Sydney, 19 July 2023: Today, the Australian Museum (AM) has revealed the 29 finalists for the Research and Innovation category at the prestigious 2023 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.
From pioneering eco-friendly wastewater treatment solutions to designing wearable devices for cancer prevention, this year's AM Eureka Prizes showcase the exceptional talent of Australia's brightest scientific innovators. With their unwavering commitment to address the world’s most pressing challenges, these finalists have garnered recognition for their substantial advancements within their individual scientific disciplines.
The Research and Innovation category is made up of 10 prizes, recognising the trailblazing advancements of Australian scientists. The category highlights breakthrough solutions in the fields of sustainable development, food safety, biodiversity conservation, health technology, and more.
The finalists in the Research and Innovation category include:
- The Economic Fairways Mapper Team, created an open-source toolkit for sustainable energy and mineral projects, informing policy, attracting investment, and inspiring global replication.
- Professor Ali Abbas, who pioneers circular economy solutions through process systems engineering and clean energy technologies. As the founder of the Waste Transformation Research Hub, he drives research collaborations, policy change, and emissions-cutting inventions like low-carbon concrete.
- UNSW Chandrawati Nanotechnology for Food and Medicine Laboratory, has created colorimetric Nano sensors that indicate food freshness in real time, reducing the staggering 1.3 billion tonnes of global food waste.
- GPlates, an open-source software that breathes life into geodata by tracing tectonic shifts throughout geological time. Applied in science, education, and industry, contributing to 1500+ research papers.
- Associate Professor Noushin Nasiri, invented Sun-Watch, a wearable nano-device connected to smartphones, Sun-Watch alerts users in real-time to UV radiation overexposure. Customizable to individual skin types, it enters the next research stage for enhanced sun protection.
- Dr. Jiawen L, developed the Microendoscope: A powerful, hair-thin 3D-printed device detects heart disease with unprecedented accuracy. Providing high-resolution molecular insights, it revolutionizes cardiology diagnostics beyond current technologies.
- The Time Travellers, using pioneering dating methods and genetic analysis, The Time Travellers delved into the secrets of the Denisovans, an enigmatic ancient human group.
- Associate Professor Tim Thomas and Professor Anne Voss, whose research has resulted in the development of an entirely new class of drugs capable of halting the progression of lymphoma and liver cancer cells. Their pioneering work offers hope for improved treatment options in the fight against cancer.
- Dr Noushka Reiter, with innovative methods, Dr. Reiter explores pollinators' crucial role in orchid survival. Her work preserves Australia's botanical diversity, serving as a blueprint for global plant conservation efforts.
Kim McKay AO, CEO and Director of the Australian Museum, said, "The AM Eureka Prizes shine a spotlight on the critical role Australian scientists play at the forefront of discovery and innovation. These extraordinary minds are not just advancing our collective knowledge, but they are also deeply committed to creating a better future for us all. It's truly inspiring to see how their relentless pursuit of scientific excellence is directly addressing pressing global issues, demonstrating that Australian science is an influential driver of global progress."
The AM Eureka Prizes, Australia's most comprehensive science awards, distribute $180,000 in prize money across a vast range of research areas, from environmental studies to innovative technologies, citizen science, leadership, and mentoring.
The winners of the 2023 AM Eureka Prizes will be unveiled on Wednesday 23 August at an awards ceremony held at the Australian Museum. An online livestream of the awards will also be accessible to all audiences on the night. Register for the livestream at australian.museum/eurekaprizes.
The 2023 Australian Museum Eureka Prize Finalists In Research And Innovation are:
NSW Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research
Protecting Water Quality at Australian Beaches, University of Technology Sydney; NSW Department of Planning and Environment; and Central Coast Council
Poor water quality at beaches negatively impacts both ecosystem and human health, but the causes are often unknown. Scientists used cutting-edge molecular microbiological tools to pinpoint causes of contamination and collaborated with
state and local government agencies on a sewer network remediation program, improving water quality at popular NSW beaches.
Sustainable Wastewater Treatment Team, University of Technology Sydney and South East Water
The Sustainable Wastewater Treatment Team has developed new technology to address the environmental challenges associated with wastewater treatment. Their on-site, closed-loop system prevents pollution – including antibiotic resistance genes, microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ – from entering the environment. The technology also cuts waste discharge, carbon emissions and the physical footprint of treatment tanks.
The Waterbirds Aerial Survey Team, UNSW and NSW Department of Planning and Environment
The Waterbirds Aerial Survey Team has conducted one of the largest and longest-running wildlife surveys in the world. As well as influencing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and nomination and management of Ramsar-listed wetlands, their data has contributed to the gazettal of three new national parks, and conservation of waterbirds and freshwater ecosystems, including rivers.
