Prime Minister's Science Prizes, CERN director to visit Australia, and more

Bulletins, Media bulletins

Tomorrow the Prime Minister will present her Prizes for Science. The embargo is 5 pm on Wednesday 17 November 2010.

The winners will be at Parliament House from 11 am tomorrow morning and available in the Press Gallery from 1 pm.

Other science news: a L’Oréal award and $100,000 for an Aussie scientist discovering bacteria everywhere; Chinese science leaders in Australia marking 30 years of collaboration; CERN director here soon for physics congress; the end of the world; and…

‘When you’re up to your arse in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your original intention was to drain the swamp.’ This quote sets the scene for a black comedy on biodiversity staged in the skeleton gallery of the Australian Museum tonight and Thursday.

Here are the details:
Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science
L’Oréal Award
The LHC, the end of the world in 2012… physics in action
What does Jack Bonhom have in that box?
Thirty Stories for Thirty Years
Biodiversity Year
Did the Earth move for you?

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

The winners this year are from Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. A comprehensive media kit is available online with citations, photos, and overlay (the award videos) at

Prior to the embargo lifting you will need a password to access the site. If you need pre-embargo information please email me or call me.

The Prizes are

  • the $300,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. Last year this was awarded to Dr John O’Sullivan, the astronomer/engineer who, while looking for exploding black holes, invented the technology that makes WiFi fast and reliable
  • the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
  • the $50,000 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
  • the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools
  • the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.

L’Oréal Award for Australian geo-microbiologist – finding bugs everywhere

The 2011 L’Oréal Laureate for North America is Australian-born Jillian Banfield, Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley.  She is a geomicrobiologist and biogeochemist whose work focuses on the fundamental relationship between microorganisms and their natural environments.  Professor Banfield was selected for her work on bacterial and material behaviour under extreme conditions relevant to the environment and the Earth.

“Human societies urgently need to develop ways to function in a sustainable manner,” said Professor Banfield. “ I hope my work will help to elucidate the many and complex interconnections between physical, chemical, and biological processes, so that we can better understand the impacts of our choices and find better ways of meeting the needs of people and the biosphere as a whole.”

Originally from Australia, Professor Banfield received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Geology from the Australian National University.

More at

The LHC, the end of the world in 2012… physics in action

The CERN director general will be in Australia for the 19th Australian Institute of Physics Congress in December. The Congress is in Melbourne from 5 – 9 December. There will be dozens of stories from solar energy to nuclear energy, from exploding stars to new imaging technologies; from nanotech to quantum computing.

One highlight will be Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell (discoverer of pulsars) talking on Will the World End in 2012? The Astronomical Evidence.

Media accreditation is now open. Please email me for more information.

What does Jack Bonhom have in that box?

The Masters of Space and Time present a razor-sharp black comedy exploring how our good choices lead us to disaster.

Melbourne, 1866: Jack Bonhom is preparing to unveil the latest acquisition of the Victorian Acclimatisation Society, that august and learned group of academics, land-owners and other men of Empire, dedicated to the civilisation of the Australian bush. Little do they know that within that curtained crate lay what may have been the perfect introduced species: the Brazilian agouti. Long lived, golden-haired, readily domesticated, the southern American rodent was gifted with a favourable taste, a skin which makes excellent leather and with strong, sharp claws.

Sharp enough, certainly, to make it through a wooden crate… Further information Valerie Gregory, +61 (2) 9320-6342,

Thirty Stories for Thirty Years

On Thursday Australia and China will celebrate 30 years of partnership in science with a series of events around the country. Professor Lu Yongxiang, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress will speak on ‘Cooperation for a green, smart and sustainable future in the changing world’ at the Shine Dome on Thursday 18 November. More information from the Australian Academy of Science at

Professor Zhou Ji, President of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, will also speak around the country in a tour organised by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. For more information contact Bill Mackey on

During the past three decades Australian and Chinese researchers have worked together on projects to reduce child mortality rates, treat eye and skin disease using lasers and captured solar energy and much more. We wrote a collection of thirty stories on the results of the collaboration earlier this year for the Innovation Department. There’s a copy online at

Biodiversity Year

There’s a host of activities over the next month relating to biodiversity – a hot issue following the recent UN conference in Japan and the unveiling of Australia’s policy. They include:

Rehabilitation as a biodiversity tool

26 November 2010, State Library of Western Australia, Perth Cultural Centre

Harry Butler will be discussing how rehabilitation can be used as a biodiversity tool, including the reclamation of derelict or abandoned lands to assist the restoration of initial or preferred biota of particular interest to miners.

Sprigg lecture series – Tim Jarvis: following Mawson

30 November 2010, the South Australian Museum, Adelaide

Tim Jarvis will talk about his adventure recreating Sir Douglas Mawson’s famous Antarctic survival journey of 1912 in which both of his co-expeditioners died.

Sustaining biodiversity: the next 50 years

Ecological Society of Australia – annual conference from 6-10 December 2010

Manning Clark Centre, Australian National University, Canberra

Speakers will set the achievements of the past 50 years of ecology in Australia against the biodiversity challenges that still face us. And we will hear how biodiversity science can be applied on the ground and can shape biodiversity policy.

For further details see

Theatre amongst the skeletons

‘When you’re up to your arse in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your original intention was to drain the swamp.’

This November at the Australian Museum in Sydney, Melbourne performance collective The Masters of Space and Time present Swamped, a razor-sharp black comedy demonstrating how the universe twists good intentions into disastrous consequences.

Set in Melbourne in 1866, Swamped is based on the real-life Victorian Acclimatisation Society, a group of academics and landowners dedicated to ‘civilising the savage bush’ by introducing as many European species to Australia as possible.

Did the Earth move for you?

In mid-2011 Melbourne will host a large earth sciences conference. Over 3,000 delegates will discuss almost every physical aspect of the Earth – its core, surface, inner and outer atmosphere.

We’re talking volcanoes, earthquakes, water security, climate, tsunamis, space science, Antarctica and much more.  It’s the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) 25th General Assembly – Earth on the Edge: Science for a Sustainable Planet. We’re assisting with a public and media program. The Congress will run from 27 June – 8 July 2011 and will be a great platform for news and features.