Eureka moments

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Date Published :
Friday, August 2, 2013

UNSW has finalists in nine categories of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes – prestigious national awards that celebrate excellence in fields including scientific research, leadership, commercialisation and communication.
Outstanding researchers in evolution, quantum computing, chemistry, material science, medicine and the environment are among the individuals and teams vying for the prizes dubbed the “Oscars of Science”.
Winners will be announced at the award dinner at Sydney Town hall on Wednesday, 4 September.
The UNSW nominees are:
Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons, director of the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, is nominated for the prize for Leadership in Science. She leads a team of more than 180 Australian researchers and her research group in the School of Physics is the only one in the world that can make atomically precise devices in silicon.
Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla, director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology, and OneSteel, the country’s largest manufacturer of steel long-products, are nominated for the prize for Commercialisation of Innovation.  Their collaboration has led to the commercialisation and sub-licensing of a “green steel” method that uses car tyres in electric arc furnace steelmaking. Watch a short video here.
Scientia Professor Justin Gooding,  of the School of Chemistry, Professor Katharina Gaus, of the Faculty of Medicine, and Dr Peter Reece of the School of Physics, are nominated for the prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research. They have developed an optical device that can monitor the activity of captured cells and which has applications in drug discovery, toxin detection and personalised medicine.
Bionic Vision Australia is also nominated for the prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research. Researchers from the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering are members of the consortium that has demonstrated a “proof of concept” of a world-first prosthetic device that could help restore sight for many people with vision impairment.
Professor Rob Brooks, director of the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, is nominated for the prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research. He is a leading authority on sex and evolution and a prolific commentator, author and speaker who helps inform the public about the importance of evolutionary theory for understanding modern life.
Dr Michael Letnic, of the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, is nominated for the prize for Environmental Science as part of a team which has carried out research showing how dingoes help sustain biodiversity in Australian ecosystems. The other team members are Professor Chris Johnson of the University of Tasmania, Dr Euan Ritchie of Deakin University, Dr Adrian Wallach of James Cook University and Adam O’Neill of Evelyn Downs Station. Watch a short video here.
Dr Jason Sharples, of UNSW Canberra is also nominated for the prize for Environmental Science, along with Richard McRae of the ACT Emergency Services Agency. Their research has advanced understanding of the causes and effects of catastrophic firestorms.
Professor Michelle Haber and Professor Murray Norris of the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia and Professor Glenn Marshall of the Sydney Children’s Hospital are nominated for the prize for Medical Research Translation. They have developed a highly sensitive molecular diagnostic to better classify leukaemia treatment response and to individualise therapy - a strategy that has halved the relapse rate in children at highest risk.
Associate Professor David Wilson, of the Kirby Institute, is nominated for the prize for Emerging Leader in Science. He is a world leader in the evaluation of global HIV/AIDS epidemics and strategic response planning.
The awards' 52 finalists were chosen from more than 1000 entries and they are competing for a share of $170,000 in 17 prize categories. More information is available from the Australian Museum website.
Media contact: UNSW Science media: Deborah Smith, 9385 7307, 0478 492 060.

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