2021 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes finalists
51 entries were shortlisted for 16 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.
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Research & Innovation
NSW Environment, Energy and Science (DPIE) Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research
University of Technology Sydney and Wavelength Reef Cruises
In a world-first, scientists are partnering with local tourism operators to implement a coral restoration project that is reaping benefits for the Great Barrier Reef and communities that rely on it. Since 2018, the Coral Nurture Program has undertaken widespread coral planting to boost the health of local reef sites and introduced a new industry model for stewardship.
FutureFeed; CSIRO; James Cook University; and Meat and Livestock Australia
Ruminants, such as cattle and sheep, are responsible for a large proportion of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the form of methane. A natural feed ingredient made from seaweed, FutureFeed, is significantly reducing methane contributions from red meat and dairy livestock while simultaneously increasing sector productivity, offering a solution to two major global challenges: climate change and hunger.
University of Wollongong; Western Sydney University; University of Tasmania; and UNSW
The NSW Bushfire Hub, a consortium of four research groups, undertook extensive research into the devastating Black Summer bushfires. Their findings addressed major knowledge gaps relating to droughts, fuel dynamics, and the social and environmental impacts of the fires — directly influencing many of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry recommendations and setting the future direction for fire management.
Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
Australian National University; University of Queensland; and Karungkarni Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation
Bringing together an Indigenous community member, linguist, mathematician and biologist, this team is studying Gurindji, an Indigenous language of northern Australia. Their research is developing new ways to understand the processes of language change and factors that help keep Indigenous languages strong and vibrant.
University of Melbourne; St Vincent’s Hospital; National Vision Research Institute; Carbon Cybernetics; and RMIT University
The Carbon Cybernetics Group is dedicated to finding a functional cure for epilepsy. Using the unique properties of diamond and carbon fibres, the team is developing a miniaturised neural implant capable of predicting and stopping seizures — world-first technology that is giving real hope to people living with epilepsy.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, this multidisciplinary team of medical experts, engineers and scientists disproved long-held ideology on droplet transmission. They have successfully visualised aerosol flow, demonstrating greater variability in human respiratory aerosol dynamics than previously understood and laying the groundwork for development of high-performing cloth masks.
Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research
Murdoch Children's Research Institute and University of Melbourne
Rotavirus is a major cause of death among children and despite evidence of vaccine effectiveness, significant barriers to access remain. Professor Julie Bines is leading the development of RV3-BB, a safe, effective and affordable newborn rotavirus vaccine that will prevent rotavirus gastroenteritis from birth, potentially saving thousands of lives.
University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital, Doherty Institute
First to report on immune responses to COVID-19, the Doherty COVID Immunity Group is at the forefront of coronavirus pandemic research. Using biological samples collected by rapid detection platform SETREP-ID, their work has accelerated global immune research and underpinned further study on immune dysfunction in severe cases of COVID-19.
Dengue is a major public health problem in tropical regions that conventional approaches to reducing mosquito populations have been unable to control. The World Mosquito Program Impact Assessment Team has led epidemiological field trials that demonstrate the efficacy of a sustainable method for controlling dengue by releasing mosquitoes infected with the insect bacterium Wolbachia.
ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology
UNSW; Australian Centre for NanoMedicine; Children’s Cancer Institute; and Inventia Life Science Pty Ltd
While 3D cell culturing offers vastly enhanced models of cell structures than 2D methods, it remains slow and expensive. This team has developed a breakthrough bioprinting system that can rapidly produce 3D cell structures with unprecedented cell viability and tunability — a game-changer for cancer research and therapeutic development.
Monash University; RMIT University; University of Texas and CSIRO
Global demand for lithium has increased dramatically over the past decade, but current extraction methods are time-consuming and require large amounts of harmful chemicals. The Membrane Team has developed a controlled filtration technology that can separate lithium from other unwanted impurities with remarkable precision, heralding a new era in sustainable battery production.
University of Queensland; Monash University; and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
Mosquito-borne flavivirus infections are a significant global health challenge, with dengue alone causing 400 million infections per year. Team Chimera discovered that a benign virus infecting Australian mosquitoes holds the key to accelerating viral research and paving the way to designing new vaccines, diagnostic approaches and antiviral drugs.
Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
University of Technology Sydney
Dr Emma Camp’s discovery of corals thriving in extreme conditions is informing new adaptive management solutions in both Australia and abroad. Together with government and nature conservation agencies, she is developing improved management strategies for coral reefs worldwide, while using her work as a platform to advocate for action on climate change.
Associate Professor Rona Chandrawati is a prominent researcher in colourimetric polymer sensor technology and a rising leader in the field of nanozyme development for drug delivery. Her innovative research has already found widespread application in areas including food safety, disease diagnosis and the treatment of glaucoma.
University of Sydney
As high-quality imaging becomes increasingly commonplace in medical diagnosis and treatment, so does the demand for minimally invasive procedures. Dr Tess Reynolds has developed ACROBEAT, a new technology that enables imaging and treatment hardware to operate in sync with the patient, delivering clearer, faster and safer medical images.
Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
University of Melbourne; Defence Science and Technology Group; UNSW; and CSIRO’s Data61
Simple, secure and trustworthy: easy to say, but often difficult to achieve. By combining a world-class secure operating system with novel hardware architecture, the Cross Domain Desktop Compositor team has defied the trend of increasing complexity in computing technologies to enable a new method for keeping sensitive information secure from internet attacks.
While the future Attack Class Submarines promise to deliver enhanced endurance and expanded capabilities, the design and build of these vessels involves significant technical, human and social challenges. Research undertaken by the FOWI Work Systems Design Team is driving the development of new systems that will optimise crew endurance, supporting future submariners to perform at high standards.
Western Sydney University; and Defence Science and Technology Group
Using innovative nanotechnology, the Strong Bond team has developed a high-performance nanocomposite adhesive that has significant implications for national security capabilities. This durable material enables rapid patch repairs of military infrastructure and can also improve the resilience of structural joints and laminated composites used in a range of defence platforms.
UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research
University of Sydney and UNSW
Solar cells are traditionally made of silicon, but metal halide perovskites are emerging as the new class of solar material. Inexpensive, efficient and versatile, they are also prone to damage from heat and humidity — a limitation that has been successfully addressed by Professor Anita Ho-Baillie and her team. Their game-changing research represents an important step towards commercial viability of perovskite solar cells.
University of Technology Sydney
Associate Professor Diane McDougald and Dr Gustavo Espinoza-Vergara discovered that the bacterium responsible for cholera, Vibrio cholerae, becomes more virulent when passaging through a previously unknown vector. Their finding reveals where pathogenic bacteria hide before causing infectious disease outbreaks, which will have wide-ranging impacts on the development of control strategies.
University of Wollongong
Motor neuron disease (MND) was discovered more than a century ago, yet there is still no effective treatment. Research led by Professor Justin J. Yerbury has demonstrated that protein deposits found in motor neurons, the pathological hallmark of MND, result from dysfunction in a process known as protein homeostasis. This is a breakthrough discovery that is informing the search for new therapies.
AstraZeneca Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
University of South Australia
Driven by her commitment to lung health and vision for a smoke-free Australia, Associate Professor Kristin Carson-Chahhoud is using innovative augmented reality technology to disrupt health communication. Her mentorship, advocacy and research leadership has led to high-impact public health outcomes in both respiratory medicine and tobacco control and sustained benefits for the broader community.
Associate Professor Brett Hallam has established himself as an international leader in the field of photovoltaics. He supervises and mentors a growing, world-class research team to improve solar panel technologies, with the global solar energy sector experiencing the effects of his leadership and commitment.
While genetic testing can effectively identify future disease risks, genetic discrimination by life insurers deters many at-risk Australians from pursuing clinical testing and critical genomic research. Jane Tiller’s passionate pursuit for change has influenced meaningful and lasting policy decisions, shifting the direction of consumer protections against genetic discrimination in life insurance.
Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science
Australian Antarctic Division and University of Wollongong
For decades, Dr Dana M. Bergstrom has championed evidence-based science in biodiversity, biosecurity and the impacts of climate change. Skilled at science translation and distilling complexity, she has led the exploration of ecosystem collapse from Australia’s tropics to Antarctica, delivering innovative options for modern conservation.
UNSW and Children’s Cancer Institute
Internationally renowned as an authority in cancer biology research and therapeutics, Professor Maria Kavallaris is a champion for childhood cancer. An innovator, advocate and powerful role model for young women in STEM, she has created an enduring legacy of excellence in both research and shaping the next generation of cancer research leaders.
University of Wollongong
A global leader in Antarctic environmental science, Professor Sharon Robinson is renowned for her pioneering research into the impacts of climate change on Antarctic ecosystems. She is committed to informing better environmental protection through policy change and public engagement, and championing interdisciplinary research, gender equity and inclusivity to create a supportive environment for all to thrive.