Australian Institute of Botanical Science Eureka Prize for Excellence in Botanical Science
Professor David Keith, UNSW
Professor David Keith has created a new universal framework classifying ecosystems based on their shared ecological processes. This tool, adopted by the United Nations and already applied in Australia, has been instrumental in formulating effective conservation strategies and helps maintain plant diversity in the face of accelerating environmental change.
Dr Noushka Reiter, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Dr Noushka Reiter leads an internationally recognised orchid conservation program, which has bolstered the populations of 14 endangered species by up to 260%. Using innovative methods to study pollinators and symbiotically propagate over 20,000 plants across 80 endangered species, her work safeguards Australia's unique botanical diversity, providing a blueprint for global plant conservation.
Tropical Mountain Plant Science Project, Australian Tropical Herbarium at James Cook University
The Tropical Mountain Plant Science Project is working to preserve unique plant species found in Australia’s cloud forests before they are impacted by climate change. By building conservation reserves of at-risk wild populations in botanic gardens and seed banks, this multidisciplinary team is ensuring protection of Australia’s tropical flora for future generations.
Aspire Scholarship Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
Cystic Fibrosis Lung Health Imaging, University of Adelaide; Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide; 4D Medical Pty Ltd; and Monash University
To treat children with cystic fibrosis (CF), it is critical to know the location and extent of abnormal airflow. Combining expertise across physics, medicine and engineering, this interdisciplinary team developed a novel medical imaging method called X-ray Velocimetry. With further development it promises to help detect, treat and monitor CF and other lung diseases.
The Extreme Heat and Health Adaptation Team, University of Adelaide
Heatwaves – intensified by climate change – pose many health and safety risks, especially for vulnerable populations. Leveraging expertise in sociology, epidemiology and meteorology, the Extreme Heat and Health Adaptation Team systematically assessed these risks to develop evidence-based life-saving interventions, guidance and targeted educational resources, enabling Australia’s flagship heatwave warning system.
The Time Travellers, University of Wollongong
Little is known about the Denisovans, an ancient group of humans once widespread across Asia. Collaborating with archaeologists and geneticists, The Time Travellers combined new methods of dating sediments with clues collected from ancient DNA, fossils and artefacts to create a timeline of their activities and the climatic conditions they experienced.
Australian Research Data Commons Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research Software
Dr Minh Bui and Professor Robert Lanfear, Australian National University
Dr Bui and Professor Lanfear combined their computer science and biology expertise to develop IQ-TREE2 – free, open-source software that turns DNA data into crucial evolutionary insights. Used to investigate everything from early life forms to the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, this user-friendly tool, first released in 2019, has become a staple for life scientists worldwide.
GPlates, University of Sydney
GPlates is open-source software that brings geodata to life by tracing tectonic shifts over geological time. Through virtual models of Earth’s systems, GPlates helps researchers better understand our planet's complex geological history and possible future. Broadly applied across science, education and industry, it has contributed to more than 1500 research papers.
mixOmics, University of Melbourne
Created by statisticians, bioinformaticians and computational biologists, mixOmics is a statistical toolkit that gives researchers across academia and industry the ability to analyse large, complex datasets from cutting-edge biotechnologies. The software allows scientists to integrate data from a wide range of sources into a single, unified view, helping them make significant medical and biological discoveries.
Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research
Cloaking Antibodies Treatment, University of Queensland and Prince Charles Hospital
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, as ‘superbugs’, such as the multi-drug-resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, dodge even last resort therapies. Using a ground-breaking approach to remove an antibody that counter-intuitively protects the bacteria from the immune system, this research has led to improved health outcomes in critically ill patients.
The Corona Queens, University of Melbourne and Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity
The Corona Queens, a three-person research team, has advanced the medical community’s understanding of how the human immune system fights against COVID-19. The team’s work on immune responses in high-risk groups – including children, the elderly, pregnant women and cancer patients – accelerated global research into infection and vaccination.
Immunity to COVID, University of Melbourne and UNSW
The Immunity to COVID team shed crucial light on the role of antibodies in combating COVID-19. Their insights – derived from integrating in-depth virological and immunological studies with mathematical modelling – shaped global vaccination policies and accelerated vaccine distribution. Their unique approach also offers a new method for future infectious disease research.
University of Sydney Eureka Prize for Innovative Research in Sustainability
Professor Ali Abbas, University of Sydney
Professor Ali Abbas pioneers circular economy solutions using process systems engineering and clean energy technologies. As founder of the Waste Transformation Research Hub and Australian Circular Economy Conference, he drives research collaborations and advances policy change. He is also responsible for emissions-cutting inventions, including low-carbon concrete and concrete carbon capture.
The Economic Fairways Mapper Team, Monash University and Geoscience Australia
The Economic Fairways Mapper Team developed an open-source toolkit to facilitate renewable energy and mineral projects for a net-zero emissions future. It integrates advanced mapping technology and diverse datasets to identify the most sustainable locations for resource development. This work has informed Australian policy, attracted industry investment and is being replicated globally.
