Premier Barnett Announces Finalists In 2016 Premier’s Science Awards

Premier Barnett Announces Finalists In 2016 Premier’s Science Awards

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett

Premier’s Science Awards Finalists Announced

Victor P Taffa

  • Premier announces finalists in the 15th Premier’s Science Awards
  • Finalists showcase the range of excellent scientific work undertaken in the State

Premier and Science Minister Colin Barnett today announced the finalists in the 2016 Premier’s Science Awards.

Premier Barnett congratulated the 15 finalists and said science was the key to broadening Western Australia’s economy.

“These finalists have all played a part in developing the State’s scientific capacity.” Premier Barnett said.

“Their achievements include influencing public health policy, making breakthroughs in conservation science, progressing our understanding of the earth’s history and improving the safety of the State’s bridges and other infrastructure.”

The four award categories celebrate excellence in research from students, early career researchers and established scientists, as well as outstanding science engagement programs.

Award winners, together with the inductee to the Western Australian Science Hall of Fame, will be announced next month at an awards ceremony during National Science Week.

The Premier said this was the 15th year of the Science Awards and the 10th year of the Science Hall of Fame. In that time, more than 80 awards had been presented.

“The awards provide important recognition of outstanding individuals who are contributing to science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the State.” Premier Barnett said.

Premier Barnett thanked the awards sponsors Chevron, ExxonMobil and Woodside for their continued support.

 

Premier’s Science Awards – Finalists’ Profiles

Scientist Of The Year 

Professor Carol Bower (Shenton Park): 

Senior Principal Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute

Professor Bower is a public health researcher and physician who discovered a link between low dietary folate and the risk of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida), instigating the world’s first public health campaign to encourage folic acid supplement use before and during pregnancy. In part, based on Professor Bower’s research, the Federal Government legislated mandatory folic acid fortification of bread in 2009. Professor Bower also leads research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), including Australian guidelines for the diagnosis of FASD launched in May 2016.

 

Professor Kingsley Dixon (City Beach):

Curtin Professor and Visiting Professor at Kings Park and Botanic Garden (Curtin University)

Professor Dixon’s efforts in conservation science, restoration ecology and plant science have been fundamental to conserving threatened species and transforming ecological restoration practice in Australia.  His discovery of the specific chemical in smoke that is responsible for germination in Australian species has had widespread application, being valued at $100 Million p.a. in terms of potential global benefits to agriculture, mining restoration and horticulture. As Foundation Director of Science at Kings Park and Botanic Garden for 31 years, he is acknowledged as the driving force behind creating its world-recognised research laboratories.

 

Professor Zheng-Xiang Li (South Perth):

Co-Director (Australia) of the Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Tectonics and Earth Resources, WA School of Mines (Curtin University)

Professor Li is a geoscientist who has pushed the boundaries of knowledge about the evolution over the past 2,000 Million years of Earth, making important contributions to the field of tectonics and geodynamics.  Professor Li has been pivotal in building WA’s major research centres for geoscience, playing a key role in establishing the renowned Tectonics Special Research Centre.  Currently, Professor Li is co-leading a UNESCO-sponsored International Geoscience Programme project from Perth, making WA a global focal point for research that is highly relevant to the local mineral and resource industries.

 

Professor David Sampson (Claremont):

Director, Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis and Head, Optical+Biomedical Engineering Laboratory (The University of Western Australia)

Professor Sampson is a world leader in multiple facets of imaging science and engineering. He is internationally recognised for his research in new biomedical imaging technology, including the multi-award winning Microscope-in-a-Needle and the micro-imaging of stiffness, now being commercialized. As Director of the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis, he has built an imaging infrastructure for researchers in Western Australia that attracts the world’s best, including the International Atomic Energy Agency. The centre is the first and only university laboratory in the world to be included by the agency in its global Network of Analytical Laboratories.

 

Woodside Early Career Scientist Of The Year

Dr. Kaiming Bi (Leeming):

Lecturer, ARC DECRA Fellow (Curtin University)

Dr. Bi’s research interests lie in earthquake engineering and structural dynamics, and he is the first researcher who has systematically investigated the influence of local soil conditions on earthquake ground motion. His research can lead to safer and more economical designs of extended structures such as bridges and pipelines. Dr. Bi has developed a pipe-in-pipe concept to control the vibrations of subsea pipelines, this concept can also be extended to control the vibrations of other offshore structures such as wind turbines and platforms. Dr. Bi has authored/co-authored more than 30 international journal papers in top journals.

 

Dr. Scott Draper (Beaconsfield):

Senior Lecturer School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering (The University of Western Australia)

Dr. Draper is known internationally for his research in offshore fluid mechanics. He has developed models to optimise the configuration of offshore wind and tidal turbines for renewable energy, predict seabed scour and estimate the stability of offshore structures in extreme wave conditions. His research on marine renewable energy provided the first accurate assessment of marine renewable energy resources in the United Kingdom. Across all fields of offshore fluid mechanics, Dr. Draper has published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers, has worked on multiple Australian Research Council projects and is fortunate to have supervised award winning PhD and Masters Students.

 

Dr. James Fitzpatrick (Cottesloe):

McCusker Clinical Research Fellow in Aboriginal Child Health, Telethon Kids Institute; Director, PATCHES Paediatrics

Dr. Fitzpatrick is a researcher and paediatrician who has made a profound impact on understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and has pioneered new diagnosis and intervention strategies. Dr. Fitzpatrick’s research and advocacy has led to FASD being recognised in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, resulting in individuals across Australia with FASD becoming eligible for early intervention funding. Working with Aboriginal community leaders and schools, Dr. Fitzpatrick’s team has implemented the largest FASD intervention trial in the world, for 250 children in nine schools across the Fitzroy Valley and established the PATCHES Paediatrics child development service in remote and outer metropolitan communities.

 

Dr. Jun Li (Leeming):

Senior Lecturer/ARC DECRA Fellow (Curtin University)

Dr. Li is developing next-generation diagnostic technologies for monitoring the condition of civil infrastructure such as bridges, buildings and offshore structures. His work is particularly important for minimising the vulnerability of bridges and other infrastructure at-risk to natural hazards and environmental change. He is contributing to the development of smart sensing and cutting-edge deep learning neural networks that can accommodate big data analytics. These technologies are enabling him to develop innovative and efficient infrastructure condition monitoring and data analysis approaches, which are taking structural health monitoring into the next era.

 

EXXONMOBIL Student Scientist Of The Year

Carl Blair (Cottesloe):

PhD Candidate (The University of Western Australia)

Mr. Blair’s research to control interactions between high intensity laser light and tiny sound waves in mirrors enabled the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) to build up sufficient power to enable the first direct detection of gravitational waves. Following experiments at the Gingin high optical power facility, Mr. Blair went to the LIGO Livingston gravitation wave detector in March 2015 to help prevent the instability. The techniques developed in Western Australia by Mr. Blair and his colleagues played a significant role in the widely publicised important discovery.

 

Christopher Brennan-Jones (Osborne Park):

PhD Candidate, Ear Sciences Centre (The University of Western Australia)

Mr. Brennan-Jones’ PhD research focused on improving efficiency and access to ear and hearing healthcare services in Western Australia. He led an international consortium that assessed the reliability of automated hearing tests for use in the absence of specialists. Mr. Brennan-Jones discovered some common inconsistencies that, if not corrected, could result in missed diagnoses of middle ear disease or tumours. Building on this work, he has developed diagnostic protocols that can be applied to automated audiometry to correct these errors and is translating this research into practice, by establishing an indigenous ear health program in the East Pilbara.

 

Tim Rosenow (Subiaco):

PhD Candidate (Telethon Kids Institute/ The University of Western Australia)

Mr. Rosenow is a PhD student at the Telethon Kids Institute, working in the field of paediatric respiratory medicine. His research has resulted in a new method for measuring structural lung disease in infants and young children using chest CT scans. This method is the world’s first age-appropriate measure of cystic fibrosis-related structural lung disease in children under six. Mr. Rosenow’s PhD research has led to the development of several clinical trials for infants and pre-schoolers with cystic fibrosis. He has published nine papers, including two in the highest-rated respiratory journal, and holds a provisional patent for his methods.

 

Melanie Walls (East Victoria Park):

PhD candidate, School of Women’s and Infant’s Health (The University of Western Australia)

Ms. Walls’ research focuses on in vitro maturation (IVM), an innovative fertility treatment that can be cheaper and more patient-friendly than IVF. Her research into IVM and embryo-morphokinetics led to an award-winning presentation at an international conference and the world’s first live birth from a combination of these techniques. Furthermore, in an Australian-first, she successfully collected immature eggs from ovaries removed from a cancer patient, to preserve her future fertility. Melanie is currently helping to establish an ovarian tissue vitrification program with a multidisciplinary team, to offer the opportunity for a future family to many young women diagnosed with cancer.

 

Chevron Science Engagement Initiative Of The Year

Fireballs In The Sky:

(Curtin University)

The Desert Fireball Network aims to understand the early workings of the solar system by studying meteorites, fireballs and their pre-Earth orbits by capturing the paths of fireballs in the sky from multiple viewpoints. With this data, the fireball’s pre-Earth orbit and eventual landing position are tracked. Fireballs in the Sky are the outreach arm of the project. More than 89,000 West Australians have engaged with the program through hands-on activities, talks and events, and it has received international media coverage. The citizen science smartphone app has had 23,000 downloads world-wide and in 2015 the app was awarded the National iAward for Innovation in Education.

 

iPREP WA:

(Edith Cowan University)

iPREP WA (Industry and PhD Research Engagement Program) involves interdisciplinary teams of PhD students from all five Western Australian universities, working on a six-week project for an industry partner. Since iPREP WA was established in early 2015, the program has included 26 successful projects, 78 PhD researchers and 21 companies. iPREP WA builds relationships between universities and industry, improves skill development for science graduates, improves employability of PhD graduates and builds collaboration between WA universities.

 

Old Ways, New Ways – Aboriginal Science Outreach Program:

(Edith Cowan University)

The Old Ways, New Ways program aims to improve the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in science subjects, thereby increasing their employment prospects in science and technology. Through the use of peer-supported learning and demonstrator training, the program enhances confidence, leadership and communication skills, while promoting and providing positive role models and career opportunities. The program is now in its third year and by the end of 2016, about 2,000 primary school and high school students will have taken part across the South-West, Perth metropolitan and Pilbara regions.

 

Fact File

  • Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on August 18, 2016
  • National Science Week runs from August 13-21, 2016