Top scientists celebrated at Eureka Prizes 2018

Thursday, 30 August, 2018

Top scientists celebrated at Eureka Prizes 2018

Surgical glue that seals wounds in 60 seconds, the world’s most accurate clock and a nanomaterial to protect astronauts from harmful radiation are among the discoveries and inventions that have won 2018 Eureka Prizes.

“The winners of the 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes show us yet again how Australia’s scientists are kicking the big goals — they are making impacts in many areas of global significance,” said Australian Museum Director and CEO Kim McKay AO.

A total of $160,000 in cash prizes was presented across 16 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes for research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science.

“From life-saving breakthroughs in medical science to discoveries which provide a sustainable future and change how we see the world around us or those which allow us to understand how our own bodies and brains work, Australia is producing extraordinary, world-leading scientific results.

“It’s also inspiring to see so many women among the prize winners. Ten of the 16 prizes feature female winners or women involved on the winning teams. It’s particularly exciting to see the girls from Presbyterian Ladies’ College Sydney and St Margaret’s Anglican Girls’ School Brisbane taking out the primary and secondary school project prizes.”

The 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prize Winners include:

UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
Optical Physics in Neuroscience, University of Queensland
The Optical Physics in Neuroscience team has devised cutting-edge methods for studying how our brains work to detect gravity and motion. Using optical trapping and novel microscopes, they successfully imaged the functioning brain circuits that process gravity and motion and combine this information with other senses.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research
RE100, Australian National University
Professor Andrew Blakers, Dr Matthew Stocks and Bin Lu have challenged the barriers to renewable energy in Australia. The team discovered 22,000 sites that are suitable for cost-effective pumped hydro energy storage, raising the profile of opportunities for pumped hydro investment within the clean energy industry. At 100 times more than needed for a totally renewable electricity system in Australia, the team’s study proves cost and storage are no barrier to a clean, green future.

Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research
CF Air, Metro North Hospital and Health Service; The Prince Charles Hospital; QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute; Children’s Health Queensland; University of Queensland; Griffith University; Gold Coast Health; and Queensland University of Technology
The CF Air team has uncovered the process by which the deadly pathogens causing airway infections are transmitted between cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Their research has attracted considerable attention from the CF community, impacting clinical practice and policy and ultimately reducing infection rates amongst CF patient groups.

Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research
Professor Tony Weiss AM, University of Sydney
An elastic, adhesive surgical glue, developed by Professor Weiss, quickly seals wounds without the need for common staples. His research found the protein building-block tropelastin not only halves the time for new blood vessel ingrowth into a wound, but also triples the rate of wound closure. The technology, made from natural elastic protein, has the potential to revolutionise treatment at emergency sites and was recently sold to an international pharmaceutical company.

ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology
Professor Wendy Erber, Dr Kathryn Fuller and Henry Hui, University of Western Australia
The invention by Professor Erber, Dr Fuller and Hui can detect abnormal chromosomes inside leukaemia cells. This fast, accurate and sensitive automated method can detect just one leukaemia cell in 10,000 normal cells, a major advance that will lead to personalised treatments and better patient care.

Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
Dr Mohsen Rahmani, Australian National University
Imagine being able to see in the dark by accommodating a layer of smart particles, 500 times thinner than a human hair, on your eye glasses or car windscreen. Or a sensor which can detect ultralow concentrations for biomarkers in human breath, signalling someone is seriously unwell. Nano and meta technology — where everything is smaller, finer, lighter and more sensitive — can do just that. Dr Rahmani’s research has a wide range of applications including night-vision technology, smart mirrors and lenses, and ultrasensitive biochemical detectors, and several organisations are interested in commercialising his work.

Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
The Sapphire Clock Team, The Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, University of Adelaide; and Cryoclock Pty Ltd
A clock which keeps time within one second over 40 million years offers the potential for an upgrade to Australia’s safety, allowing the Jindalee Over-The-Horizon Radar Network (JORN) system to emit signals that are 1000 times purer than current methods and therefore see smaller objects at greater distances. Combining two decades of pioneering research with cutting-edge engineering, the Sapphire Clock Team’s technology offers the potential for a step change in the performance of the JORN, a vital Australian defence asset. The Sapphire Clock can help Australian defence agencies better identify threats to the nation.

University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Excellence in Data Science
Smart Infrastructure Team, CSIRO’s Data61
Assessing the condition of water pipes is an expensive and disruptive process and water utilities operators typically inspect just 1% of network assets every year. The Smart Infrastructure Team has developed an analytical tool that makes intelligent predictions about failures, helping prioritise the selection of pipes for maintenance, reduce costs and minimise disruption to water supplies.

UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research
Professor Sally Dunwoodie, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
Professor Dunwoodie and her multidisciplinary team have discovered the potential of vitamin B3 to treat a molecular deficiency causing miscarriages and multiple types of birth defects. Their finding could prevent developmental defects through a common dietary supplement, which may transform the way pregnant women are cared for around the world.

3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
Associate Professor Elizabeth New, University of Sydney
Dr New has built a strong network of collaborators and works tirelessly to improve research culture and environments. Her vision is to enable better prediction and diagnosis of diseases by developing new chemical tools to explain previously unseen biological processes. For instance, she was the first to show copper is critical in metabolic processes, suggesting copper deficiency may play a role in obesity and copper supplementation could therefore potentially restore healthy metabolism.

CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer, University of Sydney
Professor Maschmeyer is a world leader in the chemistry of catalysis. He aims to generate and translate new knowledge into commercial solutions as part of his vision for a more sustainable world. His discoveries allow widespread use of renewables and recyclables in the chemical, material and energy spaces. His discoveries have resulted in 23 patents and the foundation of four companies.

University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
Professor Nalini Joshi AO, University of Sydney
Professor Joshi has been instrumental in training and mentoring dozens of individual researchers and countless others through the broader mechanisms that she has established. A strong advocate for gender equality, her influential actions have transformed the research landscape and supported young female scientists across Australia. Nalini was an initiator of Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE), which is transforming the research landscape by increasing the encouragement, support and retention of female researchers in STEMM.

To view the full list of winners, visit this link —

Image caption: Associate Professor Elizabeth New received Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science. Image supplied by Associate Professor Elizabeth New.

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