Winner: Professor Marilyn Renfree AO, University of Melbourne

Nurturing the next generation of Australian researchers

What can wallabies tell us about our own reproduction?

Professor Marilyn Renfree’s team at the University of Melbourne study marsupials such as wallabies to understand human reproduction and development.

For three decades of inspirational mentoring of young researchers, particularly women, Professor Renfree has been awarded the University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers.

She takes on the heavy lifting so that her researchers can concentrate on the science. In her own words she is “an umbrella to protect them from the day to day trivia that gets in the way of the exciting thing that is discovery of science.”

“Professor Renfree’s own research – into platypus and wallaby genes – and policy advice is extremely impressive,” Kim McKay AO, Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum said. “However it is clear that she sees her students as her most enduring legacy in science,” she said.

Professor Renfree’s achievements as a mentor and leader include:

  • Presented 27 plenary lectures in the last five years.
  • Supervised 60 postdoc researchers and 56 honours students.
  • Received Australian Learning and Teaching Council Award (2010).
  • Brought 24 international researchers into her team, exposing Brazilian, Chilean, Chinese, Ethiopian, Indonesian, Mexican Singaporean, UK and US researchers to diverse Australian mammals.
  • Professor Renfree’s students have authored or co-authored 130 peer-reviewed papers, and are first authors on 72 per cent.
  • Champion of women in science; many of her previous female researchers working in senior science roles.

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

The other finalists were:

  • Professor Robert Sanson-Fisher AO (University of Newcastle).
  • Professor Hugh Possingham (University of Queensland).

Watch the video.