No need to shed tears over Australia’s scientific future

Eureka Prizes, Media releases
  • Why onions make you cry, and how to avoid the tears
  • Why you shouldn’t get your appendix out

These questions were answered by the winning videos for the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize.

Last night the 2015 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes winners were announced at a gala Award Dinner at Sydney Town Hall, affectionately referred to as the Oscars of Australian science. A total of 16 prizes were given for outstanding contributions to Australian science.

Sponsored by the University of Sydney, the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize is named in honour of Dr Karl (Kruszelnicki) and Adam Spencer.

The Prize recognises excellence in communicating scientific ideas ‘painlessly’ or, as the Sleek Geeks like to say, “help people to learn something without even noticing.” It rewards the best of hundreds of submitted short films – each communicating a particular scientific concept in an accessible and engaging way.

Established in 1827, the Australian Museum is the nation’s first museum and one of its foremost scientific research, educational and cultural institutions. The Eureka Prizes are the most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence in Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Communication and Journalism, and School Science.

Cry Stoppers                                     

Georgia (Gigi) Souyave-Murphy and Ella Woods, fifth-graders from St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School in Brisbane, have won the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize – Primary.

Their entry, Cry Stoppers, explains the science behind the infamous, unpleasant effect that onions have on our eyes.

The ten-year-olds adopted the roles of detectives to solve the mystery of how onions make people cry, as well as some ways to avoid the tears.

“Gigi and Ella’s short film is a lot of fun, but it’s informative too,” Kim McKay AO, Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum said. “Who knew onions were so complex? Passionate, engaged schoolkids like these will form the next generation of Australian scientists,” she said.

Watch the winning video.

Second prize in the primary section of the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize went to sixth-grade student William Martin from Trinity Grammar Junior School (NSW) who created Why is Seaweed Brown? – an explanation of photosynthesis, including experiments to show how low underwater light explains seaweed’s dark colour. Watch the video.

The much-maligned appendix: not just for grass eaters

Paige Bebee, a ninth-grader from Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School (Victoria), has won the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize – Secondary.

Her entry, The Secret of the Appendix, explains the little-known organ and busts a few popular myths about its purpose in our body.

It explained not only the normal role of the appendix in our gut, but what can go wrong and how we can keep this important organ healthy.

“Scientific mythbusting to correct long-standing misunderstandings – as Paige has done in her film – is part of building a scientifically-literate community,” Kim McKay AO, Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum said. “She has revealed the truth about our appendix and also cameos her Grandfather, Nobel Prize winner Professor Barry Marshall. Not a bad talent score!” Kim said. “It’s wonderful that our young scientists are so enthusiastic about communicating science.”

Fortunately, Paige was able to bust this particular scientific myth without resorting to swallowing toxic bacteria – as Professor Marshall did to prove that the bacterium, and not stress, is the cause of stomach ulcers.

Professor Marshall has a cameo at the start of the video – eating grass rather than ingesting bacteria.

Watch the winning video.

Second prize in the secondary school section of the Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize went to tenth-grade student Luke Cadorin-Taylor from St Aloysius’ College (NSW) who created Why are Concussions Bad for You? – an animated exploration of brain injury. Watch the video.

Third place went to year-ten students Tom Downie and Harry Bebbington of Warrandyte High School (Victoria), whose video Gravity Sucks presents the science of falling apples, orbiting spacecraft and black holes. Watch the video.

For media enquiries please contact the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes media team:

For more information about all the winners visit

Watch the highly-commended entries for the Sleek Geeks Science Prizes –