Every Eureka Prize winner has a different story. For Dr Michael Bowen from the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney it began with his Dean of Science, Professor Trevor Hambley. “I was approached by a representative of the Dean, saying Professor Hambley would like to nominate me for the award. I was honoured that he and his team viewed my work as worthy of the nomination and, given the recent successes of the Faculty of Science in this category, I was more than happy to trust their good judgement.”

And a good thing Dr Bowen did! He went on to win the 2016 Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher for his research focused on discovering and developing novel treatments for serious brain disorders that currently lack effective treatments. In particular, a major focus of his research is exploring the potential of targeting the brain oxytocin system to treat addictions, such as alcohol-use disorder, and social disorders, such as autism.

Dr Bowen says being announced a Eureka Prizes winner was a life defining moment, “saying I felt ecstatic would be an understatement! There are certain moments in your life that are defining, and you know it even as you experience them. That was certainly one of those moments, and in the best possible way.”

“The award has brought my work a lot of additional recognition,” says Dr Bowen, “however, what really makes me proud is that this award was a recognition by the broader scientific community that finding effective treatments for substance-use disorders and social disorders are among the great challenges we face in science and medicine in the 21st century.”

For Dr Bowen, 2017 is all about continuing to rise to that challenge “my major focus this year is finishing off the final safety testing for one of our novel drug treatments for substance-use disorders. And preparing to launch first-in-human clinical trials with our lead compound.”

The Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher will again be awarded in 2017. This prize recognises outstanding scientific research conducted by an individual or team of early career researchers. Individuals entering this prize must be 35 years or younger or be no more than five years since being awarded their PhD, at the close of entries (5 May 2017).

Other past winners of this prize include: