Big Bang: Science Awards drive our future

By / 8th of August, 2014

TONIGHT’s announcement of the 2014 South Australian Scientist of the Year awards is one way to ensure the future of the state and indeed the globe according to Dr Paul Willis, Director of Australia’s national science hub The Royal Institution of Australia.

The awards were presented on Friday night at an event in Adelaide hosted by South Australia’s Minister for Science and the Information Economy, Gail Gago.

Dr Willis was Master of Ceremonies for the fourth successive year.

“The economy of South Australia has a bright future in the minds of our scientists, technologists and engineers,” said Dr Willis.

“We need to celebrate our successes, and support this expertise and these individuals into the future.”

As well as awarding academic excellence in the sciences, the prizes also highlight science teaching.

“Science teachers are the custodians of the minds of the next generation,” said Dr Willis.

“Being able to engage our kids with creative and interesting science will see the next generation of young people coming through, and offer all kinds of benefits to the state and to the planet.”

“All of the major issues that face us at the moment, that threaten our future – climate change, over-population, resource use – they all have a basis on science,” he explained.

“To solve these problems, we all need to understand the science that underlies them.”

The South Australian Scientist of the Year receives $25,000 in prize money, and other winners receive $10,000 each.

“I would like to congratulate all winners and finalists of the SA Science Excellence Awards for their passion, hard work and the determination they bring to their work,” Ms Gago said.



South Australian Scientist of the Year
Professor Anthony Thomas, Australian Laureate Fellow and Elder Professor of Physics, The University of Adelaide.
Professor Thomas aims to unravel the rich and complex structure of subatomic matter, using experiment, theory, advanced computations and simulation that impact on fundamental questions about our universe, financial markets, atmospheric and climate studies. Using his extensive international collaborative networks, Professor Thomas has created a globally visible program that is at the forefront of subatomic physics.

PhD Research Excellence – Health and Medical Sciences
Dr Kathleen Pishas, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Adelaide.
Dr Pishas’ research aims to discover therapeutic approaches for the targeted treatment of sarcomas – a rare cancer of the solid bone and soft tissue, which disproportionately affects the young. Her work will use novel methods to directly assess the biological response of fresh tumour material to anti-cancer agents. Potentially, the results may identify biomarkers that predict patient response to novel therapeutic agents.

PhD Research Excellence – Life and Environmental Sciences
Dr Sarah Catalano, Research Scientist, The University of Adelaide.
Dr Catalano recently completed her PhD on a poorly understood and little-known group of marine parasites called dicyemid mesozoans, which are found in high numbers on the kidney surface of cephalopods, including squid, octopus and cuttlefish species. Her research has discovered and described 10 new parasite species, the very first from Australian waters. Her approach of using parasites as tags for these creatures may guide future conservation efforts to maintain species diversity in our waters.

PhD Research Excellence – Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering
Dr Daniel Tune, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Flinders University.
Dr Tune’s research investigated single walled carbon nanotube photovoltaics with the aim of developing a new generation of environmentally friendly solar cells. Carbon nanotubes have the potential to be used in window solar cells to absorb harmful UV radiation and turn it into electricity. Dr Tune’s research has recognised that, unlike other alternatives to the silicon used in today’s rooftop solar arrays, carbon is non-toxic and not limited in supply.?

Early Career STEM Professional – Life and Environmental Sciences
Dr John Hixson, Research Scientist, The Australian Wine Research Institute.
Dr Hixson’s research focuses on alternative uses for the winemaking by-product known as grape marc. Grape marc is the solid residue remaining from wine making and comprises of grape skins, stalks and seeds, which contain a class of compounds known as tannins. His research will investigate how those tannins change digestion in livestock and how much methane is produced across the agricultural sector.

Early Career STEM Professional – Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering
Dr Luigi Barone, Director of Simulation and Optimisation, Schneider Electric.
Dr Barone’s research aims to optimise the efficiency of bulk-handling supply chains, particularly in the mining, agriculture and wine industries. Given the large product volume and high commodity prices in these industries, the optimisation of supply chains can deliver significant economic value.

Early Career STEM Educator of the Year – School Teaching
Dr Samantha Moyle, Science Teacher, Brighton Secondary School.
Dr Moyle creates unique and dynamic approaches to science learning. As a firm advocate of visual learning, Dr Moyle incorporates hands-on construction-based tasks to engage and inspire students to connect the visual to the theory. As a passionate advocate for STEM, Dr Moyle is now undertaking a degree to qualify as a Mechanical Engineer.

Early Career STEM Educator of the Year – Tertiary Teaching
Ms Karen Burke da Silva, Lecturer, Flinders University.
Ms Burke da Silva has developed an integrated teaching environment that fosters interaction between teaching and research across multiple STEM areas. Using innovative techniques to stimulate, motivate and improve science literacy of all students, Ms Burke da Silva has reduced student withdrawal rates and produced highly engaged and enthusiastic students.

South Australian Early Career Researcher – SA Tall Poppy of the Year
Dr Cristian Birzer, Lecturer and Director of External Relations, The University of Adelaide.
Dr Birzer’s research involves taking the complex science of combustion and fluid mechanics, plus the creativity of engineering, to develop affordable solutions to reduce harmful emissions from solid fuels, such as dung and wood. Dr Birzer’s group will also examine affordable solutions to treat pathogens in water.