UNSW Chandrawati Nanotechnology for Food and Medicine Laboratory, UNSW
The current, flawed system for use-by dates contributes to 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste globally each year. To better signal when perishable products can be consumed safely, the UNSW Chandrawati Nanotechnology for Food and Medicine Laboratory has developed patented colour-changing sensors that indicate freshness or spoilage of food products in real time.
ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology
IMAGENDO, University of Adelaide; and OMNI Ultrasound and Gynaecological Care
Endometriosis affects one in nine Australian women and people assigned female at birth, who experience significant pain and economic impacts during the six or more years it takes to receive a diagnosis. IMAGENDO is building innovative artificial intelligence capabilities to pair with MRI and ultrasound technology that, with further development, will provide rapid, non-invasive diagnosis.
Perovskite Solar Window Team, Monash University and CSIRO
Cities will need to find new sources of renewable energy to reduce the impacts of climate change. The Perovskite Solar Window Team has developed a next-generation solar window technology using a class of materials called perovskites. The new use of this material has the potential to transform the windows of urban buildings into power generators.
The UNSW Bone Ink Printing Team, UNSW
Merging ceramic engineering and biofabrication, The UNSW Bone Ink Printing Team has demonstrated the feasibility of using 3D printing technology to construct living cell-laden structures that closely replicate real bones. With potential for directly repairing or replacing patients’ bones, this breakthrough offers substantial promise in the fields of regenerative medicine, orthopaedics and dentistry.
Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
Dr Fengwang Li, University of Sydney
Dr Fengwang Li has created an affordable and more efficient process for using renewable energy to convert waste carbon dioxide emissions into ethylene, a basic component of plastic. This improved process brings real-world carbon capture and utilisation a step closer, offering emissions-intensive industries a path towards net-zero.
Dr Jiawen Li, University of Adelaide
Dr Jiawen Li invented a microendoscope as thin as a strand of hair and powerful enough to accurately detect signs of heart disease, a leading cause of death worldwide. The highly-sensitive 3D-printed imaging device has the potential to provide cardiologists with high-resolution and accurate molecular insights not possible from existing technologies.
Associate Professor Noushin Nasiri, Macquarie University
Associate Professor Noushin Nasiri invented Sun-Watch, a smartphone-connected, wearable device designed to alert users in real-time to UV radiation overexposure. It relies on a nanostructure that allows a large surface area within the minuscule design. Customised to individual skin types, Sun-Watch will soon enter its next research evaluation stage.
Department of Defence Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
Professor Clinton Fookes, Queensland University of Technology
Through his research in artificial intelligence, Professor Clinton Fookes is enhancing our understanding of human behaviours and automating the analysis of sensors. Using advanced vision and signal processing, he has led the development of new tools to enhance situational awareness and threat detection, bolstering Australia’s national security preparedness.
MetaSteerers Team, University of Technology Sydney; Defence Science and Technology Group; and Macquarie University
The MetaSteerers Team developed a low-profile, energy efficient and steerable antenna system to help the Australian Defence Force (ADF) gain a crucial advantage in battle. Their unique system allows the ADF to transmit large volumes of data or track suspicious radio activity across a wide bandwidth, while remaining almost invisible to adversaries.
UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research
Associate Professor Kate Quinlan and Professor Merlin Crossley AM, UNSW
Associate Professor Kate Quinlan and Professor Merlin Crossley have shown how a mutation causing foetal haemoglobin production beyond gestation might benefit patients with blood disorders. They used CRISPR gene-editing technology to demonstrate that a beneficial mutation could be introduced to patients with sickle cell disease, a debilitating condition affecting millions globally.
Associate Professor Tim Thomas and Professor Anne Voss, WEHI
Over more than a decade, Associate Professor Tim Thomas and Professor Anne Voss identified and investigated a complex family of enzymes that contributed to cancer growth but were resistant to drug development efforts. A recent breakthrough from their research is an entirely new class of drugs that can stop the growth of lymphoma cells and liver cancer cells.
Professor Antonio Tricoli and Professor David Nisbet, University of Sydney and University of Melbourne
Using advanced microscope techniques to understand how microbes stick to surfaces, Professor Antonio Tricoli and Professor David Nisbet developed a water-repelling, non-chemical coating that actively hinders surface contamination. They co-founded Nanostraus to commercialise the technology for use in anti-microbial and anti-fouling coatings to help prevent and reduce the toll of future pandemics.
For more information and a full list of 2023 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes finalists: australian.museum/eurekaprizes
What: Australian Museum Eureka Prizes Award Ceremony
Where: Hintze Hall, Australian Museum, corner of College and William Streets, Sydney
Theatre style award ceremony attended by 400 guests and live broadcast online
When: Wednesday 23 August 2023
Live broadcast from 7:30pm AEST via australian.museum/eurekaprizes
Interviews available with finalists
Media pack, including releases, finalist info, images and video HERE
Twitter: @eurekaprizes Facebook: @eurekaprizes
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