Australia’s Leading Science Awards

Robots that maintain and repair bridges and pipes, proof particles can travel through barriers and potentially make time travel possible, an Indigenous astrophysicist, a real-time surveillance system for infectious diseases and blood vessel technology which could restore mobility to people with paralysis are among the finalists in Australia’s leading science awards, the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

There are 50 finalists in the running for 17 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes to be awarded across four categories:

- Research & Innovation

- Leadership

- Science Engagement

- School Science

Two new Eureka Prizes are being presented in 2019:

- Eureka Prize for STEM inclusion, presented by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

- Eureka Prize for Long-Form Science Journalism, presented by the Finkel Foundation.

Other finalists for this year’s Eureka Prizes include bio-ceramics which heal large bone defects; genome research changing the way infections are managed and vaccines are designed; the discovery of cells critical for protection against cancer and a citizen science project monitoring the Great Barrier Reef.

Winners will be announced at a gala award dinner at Sydney Town Hall on the evening of Wednesday 28 August 2019.

With $170,000 in prize money and recognition nationally and internationally for winners, the Eureka Prizes are seen as the ‘Oscars’ of Australian Science.

The Eureka Prizes are a key part of the Australian Museum’s role at the forefront of Australian scientific research, education and awareness.

Director and CEO of the Australian Museum, Kim McKay AO, said the finalists in the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes reflect the many spheres in which science has a crucial impact – medicine, industry, environment, healthcare, education and more.

“As the finalists in this year’s Eureka Prizes show, Australian scientists are leading the world in many areas and their research is at the cutting edge of discovery and development,” Ms McKay said.

“The introduction of the STEM Inclusion Eureka Prize is an important part of our commitment to encouraging people’s interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and making STEM accessible to as diverse a group of people as possible.

“The work of these finalists plays a role in the everyday lives of all Australians and provides opportunities for individual and national growth.

“The Australian Museum, along with the government, universities and corporate partners, are proud to support and showcase the work of Australia’s scientific community.”

Finalists for the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are:

Research & Innovation

NSW Environment, Energy and Science (DPIE) Eureka Prize for Environmental Research

  • Blue Carbon Horizons Team, University of Wollongong; Macquarie University; and ANSTO

Coastal wetlands are efficient natural systems in the trapping of carbon dioxide. The Blue Carbon Horizons Team has shown that the capacity of coastal wetlands to store carbon will substantially increase with sea level rise, providing a counter to global warming. Working alongside government, the team’s research is being used to protect and restore coastal ecosystems.

  • National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, James Cook University

In response to unprecedented coral bleaching caused by global warming, the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce was established to coordinate the world’s largest survey of reef health. Collected throughout 2016 and 2017, the results led to major new discoveries, international media attention and an increase in reef protection measures.

  • Weed Futures, Macquarie University

Introduced invasive plants threaten Australia’s unique landscapes and biodiversity. The Weed Futures project provides a powerful science-based decision-making tool for natural resource managers to help tackle the threat to Australia’s biodiversity from exotic plants under present and future climates.

University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Excellence in Data Science

  • Professor Longbing Cao, University of Technology Sydney

Professor Longbing Cao is a global leader in data science research, education and innovation. He has developed cutting-edge theories and systems to analyse real-life complex data for smarter business transformation. His work has enabled more efficient, active and tailored debt recovery and payment collection practices, producing significant socio-economic benefits to Australia.

  • DST ATHENA Team, Defence Science and Technology Group

A major challenge for national security is ensuring that trained personnel are available when required to operate aircraft, ships and submarines. Using data science algorithms and models to analyse billions of data points and simulate decades of complex operations, the DST ATHENA Team has solved this challenge.

UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research

  • Dental Detectives, Griffith University and Australian National University

By integrating cutting-edge approaches from anthropology, geochemistry and oral biology, the Dental Detectives provide unprecedented insight into prehistoric humans. Recent examination of fossilised teeth in 250,000 year-old Neanderthal children from France revealed extreme seasonal temperature variation, as well as illnesses, insights into nursing behaviour and unexplainable lead exposure.

  • DiNeMo, CSIRO

DiNeMo (Disease Networks and Mobility) is a real-time surveillance system for human infectious diseases, such as dengue. By combining expertise, data and methods from epidemiology, transport engineering, biosecurity and data science, DiNeMo enables hospitals and biosecurity agencies to predict when and where a disease outbreak is likely to occur, enabling efficient diagnosis and treatment.

  • Endovascular Bionics Laboratory, University of Melbourne and Synchron Inc.

Skilfully bringing together a wide variety of disciplines, Synchron and the Endovascular Bionics Laboratory have developed a technology with the potential to restore mobility to people with paralysis. The innovation enables control of external equipment via a Stentrode – a safe and efficacious way to access the brain via blood vessels.

Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research

  • ACT Now for Tuberculosis Control, UNSW and University of Sydney

Tuberculosis is the leading infectious disease killer in the world, yet one third of cases are not diagnosed, posing a major barrier to its control. Using innovative screening techniques in robustly-designed clinical trials, the ACT Now for Tuberculosis Control team has made major advances that promise to transform global efforts to eliminate the disease.

  • Strep Genomics Team, University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland

Streptococcal pathogens are major causes of global morbidity and mortality. The Strep Genomics Team has used cutting-edge genomic approaches to gain an enhanced understanding of pathogen biology, and evolution of scarlet fever and other infections. The team’s research has led to changes in the management of infections and informed vaccine design

  • Vivax Malaria Research Team, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Infecting over 200 million people annually, malaria is a significant global health threat. The Vivax Malaria Research Team is focused on tackling the world’s most widespread malaria parasite, Plasmodium vivax. Through combined expertise in structural biology, immuno-epidemiology and mathematical modelling, they are working to develop new diagnostics and vaccine candidates to eliminate malaria.

ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology

  • Professor Frank Bruno, Associate Professor Martin Belusko, Julian Hudson, Dr Alemu Alemu and Raymond Liddle, University of South Australia and Glaciem Pty Ltd

By combining dew point evaporative cooling technology with CO2 refrigeration and smart controls, Professor Frank Bruno and his team have developed the world’s most energy-efficient air-cooled CO2 refrigeration system for use in hot climates. This will enable the uptake of environmentally-friendly low-cost nontoxic CO2 refrigerant in warm and hot climates globally, reducing electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Infrastructure Robotics Research Team, University of Technology Sydney

Maintaining critical civil infrastructure has traditionally been labour intensive, hazardous and difficult. Working alongside industry partners, the Infrastructure Robotics Research Team has created and applied world-first robotics solutions that have transformed how the Sydney Harbour Bridge, underground water and sewer pipes, and other critical pieces of infrastructure are maintained.

  • Professor Hala Zreiqat, University of Sydney

Professor Hala Zreiqat and her team have developed the world’s first synthetic biomaterials capable of healing large bone defects, even in load-bearing positions like the spine or lower limbs. Using mathematical modelling techniques and customised 3D-printing technology, they have also developed the capabilities to print these strong, bioactive and bioresorbable biomaterials in any size or shape.

Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher

  • Associate Professor Laura Mackay, University of Melbourne

Widely regarded as a leader in the field of immunological memory, Associate Professor Laura Mackay has discovered that a novel population of immune cells, called tissue-resident T cells, are critical for immune protection against infection and cancer. Harnessing these cells will be key for the development of new immunotherapeutic strategies against disease.

  • Dr Qilin Wang, University of Technology Sydney

Dr Qilin Wang has invented an environmentally friendly “closed-loop” technology to transform costly, energy-consuming sewage treatment plants into energy producers. This sustainable technology, which is undergoing commercialisation globally, could provide significant energy, economic, environmental and social benefits in Australia, and around the world.

