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The ‘Oscars’ Of Australian Science Announce 2021 Winners

Bush fire management, new methods of computer safety, Indigenous education and female researchers rewarded at the 2021 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes

Sydney, 8 October 2021: A breakthrough in 3D bioprinting that will revolutionise cancer research; findings from a study on the 2019-20 bushfires that set the future direction for fire management; an Indigenous STEM education program helping remote communities, and trailblazing female scientific leaders are just some of the winners for Australia’s leading science awards, the 2021 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes (AMEP).

Winners were announced last night in a live-streamed, digital broadcast, with a total of $160,000 in cash prizes presented across 16 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes for Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Engagement and School Science.

The AM Eureka Prizes are the ‘Oscars’ of Australian science and have been at the forefront of recognising the country’s leading scientific minds for the last 31 years. Over that time, more than $4 million dollars in prize money, and a total of 451 Eureka Prizes have been awarded.

Australian Museum Director and CEO, Kim McKay AO, congratulated the winners and highlighted the role science plays in everyday life.

“For 31 years, the AM Eureka Prizes have played an important role in educating the public about the very latest advances in science as well as identifying future leaders in the fields of technology, innovation, engineering and science communication,” she said.

“The winners of the 2021 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes show us the impact that science has in every facet of our lives, and how Australia’s scientists are producing extraordinary, world-leading results in their fields.”

“From incredible education programs supporting under-resourced communities to breakthrough medical advancements and discoveries that will help guide us to a sustainable future, the winners of this year’s Eureka Prizes will positively impact the lives of people across the nation and around the world for years to come.

“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,” McKay said.

The AM Eureka Prizes were established in 1990, under the instigation of renowned science communicator and broadcaster, Mr Robyn Williams AM, who at the time was the President of the Australian Museum Trust.

“The awards showcase the high priority the AM, the nation’s first museum and second scientific institution, places on recognising outstanding scientists and researchers who will advance the nations scientific goals and contribute hugely to the economy,” Williams said.

Australian Museum Chief Scientist and Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI), Professor Kristofer Helgen, congratulated the AMEP winners and recognised this year’s recipient of the AMRI Medal - an award which is conferred annually to an AM staff member following recommendations from staff, researchers and other scientific institutions.

“Tonight, we also recognise and celebrate the impressive career and service to marine science and technology with the presentation of the AMRI Medal to marine biologist, Dr Penny Berents,” he said.

“Dr Berents celebrates her 50th anniversary this year at the Australian Museum and her list of remarkable accomplishments include describing more than 20 new marine invertebrate species, leading both shallow and deep-sea research fieldtrips around Australia and the Pacific, championing international and national research collaborations through her representation on the Council of Heads of Australian Faunal Collections and helping to build the AM’s world leading marine invertebrate collections,” Helgen said.

“An Honorary Life Member of Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA), Dr. Berents has been involved in the establishment and work at our Lizard Island Research Station, and as a qualified dive instructor she has been at the forefront of the AM marine expeditions,” he said.

“We are thrilled to present this award to Dr Berents and honour her scientific and career excellence which, through her collaborations between national bodies, not only benefits AMRI but also our wider marine and scientific community,” Helgen added.

The 2021 AM Eureka Prize Winners are:

LEADERSHIP

Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science

Dr Dana M. Bergstrom
Australian Antarctic Division and University of Wollongong

For decades, Dr Dana M. Bergstrom has championed evidence-based science in biodiversity, biosecurity and the impacts of climate change. Skilled at science translation and distilling complexity, she has led the exploration of ecosystem collapse from Australia’s tropics to Antarctica, delivering innovative options for modern conservation.

AstraZeneca Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science

Associate Professor Kristin Carson-Chahhoud
University of South Australia

Driven by her commitment to lung health and vision for a smoke-free Australia, Associate Professor Kristin Carson-Chahhoud is using innovative augmented reality technology to disrupt health communication. Her mentorship, advocacy and research leadership has led to high-impact public health outcomes in both respiratory medicine and tobacco control and sustained benefits for the broader community.

University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers

Dr Melina Georgousakis 
Franklin Women

Dr Melina Georgousakis is committed to developing the next generation of Australia’s researchers and ensuring that women are equally represented among them. Through the establishment of Franklin Women, she is providing the infrastructure for a sector-first mentoring program, delivering events and building a community to foster the establishment of new mentoring relationships.

RESEARCH & INNOVATION

NSW Environment, Energy and Science (DPIE) Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research

NSW Bushfire Hub
University of Wollongong; Western Sydney University; University of Tasmania; and UNSW

The NSW Bushfire Hub, a consortium of four research groups, undertook extensive research into the devastating Black Summer bushfires. Their findings addressed major knowledge gaps relating to droughts, fuel dynamics, and the social and environmental impacts of the fires — directly influencing many of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry recommendations and setting the future direction for fire management.

Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research

Lindell Bromham, Felicity Meakins, Xia Hua and Cassandra Algy 
Australian National University; University of Queensland; and Karungkarni Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation

Bringing together an Indigenous community member, linguist, mathematician and biologist, this team is studying Gurindji, an Indigenous language of northern Australia. Their research is developing new ways to understand the processes of language change and factors that help keep Indigenous languages strong and vibrant.

Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research

Professor Julie Bines 
Murdoch Children's Research Institute and University of Melbourne

Rotavirus is a major cause of death among children and despite evidence of vaccine effectiveness, significant barriers to access remain. Professor Julie Bines is leading the development of RV3-BB, a safe, effective and affordable newborn rotavirus vaccine that will prevent rotavirus gastroenteritis from birth, potentially saving thousands of lives.

ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology

Professor Justin Gooding, Professor Maria Kavallaris AM, Dr Julio Ribeiro, Dr Aidan O'Mahony, Dr Robert Utama and Dr Lakmali Atapattu
UNSW; Australian Centre for NanoMedicine; Children’s Cancer Institute; and Inventia Life Science Pty Ltd

While 3D cell culturing offers vastly enhanced models of cell structures than 2D methods, it remains slow and expensive. This team has developed a breakthrough bioprinting system that can rapidly produce 3D cell structures with unprecedented cell viability and tunability — a game-changer for cancer research and therapeutic development.

Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher

Dr Emma Camp 
University of Technology Sydney

Dr Emma Camp’s discovery of corals thriving in extreme conditions is informing new adaptive management solutions in both Australia and abroad. Together with government and nature conservation agencies, she is developing improved management strategies for coral reefs worldwide, while using her work as a platform to advocate for action on climate change.

Department of Defence Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia

Cross Domain Desktop Compositor
University of Melbourne; Defence Science and Technology Group; UNSW; and CSIRO’s Data61

Simple, secure and trustworthy: easy to say, but often difficult to achieve. By combining a world-class secure operating system with novel hardware architecture, the Cross Domain Desktop Compositor team has defied the trend of increasing complexity in computing technologies to enable a new method for keeping sensitive information secure from internet attacks.

UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research

Associate Professor Diane McDougald and Dr Gustavo Espinoza Vergara 
University of Technology Sydney

Associate Professor Diane McDougald and Dr Gustavo Espinoza-Vergara discovered that the bacterium responsible for cholera, Vibrio cholerae, becomes more virulent when passaging through a previously unknown vector. Their finding reveals where pathogenic bacteria hide before causing infectious disease outbreaks, which will have wide-ranging impacts on the development of control strategies.

SCIENCE ENGAGEMENT

Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science

AUSMAP
Total Environment Centre and Macquarie University

The Australian Microplastic Assessment Project (AUSMAP) is a world-first, national citizen science program that empowers people of all ages to document microplastic pollution. An immersive experience, participants are educated on the prevalence of microplastics around our waterways and trained to collect scientifically valid data that is used to design effective mitigation strategies for plastic pollution.

Finkel Foundation Eureka Prize for Long-Form Science Journalism

Dr Dyani Lewis

In 2020, a little-known field of science was behind pandemic policies that upended life as we knew it. In Role Models in a Time of Pandemic, Dr Dyani Lewis explains how the fledgling discipline of mathematical disease modelling grew into the influential field it is today.

Published by Cosmos, 4 June 2020

Celestino Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science

Dr Niraj Lal 
Australian National University and Australian Energy Market Operator

Science communication at its best showcases the wonders of our universe while sparking critical thinking. Dr Niraj Lal excels at both. Through mediums including prime-time television, ground-breaking podcasts and a popular children’s book about gravity, he has increased understanding and appreciation of science among Australians of all ages.

Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Science Journalism

Patient Zero 
Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Patient Zero tells stories of disease outbreaks: where they begin, why they happen and how we found ourselves in the middle of one. From the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to medical mysteries of the past, this eight-part series provides a new lens through which to view pandemics.

Published by ABC Radio National on 21 and 28 August 2020; 4 September 2020; and 7 and 28 May 2021

Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion

Corey Tutt and Team DeadlyScience

Driven by the belief that “you can’t be what you can’t see,” Corey Tutt and Team DeadlyScience are committed to increasing STEM participation among Indigenous Australians. Together, they have provided thousands of culturally appropriate science resources to schools in remote communities and connected nearly 10,000 young Indigenous people with mentors.

SCHOOL SCIENCE

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize – Primary

Scarlett O. and Scarlett P.
Oak Flats Public School, NSW

If a supervolcano erupted, the impacts would be widespread and catastrophic. In their film Super Volcanoes, Scarlett and Scarlett demonstrate the science behind these high magnitude eruptions and explain how they could be used as a source of power, providing green energy for future generations.

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize - Secondary

Jonathan D.
Townsville Grammar School, Qld

In Rewilding Earth, Jonathan discusses the implications of climate change and investigates how enhancing biodiversity could help address this pressing issue. Through a series of interviews, he shares community concerns about the future of climate change then draws on research to explain the process of rewilding.

For more information and a full list of 2021 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes winners: australian.museum/eurekaprizes

#EurekaPrizes
Twitter: @eurekaprizes Facebook: @eurekaprizes

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