University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
University of Queensland
Witnessing the immense pressure young researchers face in today’s academia, Professor Sara Dolnicar has made it her mission to support them in becoming masters of their trade. Through a series of successful programs, she is equipping her mentees with the academic and life skills required to build successful careers as independent scientists and pioneers of change.
University of Technology Sydney
Professor Karu Esselle is passionate about nurturing young researchers, empowering them to think freely and critically, and supporting their integration into the wider scientific community. Driven by a desire to develop confident, skilled and workforce-ready graduates, he has implemented a range of programs and policies that facilitate their broader growth.
Dr Melina Georgousakis is committed to developing the next generation of Australia’s researchers and ensuring that women are equally represented among them. Through the establishment of Franklin Women, she is providing the infrastructure for a sector-first mentoring program, delivering events and building a community to foster the establishment of new mentoring relationships.
Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science
Total Environment Centre and Macquarie University
The Australian Microplastic Assessment Project (AUSMAP) is a world-first, national citizen science program that empowers people of all ages to document microplastic pollution. An immersive experience, participants are educated on the prevalence of microplastics around our waterways and trained to collect scientifically valid data that is used to design effective mitigation strategies for plastic pollution.
University of Adelaide; and Pelican Lagoon Research and Wildlife Centre
Echidnas are one of Australia's most iconic species, yet fundamental questions about their biology and ecology remain unanswered. The Echidna Conservation Science Initiative (EchidnaCSI) combines innovative community-based research with molecular and ecological approaches. The project has generated unprecedented data and samples at a national level, providing new insights into echidna biology and conservation.
Schools Weather and Air Quality (SWAQ) is the first school-based, comprehensive atmospheric monitoring network in Australia. With research-grade sensors deployed across schools in metropolitan Sydney, it provides real-time, publicly accessible, local meteorology and air quality data that can be used in science and maths curriculum-aligned classroom activities.
Finkel Foundation Eureka Prize for Long-Form Science Journalism
Psychedelic drugs may one day transform the treatment of intractable mental illnesses such as deep depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. But how much do we know about these stigmatised substances and their ‘mystical’ effects? In Love and Fear, Kate Cole-Adams plots the opportunities and risks as we move towards an Australian model of psychedelic mental health.
Published by Griffith Review, 4 May 2021
In 2020, a little-known field of science was behind pandemic policies that upended life as we knew it. In Role Models in a Time of Pandemic, Dr Dyani Lewis explains how the fledgling discipline of mathematical disease modelling grew into the influential field it is today.
Published by Cosmos, 4 June 2020
In Journey to the Dragon Palace, Dr Jackson Ryan follows the Japanese Space Agency as it plans to return ancient asteroid samples to outback Australia. The culmination of a decade-long mission across the solar system, this story is the result of unrivalled access to the scientists who made the historic return possible against incredible odds and during a global pandemic.
Published by CNET, 17 March 2021
Celestino Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science
Australian National University and Australian Energy Market Operator
Science communication at its best showcases the wonders of our universe while sparking critical thinking. Dr Niraj Lal excels at both. Through mediums including prime-time television, ground-breaking podcasts and a popular children’s book about gravity, he has increased understanding and appreciation of science among Australians of all ages.
Professor Veena Sahajwalla is Australia’s top expert on materials sustainability. Through her ‘microrecycling science,’ she is delivering end-user awareness and solutions to waste, recycling and manufacturing challenges. Her research and advocacy, combined with dedicated industry and community collaboration, is shifting the mindset to see end-of-life products not as waste, but a vital resource.
UNSW and Sydney Institute of Marine Science
In a world defined by human impacts and unprecedented environmental change, entire ecosystems are at risk. The science communication and community engagement efforts of marine ecologist Associate Professor Adriana Vergés are supported by rigorous scientific evidence, providing a powerful narrative that conveys the feasibility of recovering and rebuilding marine ecosystems.
Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Science Journalism
Flora, Fauna, Fire launched six months after the Black Summer bushfires. Editors from The Conversation teamed with leading scientists to show how Australia's plants and animals were faring after the tragedy. Through words, photos, maps and interactive graphics, the project tells of adrenalin-fuelled wildlife rescues, ingenious conservation efforts and wild places returning to life.
