2019 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science awarded

Monday, 21 October, 2019

2019 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science awarded

The Australian scientific, research and science teaching community recently came together to recognise some of the country’s leading scientists and science educators at a black-tie awards dinner celebrating the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are said to be Australia’s most prestigious awards for outstanding achievements in scientific research, research-based innovation and excellence in science, mathematics or technology teaching. A total of up to $750,000 in prize money is awarded each year, with each prize recipient also receiving a medallion, lapel pin and award certificate.

Held at Parliament House on 16 October, the 20th edition of the prizes was hosted by renowned astronomer Professor Alan Duffy and saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews present awards across seven categories, in front of an audience of 500 guests. The winners were as follows.

Science and innovation prize recipients

  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Science: Emeritus Professor Cheryl Praeger AM FAA FAustMS, a pioneering mathematician who has made fundamental contributions to group theory and combinatorics. Her innovative work includes research into the mathematics of symmetry in graphical models. This has far-reaching applications, such as enabling search engines to retrieve information efficiently from the web.
  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation: Associate Professor Peter Czabotar, Professor David Huang, Professor Guillaume Lessene and Professor Andrew Roberts, for their roles in developing venetoclax — a breakthrough anticancer drug that triggers a signal in cancer cells causing them to die.
  • Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year: Professor Laura Mackay, for her leadership in the field of immunological memory. Her work is changing the way science deals with infectious disease and cancer, two leading causes of global mortality.
  • Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year: Associate Professor Elizabeth New, for pioneering new chemical imaging tools to observe healthy and diseased cells. She has developed molecules that act as fluorescent sensors, allowing scientists to observe the location of chemicals within cells.
  • Prize for New Innovators: Dr Luke Campbell, for inventing the nuraphone — headphones that automatically learn and adapt to an individual’s unique hearing in under a minute. This enhances audio experience, delivering balanced and clear detail to users.

Science, mathematics or technology teaching prize recipients

  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools: Sarah Finney (Stirling East Primary School) for introducing hundreds of children to the joys of studying science. Finney has combined life in the classroom with involvement in teaching associations, conferences and speaking engagements, to expand her network and knowledge in the field of science.
  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools: Dr Samantha Moyle (Brighton Secondary School) for transforming interactive learning beyond the classroom. Dr Moyle hosts a Facebook page to promote science and learning. Her YouTube channel shows kids how to write science reports, calculate statistics, choose the best iPad app and learn more about science.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, has applauded the breadth of scientific endeavour recognised in the 2019 awards, celebrating achievements across the full spectrum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The S in STEM is science — but it’s often impossible to disentangle new scientific breakthroughs from the T, E and M that make them possible,” Dr Finkel said.

“Where would our new anticancer drugs be, without the rigorous scientific trials to prove their effectiveness? How do you program self-adapting headphones to improve your hearing, without technology and engineering to make them tangible? Or the complex mathematics of group theory, central to secure banking, digital signatures and secure internet communication?

“From the development of breakthrough molecular imaging tools and the discovery of new immune cells: the winners of this year’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science showcase the multidisciplinary nature of science today.

“As the Chair of the Judging Committee, it’s been my privilege and challenge to see so many wonderful examples of great Australian science. I thank the members of the committee for their tireless efforts in considering the truly exceptional Australian scientists and innovators nominated for this year’s awards.”

Back row left to right: Professor Guillaume Lessene, Professor Andrew Roberts, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, Professor David Huang, Dr Luke Campbell. Front row left to right: Associate Professor Elizabeth, Dr Samantha Moyle, Sarah Finney, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Emeritus Professor Cheryl Praeger, Associate Professor Laura Mackay, Associate Professor Peter Czabotar.

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