilson (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Kerrie Wilson (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

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.  [click to continue…]

Turning students into scientists

Suzy Urbaniak: Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools

Suzy Urbaniak (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Suzy Urbaniak (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

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.  [click to continue…]

Creating better science teachers

Gary Tilley: Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

Gary Tilley (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

Gary Tilley (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science/WildBear)

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.  [click to continue…]

Media Kit

  • Reptile guru Rick Shine wants to release small cane toads to protect native snakes, lizards and quolls (Sydney)
  • Michael Aitkin is making stock markets fair and efficient; can he do the same for the health system? (Sydney)
  • Colin Hall’s plastic mirrors are the beginning of a new manufacturing technology, and jobs (Adelaide)
  • Kerrie Wilson is providing the evidence-base for good conservation decisions by putting a value on clean air, water, food, tourism and the other benefits that forests, rivers, oceans provide (Brisbane)
  • Richard Payne is re-engineering peptides from ticks, bacteria, and leeches to create new drugs for stroke, TB, and malaria (Sydney)
  • Suzy Urbaniak’s #therealclassroom in Perth’s Kent Street school is setting up students for jobs in mining, conservation, tourism and more
  • Gary Tilley is turning the next generation of primary teachers on to science at Seaforth school and Macquarie Uni in Sydney

[click to continue…]

2016 PM’s Science Prizes – video links

Links to YouTube versions which you can embed in websites, social media, etc. are now available below. 

MP4 versions with and without music are available here (login username: science, password: 2016)

Rick Shine – Prime Minister’s Prize for Science: YouTube video

Michael Aitken – Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation: YouTube video

Colin Hall – Prize for New Innovators: YouTube video

Richard Payne – Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Life Scientist of the Year: YouTube video

Kerrie Wilson – Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year: YouTube video

Suzy Urbaniak – Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools: YouTube video

Gary Tilley – Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools: YouTube video

2016 PM’s Science Prizes – high res photos

Click on image to access/download high res version 

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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

[click to continue…]

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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