Six Eureka Prize finalists for Faculty of Science

5 August 2013

Six scientists from the Faculty of Science have been named as finalists in the prestigious Eureka Prizes, known as the Oscars of Australian science.

Presented annually by the Australian Museum, the Eureka Prizes reward excellence in the fields of scientific research and innovation, science leadership, school science and science journalism and communication. The awards dinner, where winners will be announced on 4 September, is the largest national celebration of Australian science.

"It's wonderful that six of our scientists have been named as finalists in the Eureka Prizes this year. This success reflects the high calibre research carried out across the Faculty of Science," said Professor Trevor Hambley, Dean of the Faculty of Science.

"Our finalists cover a range of areas of excellence from early career research and leadership, to established scientific research, to commercialisation of innovation, to mentoring of young researchers, to communicating scientific research. It's fantastic to see such a diversity of outstanding achievement recognised."

The six Eureka Prize finalists from the Faculty of Science are:

Associate Professor Richard Payne, from the School of Chemistry, is a finalist in the Eureka Prize for Outstanding Young Researcher. He is pioneering the development of much-needed therapies for diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and cancer that are responsible for enormous morbidity and mortality worldwide. He has developed and used highly innovative chemistry methods and drug-screening technologies to develop new molecules for treating these diseases.


Professor Geraint Lewis, from the School of Physics, and his now graduated PhD student, Dr Anthony Conn, are finalists in the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research. With cutting-edge imaging from over 200 hours of telescope observations, Professor Geraint Lewis and Dr Anthony Conn looked in depth at our nearest cosmic neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy. Their groundbreaking research revealed a completely unexpected, and mysterious, rotating plane of dwarf galaxies orbiting Andromeda. None of our ideas of the nature of dark matter and the evolution of galaxies predict such a coherent structure, and its discovery presents huge challenges for current cosmology.


Dr Jochen Schröder, from the School of Physics, with Dr Michaël Roelens from Finisar Australia, entered as the WaveShaper Team, are finalists in the Eureka Prize for Commercialisation of Innovation. The WaveShaper, an optics innovation, is an ideal example of the synergy between research excellence and the commercial utilisation of innovation. Originally developed as a research device in an industry linkage grant, it is now sold to laboratories and has transformed the way optics researchers perform their experiments worldwide.


Dr Tara Murphy, from the School of Physics, is a finalist in the Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science. Dr Tara Murphy leads the international astronomy collaboration VAST, bringing together over 80 researchers from around the world to search for astronomical transients with radio telescopes. Although she is a young scientist herself, Tara is passionate about educating the next generation of physicists and is a leading advocate of astroinformatics education.


Professor Rick Shine, from the School of Biological Sciences, is a finalist in the Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers. Few biologists worldwide have been so successful at facilitating the careers of young researchers as Professor Rick Shine. Over a long and illustrious career, Rick has attracted, nurtured and enthused a succession of high-achieving young researchers. By mentoring generations of talented researchers, he has transformed his field of study.


Professor Steve Simpson, from the School of Biological Sciences, is a finalist in the Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research. Professor Steve Simpson is an international leader in his fields of multidisciplinary nutritional research and locust swarming who also devotes time and enthusiasm to communicating science to broad audiences through numerous channels. As Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, Professor Simpson is leading the University's efforts to develop real-world solutions to the problems posed by obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Also, Dr Michael Lovelace and Professor Tailoi Chan-Ling, from Sydney Medical School are Highly Commended in the Eureka Prize for Science Photography for their image 'The dawn of neurodevelopment - the migratory journey of neural precursors'. Like a spectacular dawn, this image of migrating nervous system cells illustrates the complexity of morphologies and markers expressed on immature cells using an adherent neurosphere model. Neurospheres are spherical balls of cells that are used by scientists to model the processes involved in neurodevelopment, such as proliferation, migration and differentiation.

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