  • Dr Jiajia Zhou, University of Technology Sydney

Disease diagnosis, manufacturing, solar energy harvesting and fraud prevention could all benefit from the discoveries made by Dr Jiajia Zhou’s research. Her work has resulted in the solution of a significant physics problem by using the typically inactive surface of a nanomaterial to convert infrared light into bright visible light.

Defence, Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia

  • The Broad Spectrum Respiratory Canister Team, CSIRO; Defence Science and Technology Group; Monash University; and Spectrum Innovation Pty Ltd

This collaborative project has led to the development of new respirator canister technology that can protect military personnel from weaponised toxic chemical gases and vapours. This offers a step change from existing technology which sometimes provides only minimal protection, giving soldiers a greater chance to safely complete their mission.

  • Team GreyScan, University of Tasmania

Readily available inorganic compounds are increasingly being used in home-made explosive devices. GreyScan is the world’s first trace detection device that can identify inorganic explosives in under a minute. Their use in mass transit locations like airports and train stations could help make Australia and the world safer.

UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research

  • Australian Attosecond Team, Griffith University and Australian National University

Quantum tunneling occurs when a particle passes through an energy barrier to the other side. By combining experimental and theoretical research, the Australian Attosecond Team demonstrated for the first time that tunneling is instantaneous, taking no longer than 1.8 attoseconds. This presents a significant finding for the precise validation of theoretical models in quantum mechanics.

  • Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti, Professor Geoff Hill, Dr Chris Andoniou, Peter Fleming and Dr Paulo Martins, Monash University; Lions Eye Institute; and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Cytomegalovirus infection is a frequent and life-threatening complication that significantly limits positive outcomes for bone marrow transplant patients. Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti and her team have developed a novel, non-toxic and highly effective strategy to reduce the impact of this infection by preventing viral reactivation, leading to improved outcomes for transplant patients.

  • The Invisible Catalyst Team, Australian National University and Curtin University

Developing efficient ways to catalyse reactions has been an important quest for scientific research. The Invisible Catalyst Team, Professor Michelle Coote, Dr Simone Ciampi and Dr Nadim Darwish, has shown that electric fields can be used to manipulate chemical reactions. This discovery may enable greener and safer methods for fabricating materials, from drugs to plastics.


3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science

  • Associate Professor Melody Ding, University of Sydney

Working at the intersection of physical activity, epidemiology and chronic disease prevention, Associate Professor Melody Ding has devoted her career to generating policy-relevant research outcomes. In addition to skillfully leading multidisciplinary projects and teams, she has mentored early career researchers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

  • Dr Francine Marques, Monash University

Driven by the belief that everyone has the right to age healthily, Dr Francine Marques’ research looks at the little understood role fibre plays in lowering blood pressure through changes in gut microbes. Through national and international leadership roles, she dedicates a considerable amount of time to mentoring young scientists.

  • Karlie Noon, Australian National University and CSIRO

Karlie Noon is a Kamilaroi woman and an astrophysicist. Since becoming the first Indigenous person in New South Wales to graduate with degrees in science and mathematics, she’s worked to engage underrepresented communities in science. Karlie Noon has influenced government policy, appeared in television programs and shaped perceptions on Indigenous knowledge systems.

CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science

  • Professor Elanor Huntington, Australian National University

Professor Elanor Huntington’s leadership integrates her world class research into quantum optics with her advocacy of innovative education. Committed to building engineering and computing disciplines that are uniquely positioned to tackle complex 21st century challenges, she has led the development of two new interdisciplinary innovation institutes.

  • Professor Stephen MacMahon AO, The George Institute for Global Health

Professor Stephen MacMahon is a global authority on cardiovascular disease and the co-founder and director of The George Institute for Global Health. His research, vision and leadership has had a profound impact on the lives of millions of people worldwide, particularly those most vulnerable to heart disease and stroke.

  • Professor Branka Vucetic, University of Sydney

Professor Branka Vucetic has made seminal contributions to the fields of coding and wireless communications with much of her work underpinning the wireless technologies we use today. Focused on solving real-world challenges that will assist industry and consumers alike, Professor Vucetic’s research outcomes include increased capacity, data rates and reliability in wireless communications networks.