Published by The Conversation, 13 July 2020
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Patient Zero tells stories of disease outbreaks: where they begin, why they happen and how we found ourselves in the middle of one. From the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to medical mysteries of the past, this eight-part series provides a new lens through which to view pandemics.
Published by ABC Radio National on 21 and 28 August 2020; 4 September 2020; and 7 and 28 May 2021
As the world raced to develop vaccines in response to COVID-19, misinformation and hesitancy ran rampant. Dr Jackson Ryan's reporting explores the astonishing new vaccine technologies, dispelling myths about safety, addressing fear mongering about virus variants and explaining how science will see us through to a "new normal" post-pandemic.
Published by CNET, 24 November 2020; 16 and 21 December 2020; 29 January 2021 and 14 April 2021
Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion
Child-led, play-based exploration in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is at the heart of Little Scientists Australia’s philosophy. Its hands-on professional development ensures that early childhood educators can proficiently support children in discovering scientific phenomena. With a national network of skilled facilitators, the program aims to make inquiry-based learning accessible to all children.
Lasers, Lego and robots – the STEM Enrichment Academy makes learning enjoyable by tapping into natural curiosity. Its inclusive programs have reached hundreds of girls in South Australian schools, reversing attitudes on the difficulty of STEM and driving participant enrolment in year 11 STEM subjects well above the national average.
Driven by the belief that “you can’t be what you can’t see,” Corey Tutt and Team DeadlyScience are committed to increasing STEM participation among Indigenous Australians. Together, they have provided thousands of culturally appropriate science resources to schools in remote communities and connected nearly 10,000 young Indigenous people with mentors.
University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize - Primary
St Andrew's Cathedral School, NSW
A self-proclaimed car enthusiast, Leon was fascinated by how his tiny toy cars defied gravity and travelled upside down around a loop track without falling to the floor. In Tour de Force, he uses a delightful combination of demonstrations, illustration and performance to examine the role of centripetal force in this natural phenomenon.
PLC Sydney, NSW
Big Problem: Coral Bleaching is an entertaining investigation into one of the most widespread issues affecting coral reefs. Inspired by her passion for the ocean, Zara sets out to educate viewers on some of the main causes of coral bleaching, the scientific process behind it and ways that everyone can work together to help minimise the issue.
Oak Flats Public School, NSW
If a super volcano erupted, the impacts would be widespread and catastrophic. In their film Super Volcanoes, Scarlett and Scarlett demonstrate the science behind these high magnitude eruptions and explain how they could be used as a source of power, providing green energy for future generations.
University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize - Secondary
Townsville Grammar School, Qld
In Rewilding Earth, Jonathan discusses the implications of climate change and investigates how enhancing biodiversity could help address this pressing issue. Through a series of interviews, he shares community concerns about the future of climate change then draws on research to explain the process of rewilding.
Willetton Senior High School, WA
The square-cube law states that as an object increases in size, its mass grows at a faster rate than its surface area. After considering whether it would be possible for Godzilla to exist, Isaac, Ethan, Reuben and Alex apply this principle to explore how large an animal could realistically get. Their film Square-Cube Law is a comprehensive presentation of the group’s findings.
Eltham High School, Vic
Have you ever contemplated what life would be like on Mars? In How to Get to Mars - A Big Question, Sonya uses clay modelling to explore a series of obstacles that humans would need to overcome before they could live on the Red Planet and proposes some practical solutions for each.
University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science - Highly Commended
Sleek Geeks Science Highly Commended - Primary School
- A Big Solution to a Big Problem, Ashley E. and Marni H., Annandale North Public School, NSW; and Matilda E., Wenona School, NSW
- Galapagos Tortoises, Vrinda K., PLC Sydney, NSW
- Paterson’s Curse, Lilian P., PLC Sydney, NSW,
- The Biome in Your Belly, Anna S., Homeschool, NSW
- Big Foamy Fountain, Kaiden S. and Luka S., Wahroonga Preparatory School, NSW
- Big Filter, Big Impact on our Mangroves, Neomi V. and Hannah Y., Abbotsleigh Junior School, NSW
Sleek Geeks Science Highly Commended - Secondary School
- Triangles are 180 degrees and the Universe is Flat, Aditya A., Cumberland High School, NSW
- 100 Years of Science, Jaidon A., James K. and Josip L., St Francis Catholic College, NSW
- Life with Corals, Kesem B., Envirotech Education, Qld
- Super Blanky, Owen B., Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School, NSW
- Great Big Jet Engines, Yasiru P., Cherrybrook Technology High School, NSW