2020 AM Eureka Prizes: Meet the innovator utilising diversity to achieve excellence
In the lead up to the announcement of Australia’s most prestigious science honours, the AM Eureka Prizes team sat down with some of this year's science stars.
Who: Associate Professor Sumeet Walia, RMIT University
Finalist: 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
What: Sumeet Walia’s innovations include futuristic electronics, sensing technologies and devices that mimic the functionality of the human brain. He promotes diversity and inclusion in STEM, advocates for evidence-based policies and is a leader in science communication.
How did you feel when you heard you’d been selected as a 2020 Eureka Prizes finalist?
It is always pleasing to see world-class Australian research in the spotlight, be it ours or someone else’s. High-quality research relies on teams, not just individuals. This recognition is testament to the hard work and dedication of the absolute superstars I work with, the PhD students and early career researchers all putting so much into this work while juggling multiple demands and challenges.
One of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way is how important diverse perspectives on the same problem are in driving innovation.
Describe your journey into science.
I have always had a curious personality. That ingrained habit of questioning everything that happens around me is what really led me to pursue engineering and science as a career.
I first came to Australia from India as an international student to study Engineering. That degree gave me an outstanding platform to innovate and get a taste of what it’s like to truly create something new. I then followed up with a PhD and am now an academic.
My journey so far has been a really exciting one. One of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way is how important diverse perspectives on the same problem are in driving innovation.
What are you working on at the moment?
At present, we are pursuing quite a range of exciting research: from futuristic technologies that mimic brain functionality to nanomaterial coatings that can destroy antibiotic resistant pathogens and smart sensors for healthcare monitoring. It is certainly an exciting time!
What does the next year hold for you?
This has been an extremely challenging year for everyone due to COVID-19, but we are looking forward to 2021 with great positivity. Ultimately, science will come to our rescue.
From a personal standpoint, we will be looking to explore pathways that lead Australian scientific breakthroughs into the hands of the people. But I should emphasise that the biggest breakthroughs almost always emerge at the intersection of different disciplines. It is extremely important that people with diverse skills and expertise collaborate to solve challenges. We must break down the silos and we’re continuing our effort to do that into next year and beyond.
Follow Sumeet on Twitter @SumeetWalia4
Learn about all the finalists here
The 2020 AM Eureka Prizes winners will be announced during an interactive broadcast award show on Tuesday 24 November. Sign up to attend here
The Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science is presented by 3M