Distinguished Australian scientists elected to Royal Society

Friday, 11 May, 2018

Distinguished Australian scientists elected to Royal Society

2018 Australian of the Year Michelle Simmons (pictured) is among several Australian scientists newly elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of London, the world’s oldest independent scientific academy.

Founded in the 17th century, the society lists some of the most renowned scientists in history, including Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking. Fellowships are the highest scientific honour bestowed by the academy, awarded to individuals who have been judged to have made a “substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science”.

Professor Simmons has been recognised for her contribution to the field of quantum computing and is renowned as a pioneer in atomic electronics. By manipulating matter at the atomic scale, she led the team that created the world’s smallest precision transistor, the narrowest conducting wires in silicon and the first transistor where a single atom controls its operation.

Professor Simmons’ achievements have opened a new frontier of research in computing and electronics globally, providing a platform for redesigning conventional transistors and for developing a quantum computer: a new form of computing with the potential to transform information processing.

Other Australians newly elected to the society are as follows:

  • Professor Graeme Jameson AO, for his work on fluid and particle mechanics — especially the flotation process for recovering valuable minerals. His research has led to the introduction of a radical new device, the Jameson Cell, for the recovery of very fine particles and, more recently, a new way of recovering coarse particles.
  • Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO, whose work as a paediatric neurologist and epileptologist has transformed our understanding of epilepsy. She has defined many new epilepsy syndromes, and her work led directly to the identification of the first gene for epilepsy in 1995, and many epilepsy genes subsequently.
  • Professor Peter Visscher, for his work as a quantitative geneticist studying trait variation in populations. He has developed and applied statistical analysis methods to quantify and dissect the contribution of DNA polymorphisms to variation between individuals, thereby demonstrating the pervasiveness of polygenicity and pleiotropy for quantitative traits and risk of common diseases.
  • Professor Geordie Williamson, for his contributions to the field of representation theory — the mathematical theory of linear symmetry — including his proof of the Kazhdan-Lusztig positivity conjecture, his algebraic proof of the Jantzen conjectures and his discovery of counter-examples to the Lusztig conjecture in modular representation theory.
  • Professor Jillian Banfield, whose work as an earth scientist has provided insights into previously unknown and little-known bacterial and archaeal lineages, leading to a new rendition of the Tree of Life.
  • Professor Frank Caruso, for an impressive career which has seen him publish over 400 peer-reviewed papers and listed by Thomson Reuters as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds in 2014.

The new Fellows will be formally admitted to the society at an official ceremony to take place in London in July.

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