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The Australian Museum (AM) has announced the XX finalists selected for Australia’s leading science awards, the 2015 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.
Finalists from almost every state and territory across Australia are in the running for XX AM Eureka Prizes across four categories: Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Communication and School Science.
The AM Eureka Prizes are the nation’s premier science awards, celebrating achievement across a broad spectrum of science, from environmental to innovative technologies, citizen science, leadership and mentoring.
Learn about the 2015 AM Eureka Prizes finalists.
Research & Innovation
NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research
University of South Australia
Chemicals used in mineral processing can be a burden on the environment when uncontrolled release of waste water occurs. Associate Professor David Beattie’s research focuses on finding benign chemicals that can substitute for currently used harmful chemicals in mineral flotation, a common form of mineral processing in Australia.
The CSIRO Marine Debris Team applied interdisciplinary research towards understanding the sources and distribution of marine debris, developing effective policy responses and integrating field and laboratory studies with oceanographic and ecological modelling to assess its impacts on wildlife. The team was able to translate scientific information into effective policy and behavioural change by combining research with citizen science, outreach to government and media engagement.
Professor David Keith and his team have developed the first global standard for assessing risks to ecosystems. Already illuminating risks to terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems in Australia and overseas, this method is laying the foundations for better strategies for averting the collapse of threatened ecosystems worldwide.
UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
University of Sydney; CSIRO; and Garvan Institute of Medical Research
The BioCode project used ‘omics’ approaches to unravel, in unprecedented detail and clarity, the insulin/IGF1 signalling pathway that plays essential roles in health, obesity and diseases such as diabetes. The BioCode team have developed innovative analysis and visualisation methods that will benefit researchers in many areas of life science.
Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre; Monash University; and Neural Diagnostics Pty Ltd.
Mental illness carries the highest societal cost-burden of all human-related disability. The EVestigators have significantly increased diagnostic accuracy to approximately 80 per cent by using objective bio-markers from their electrovestibulography technology alongside the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
University of Technology Sydney; Macquarie University; and ARC Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics (Professor Dayong Jin); University of South Australia; University of Adelaide; and ARC Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics (Professor Tanya Monro); and Minomic International Ltd and Macquarie University (Professor Bradley Walsh)
The diverse impact of Super Dots technologies – from non-invasive cancer diagnosis and rapid pathogen detection to invisible coding for authentication of pharmaceuticals, passports and banknotes – is based on advances in diverse fields: material chemistry, optical physics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, computational modelling and instrumentation engineering.
Scopus Eureka Prize for Excellence in International Scientific Collaboration
Telethon Kids Institute
The Australian Respiratory Early Surveillance Team for Cystic Fibrosis (AREST CF) program is a world leader in the assessment, treatment and prevention of cystic fibrosis lung disease in children. The collaboration is acknowledged internationally as making significant progress in understanding the early pathobiology of cystic fibrosis lung disease. The team collaborates across Australia and New Zealand, the USA and Europe.
Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research; University of Queensland; University of New South Wales; Griffith University; and RIKEN Japan
With 261 medical researchers and computational biologists from 20 countries, the FANTOM5 project has systematically investigated the sets of genes used in most cell types of the human body, and the genomic regions that determine where the genes are read from. The aim is to use this information to build transcriptional regulatory models for each human primary cell type.
University of Technology Sydney
Professor Dacheng Tao collaborates with an international network of academic and industry-based peers to help computers better interpret data captured from the real world. Together, the team has invented subspace learning models that meaningfully reduce the complexity of captured data. Their theoretical and algorithmic findings have diverse applications, from video surveillance to consumer electronics.
Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research
Australian National University; European Molecular Biology Laboratory; and Monash University
The team’s research represents a significant leap forward in understanding the fundamental mechanisms by which key disease-causing molecules (autotransporters) are assembled in bacterial ‘superbugs’. Through this research, the team has discovered ways to interfere with the assembly process, depriving the superbugs of deadly molecular weaponry and leading to potential therapeutic applications including the prevention of antibiotic-resistant infections.