University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers

  • Clinical Associate Professor Deborah Lehmann AO, Telethon Kids Institute

Over a career spanning more than 40 years, Clinical Associate Professor Deborah Lehmann has demonstrated an irrefutable commitment to mentoring young researchers. Known for providing long-term support to her mentees as they work towards their professional goals, she has deeply influenced the future of child health research in many contexts and created an enduring legacy.

  • Professor Barry Pogson, Australian National University

Professor Barry Pogson's vision is to create a nexus of researchers, industry leaders and policy makers that collectively shape agriculture for the benefit of global food security. Using a dynamic and sustainable multi-tiered mentoring approach, he has a profound impact on the personal development, career prospects and learning experiences of students at all tertiary levels.

  • Professor Paul Wood AO, Monash University

Professor Paul Wood is a highly respected mentor and the driving force behind the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) program. His vision and advocacy have seen more than 300 PhD researchers from 17 universities encouraged to reach their fullest potential through close mentorship with senior industry professionals.

Science Engagement Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science

  • FrogID, Australian Museum

FrogID is a national citizen science project aimed at understanding and conserving one of the most threatened groups of animals on the planet. Using a free smartphone app, participants record and submit information on calling frogs. In less than two years, FrogID has transformed the scientific community’s understanding of the distributions, breeding seasons and habitats of frogs.

  • Virtual Reef Diver, Queensland University of Technology

By harnessing the power of citizen scientists, Virtual Reef Diver seeks to dramatically increase the amount of environmental monitoring data for the Great Barrier Reef. Crowd-sourced images are uploaded, geo-located and analysed online, providing valuable scientific information that reef managers can use to make better decisions at a scale not previously achieved.

  • Zika Mozzie Seeker, Metro South Health

One of Australia’s first health-based citizen science projects, Zika Mozzie Seeker empowers communities to monitor urban mosquitoes in South East Queensland backyards. Using collection kits, members of the public collect mosquito eggs and submit them for DNA analyses, the shared data is increasing public confidence that Zika outbreaks are unlikely.

Finkel Foundation Eureka Prize for Long-Form Science Journalism

  • Wilson da Silva

Power Shift, Wilson da Silva explains how Australia’s energy system is much too fragile, and far too reliant on rickety 19th century concepts. He shows how a revolution in large-scale energy storage now under way will likely transform Australia’s energy grid, enabling the expansion of renewables on a mass scale. Published in Cosmos, 7 March 2019.

  • Michael Lucy

Ending the Age of Plastic traces the origin of the world’s growing plastic pollution crisis. Through interviews with oceanographers, entrepreneurs, bioengineers, economists and citizens, Michael Lucy explores the potential scientific, technological and social solutions to stop the growing juggernaut of plastic pollution. Published in Cosmos, 18 September 2018.

Celestino Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science

  • Professor Michael J. Biercuk, University of Sydney and Q-CTRL

Professor Michael J. Biercuk is a quantum technologist committed to educating and enthusing the public, government and business about a broad range of scientific issues. Using traditional media alongside other creative platforms, Professor Biercuk brings his expertise not only to the technology sector, but also the arts and public policy, ensuring science positively and broadly impacts society.

  • Dr Sophie Calabretto, Macquarie University

The number of Australians, especially young women, studying higher mathematics is declining. Dr Sophie Calabretto is committed to changing this. By bringing her enthusiasm for mathematics to an ever-growing audience – from university-based outreach activities, through to appearing on national media – she seeks to reveal the importance of mathematics in everyday life.

  • Associate Professor Darren Saunders, UNSW

A gifted and intuitive communicator, Associate Professor Darren Saunders gives medical research a clear, authoritative voice across a diverse range of media. He makes evidence-based science accessible to the general public, with particular emphasis on platforms through which vulnerable audiences are seeking cancer-related health advice.

Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Science Journalism

  • Tim Green, Amy Sherden, Dr Penny Palmer and Andrew Glover

Black Hole Hunters follows Australian scientists at the forefront of astrophysics as they track down and characterise black holes. This engaging documentary takes viewers on a journey from outback Australia to the cusp of an unprecedented human achievement: the capturing of the very first image of a black hole.

Broadcast on ABC TV’s Catalyst, 26 February 2019.

  • Liam Mannix, The Age

Over the past year Liam Mannix has researched and written a series of hard-hitting articles challenging the science behind nerve-pain drugs, ergonomics and diet pills. His articles have delivered real-world results and demonstrated the important role journalists can play in holding the scientific community to account.

Published in The Age, 30 September 2018, 18 December 2018; 20 and 23 March 2019.

  • Dr Cameron Muir

Ghost species and shadow places: Seabirds and plastic pollution, follows four biologists who suffer “ecological PTSD” as they study seabirds with stomachs full of plastic debris. In his article, Dr Cameron Muir explores the ways in which million-year-old patterns of migration, breeding and chick-rearing are being disrupted by the far-reaching impact of human industry.

Published in the Griffith Review, 2 February 2019.

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion

  • Girls in Engineering, The University of Western Australia

The Girls in Engineering outreach program aims to inspire female secondary students to explore STEM as a study pathway. The University of Western Australia students and industry partners volunteer their time in schools to engage thousands of pupils in discipline-specific challenges, including hands-on environmental, mining and biomedical activities.

  • National Indigenous Science Education Program, Macquarie University; Charles Sturt University; and Yaegl Country Aboriginal Elders

Established by requests from Aboriginal Elders, the National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP) supports Indigenous secondary students from lower socio-economic schools to deliver STEM workshops and activities at school, university and community events. Participation in NISEP elevates students into leadership roles, and has resulted in increased academic achievements in STEM and beyond.

  • Sensory Science, Monash University and UNSW

Sensory Science has established a series of interactive exhibitions that are specifically designed for a low or no vision audience. The events enable participants – ranging from primary school students to senior citizens – to engage with fundamental scientific concepts and to learn about the latest biomedical research happening in Australian universities.

School Science Note – entries in this category involve a video submission – links listed for each finalist

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize (Primary School)

  • Evelyn Cahill and Lucy Carlisle, Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney, NSW

In their film, Polar Bears Need their Ice, Ice Baby, Evelyn and Lucy explain how the use of air conditioners in Australia may be damaging the habitats of polar bears. They conduct experiments to demonstrate global warming and offer practical ideas for living more sustainably.

  • Finn Thomas, St Mary's Catholic Primary School, Concord, NSW

Inspired by the book Jurassic Park, Finn ponders what life would be like today if a dinosaur species were to be resurrected. In his film, Can We Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life? Finn explores the science and biotechnology critical to this notion and explains the challenges scientists would face.

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize (Secondary School)

  • Ellie Cole and Tsambika Galanos, Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney, NSW

What do cosmetics, clothing and toothpaste have in common? They all contain microplastics. In Fish Fiasco, Ellie and Tsambika investigate how microplastics might end up in the ocean. They interview scientific experts, visit a wastewater treatment plant and even study fish stomach contents to uncover how society's use of plastic impacts the environment.

  • Jonathan Davis, Townsville Grammar School, QLD

Neutrinos are subatomic particles that come from stars and nuclear reactions, and as Jonathan shows in Neutrinos – The Sky’s the Limit, they are all around us. Jonathan’s film uses creative multimedia techniques to reveal the implications that neutrinos have for physics and human life as a whole. Watch:

  • Aiden Irving and Thomas Lovell, Oakhill College, NSW

In April 2019 history was made when astronomers revealed the first ever image of a black hole. In How Was the Picture of a Black Hole Taken? Aiden and Thomas explore the physics of event horizons, the mechanics of cameras, and how Very Long Baseline Interferometry works, to understand how a black hole was imaged.


Media contact: Nicole Browne 0414 673 762