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
There is no cure for Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Current therapies suppress HBV production but must be taken life-long. The Pellegrini and Ebert Team have developed the first therapy to eliminate HBV infected cells, resulting in clearance of the virus in pre-clinical models. The therapy has now entered clinical trials in Australia.
ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology
In its development from wood to coal to oil to electricity, ‘energy’ has been a driver of human evolution. Hydrogen is often thought of as a fuel only for the future, but by providing a readily accessible means for the adoption of hydrogen, Associate Professor Kondo-François Aguey-Zinsou’s Hy-Cycle has completely changed our understanding of this technology.
University of South Australia
Associate Professor Frank Bruno and his team have combined a number of innovations to provide an inexpensive alternative for storing electricity to be used for cooling. These innovations include concepts such as dynamic melting, ’coil-in-tank’ and a low-cost storage medium, all of which can be integrated with renewable energy sources.
Through the innovative use of existing solar cell technology, along with a custom dielectric bandpass filter, Dr Mark Keevers and Professor Martin Green have been able to ‘split’ a single beam of sunlight across two different types of solar cell to deliver the highest efficiency ever reported for converting sunlight into electricity.
Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
University of Sydney
Associate Professor Michael Biercuk is internationally recognised for his outstanding contributions to one of the most exciting and impactful disciplines in modern physics: quantum science. He has built a record of transformative discoveries driving the development of a new generation of advanced technologies based on quantum physics, with important practical outcomes.
Macquarie University and Australian Astronomical Observatory
Dr Lee Spitler uses some of the largest telescopes in the world to study galaxies near the edge of the observable universe. Dr Spitler’s research takes advantage of the finite speed of light to look billions of years back in time and discover what the universe was like when it was young.
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Fundamental to global ecosystems, marine invertebrates are threatened by ocean acidification, which affects the calcification of their skeletons. Dr Sue-Ann Watson’s research shows that ocean acidification also impairs invertebrate behaviour. Altered food-web interactions at near-future carbon dioxide levels could have far-reaching implications for ecosystems and seafood. However, understanding behavioural changes will inform the effective protection and management of marine resources.
Defence Science and Technology Group Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
University of Queensland
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are one of the greatest threats faced by military personnel and homeland security. Detection of the vapours released by explosives is the best strategy for the identification of IEDs. The Centre for Organic Photonics & Electronics (COPE) team have developed ‘Arbsense’, a sensor for the rapid, selective and reliable detection of explosives for field use.
Associate Professor Charles Harb has developed a cavity ring-down infra-red spectrometer that makes it possible to uniquely identify, in real time, a range of materials of security and defence interest. The spectrometer uses only the vapour from trace samples and does not alter the sample itself, preserving its integrity as evidence when required in a legal inquest.
The Secure Communications System developed by Northrop Grumman M5 Network Security in conjunction with the Australian Government remediates ageing secure communications capabilities. The system aims to build and overcome the challenge of extending classified networks into the mobile arena, improving usability for the end devices and maintaining secure communications.
Rural Research and Development Corporations Eureka Prize for Rural Innovation
University of Sydney; Dairy Australia; NSW Department of Primary Industries; and DeLaval International AB
FutureDairy’s robotic rotary – an international first co-developed by DeLaval and the University of Sydney – is the latest in automated milking systems. FutureDairy’s research on voluntary cow traffic allows cows in large-herd dairy farms in Australia to bring themselves from the pasture to the dairy and be milked by robots without human assistance.
University of Sydney
Professor Ben Oldroyd and Dr Nadine Chapman have created the first reliable genetic test to identify Africanised ‘killer’ bees. The new test is critically important for the Australian agricultural industry, as it will allow Australia to import bee strains that are resistant to the Varroa mite, which is threatening our bees.
Professor David Raftos works with the Australian oyster industry, finding solutions to increasing problems due to disease and environmental stress. Professor Raftos’ research has led to the most comprehensive understanding of disease resistance in oysters worldwide, with his team now implementing that knowledge in an innovative breeding program to produce disease-resistant, environmentally tolerant oysters.
UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research
Macquarie University and University of Sydney
The Bee Team has identified a mechanism for the mysterious population collapses in bee hives that have impacted honey bees worldwide. Understanding the process of bee colony collapse is now yielding new methods to identify at-risk colonies and techniques to support bee populations for pollination and sustainable food production.
Monash University and Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Professor Peter Currie and his team have identified, for the first time, a mechanism in the body that triggers hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) production. Unravelling the mystery of HSC generation could see it used to cure a range of blood disorders and immune diseases.
University of Sydney
When cane toads invaded Professor Rick Shine's tropical study area 10 years ago, he set out to understand them. In the process, he has changed fundamental ideas about biological invasions, ecosystem resilience and the mechanisms of evolutionary change.
3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
Dr Rita Henderson is an emerging leader in water sustainability, both in Australia and internationally. Her world-class program of research – combined with leading advocacy, industry collaboration, organisation of symposia, outreach and influence on the discipline via professional associations – makes her an undoubted leader in water science for the 21st Century.
Dr Sharath Sriram is an emerging science leader with achievements in various facets of research including group leadership, facility management and science policy contributions. As Deputy Director of the RMIT Micro Nano Research Facility, Dr Sriram had a major role in the design, layout and functionality of the facility. He undertakes national level science advocacy for early career researchers and leads the way in communicating how the science of small devices can have a big impact.
University of Melbourne
Driven by his passion for fundamental research, Dr Phillip Urquijo leads the international Belle II experiment’s physics program and Australian teams to discover new physics phenomena. One of the youngest leaders in this field, his work galvanises over 500 physicists and shapes one of the world’s most important collider experiments.
CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science
University of Melbourne
Agriculture in Australia will be profoundly impacted by climate change and, conversely, is a critical component of Australia’s climate change mitigation strategy. Through his research, advocacy and policy engagement, Professor Snow Barlow’s leadership has developed the science base to shape Australian agriculture’s responses to climate change.
Australian National Fabrication Facility
Rosie Hicks is the CEO of the Australian National Fabrication Facility, which links 19 universities and CSIRO to create a national collaborative research network with over 550 tools. She has gathered the best of Australia’s fabrication expertise to deliver outstanding outcomes in a transformative area of science, technology and industry.
Professor Michelle Simmons' leadership and ground-breaking research program in the development of atomic scale electronics have positioned Australian researchers as world leaders in classical and quantum computing technologies in silicon. Her track record is exceptional and is the product of leading considerable multidisciplinary teams in Australia and internationally.
University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
University of Queensland
Leading by example, Professor Hugh Possingham's unrivalled research excellence and productivity inspires his students to aspire to—and frequently to achieve—the best possible results. His enthusiasm for his science is second only to his dedication to his students and fellows, and over the years many grateful researchers have felt the benefit of Professor Possingham’s commitment to helping their careers and their development as scientists and researchers.
University of Melbourne
Over three decades, Professor Marilyn Renfree has provided inspirational supervision and long-term career mentoring for young researchers, particularly for women working in the field of life sciences. Her passion for science has a profound, positive and enduring influence on young researchers, shaping the way they conduct themselves in their own careers and in their lives. Professor Renfree is genuinely committed to training and encouraging bright young minds, and her protégés are now making significant contributions to the science community both in Australia and overseas.
University of Newcastle
Laureate Professor Robert Sanson-Fisher has demonstrated an indisputable energy, passion and professional skill to the training and mentoring of public health researchers. He has supervised more than 50 PhD students to completion and award, many of whom have gone on to professorial and research leadership positions. He continues to make a substantial and valued contribution to the training and mentoring of the next generation of public health scientist practitioners.
Department of Industry and Science Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research
Associate Professor Darren Curnoe challenges how we think about human evolution, forging innovative ways to meet strong public desire for accurate knowledge about our past. From films to regular radio interviews, articles in The Conversation and ABC Science and in public talks, Associate Professor Curnoe is central in shaping community understanding of ‘How did we get here?’.
CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science
Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith is a dynamic communicator bringing to life astronomy and its real-world impacts, particularly for girls and Indigenous Australian students. It is the strong engagement Dr Harvey-Smith fosters with schools, institutions and her audience that sets her outreach apart. Her day job is Project Scientist with CSIRO’s newest radio telescope.
Professor Emma Johnston is a leading authority in the field of coastal ecology. Through a broad range of influential leadership, outreach and advocacy initiatives – from internationally broadcast television series to grass-roots community activities – Professor Johnston has been instrumental in promoting research and greater understanding of Australia’s fragile coastline.
Department of Industry and Science Eureka Prize for Science Journalism
Male and over 50? Take statins to stave off heart attacks and strokes, say health authorities in the UK and USA. It may sound like a harmless bit of medical advice but it has triggered open warfare among doctors and journalists. A Statin a Day provided a major journalistic challenge in the adjudication between different camps.
Published in Cosmos Magazine, 29 December 2014
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Gut Reaction is a two-part ABC TV Catalyst documentary examining cutting-edge revolutionary research into the connection between many Western diseases, gut bacteria and diet. The documentary is important because it gives wide public attention to a topic that potentially will have an enormous impact on public health.
Broadcast on ABC TV’s Catalyst, 14 and 21 August 2014
360 Degree Films
The Great Australian Fly, by Tosca Looby, writer/director, and Sally Ingleton, producer, chronicles how a national nuisance helped shape Australia. The battle to zap flies has created an entire pesticide industry and kept scientists busy for decades. But the fly has also influenced everything from fashion to farming and food – it’s more than just a pest.
Broadcast on ABC TV, 7 April 2015
New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography
Soft corals are more diverse and widespread than hard corals, but much less is known about their overall contribution to coral reef biodiversity. About one-third of the world's soft coral species are found on the Great Barrier Reef, with our limited knowledge of these species an indication of how much we still have to learn. Through his beautiful image, Gary Cranitch highlights this true ‘indicator’ species.
Seeing amazing life forms, such as this thorny-headed worm (phylum Acanthocephala), has the power to turn a mundane day in the lab into one of sheer brilliance. While dissecting a bland peritoneal cyst from an Eel Tailed Catfish, Tandanus tropicanus, Aileen Elliot was surprised when out popped this incredible little worm. With this image, Aileen gets to share her modern day Darwinian moments of discovery with others and hopes to excite and inspire the next generation of budding parasitologists.
Exploring the coral reefs of Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea is like being caught in a literal time warp, where the hours pass by like fleeting moments. For Justin Gilligan, this juvenile saltwater crocodile presented the perfect opportunity for a close encounter on a glistening natural stage. When taking this stunning image, Justin focused on the raised eyes and nostrils and the camouflaged skin – all adaptions this crocodile needs to live a life both above and below the water surface.
University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize - Primary
Trinity Grammar Junior School, NSW
Excited by the result of a class project, William was inspired to make his film Why is Seaweed Brown? Using a number of experiments, William demonstrates the properties of light, how plants need to absorb light to grow and how this happens in a limited light environment, thereby uncovering the hidden green of seaweed.
St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School, Qld.
Detectives Gigi and Ella believe that science is about understanding our world, answering questions and definitely having fun. Their film Cry Stoppers investigates why onions make us cry and gives us some practical tips to stop the tears when confronted with this kitchen culprit!
University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize - Secondary
Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School, Vic.
Throughout history, human understanding of the appendix has been limited to the knowledge of painful inflammation that requires urgent surgery. In The Secret of the Appendix, Paige explains that the appendix does much more than we give it credit for, and is a vital component of a healthy gut. It’s time to spread the word about this misunderstood organ.
Warrandyte High School, Vic.
Tom and Harry explain gravity, what it is and what it does. Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and Newton’s force law are explained by this talented duo, who ‘rap’ it all up in their entertaining Gravity Sucks.
St Aloysius' College, NSW
Luke’s creative film Why are Concussions Bad for You? explores the serious topic of sports injuries to the brain. Using claymation, Luke describes the structure and function of the brain, and explains the potential consequences of a knock to the head, which can include injury, permanent brain damage or even death.