Sydney success at Eurekas
7 September 2011
All of the University of Sydney finalists at last night's Eureka Prizes took out the top prize in their category, from a physicist leading research into faster and more energy efficient communications technologies, to a team of veterinary scientists exposing questionable ethics in the racing industry.
Presented annually by the Australian Museum, the Eureka Prizes, known as the 'Oscars' of the Australian science world, reward excellence in the fields of scientific research and innovation, science leadership, school science and science journalism and communication.
Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence, who attended last night's ceremony, congratulated all the winners and said he was delighted the University was so widely represented in this year's awards.
"These awards are wonderful recognition for their work over many years. The University of Sydney takes great pride in their achievements. They epitomise our commitment to undertake research that makes an original contribution to knowledge and understanding."
University of Sydney winners
The prestigious Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science went to Professor Ben Eggleton, Director of CUDOS, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Photonics, with over 130 researchers from seven Australian universities.
He and his team are developing optical technologies that promise to change people's lives. In particular, the group is developing a photonic chip that is faster, smaller, more energy efficient and smarter than traditional electronics options.
Using light beams, it is already contributing to new science and technology in a host of areas, ranging from energy-efficient communications and quantum information processing to environmental monitoring and astronomy.
The prize recognises Professor Eggleton's outstanding record of multidisciplinary research leadership in Australia and the US, and ability to develop and lead breakthrough science and technology and translate discoveries into commercial realities.
Professor Rick Shine from the School of Biological Sciences took home the Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research.
Professor Shine is one of Australia's foremost researchers in ecology and evolution, and one of this country's most eloquent and widely heard science communicators.
The judges noted that he has been transforming the public debate about cane toads, with his websites, media appearances and magazine articles replacing myths with fact.
Associate Professor David Moss from the Institute of Photonics and Optical Science was named winner of the Eureka Prize for Innovation in Computer Science.
Associate Professor Moss was recognised for his breakthrough work incorporating light onto silicon computer chips. His research will be critical to overcoming many of the energy and bandwidth bottlenecks for on-chip and chip to chip communications, and will play a key role in enabling silicon photonic chips.
Professor Manfred Lenzen, Dr Christopher Dey and Dr Joy Murray, from the School of Physics, won the Eureka Prize for Innovative Solutions to Climate Change.
They head up the Integrated Sustainability Analysis team, a multi-disciplinary research group that has developed a model to calculate the environmental cost of what we produce, buy and eat.
Research by a Faculty of Veterinary Science team in Professor Paul McGreevy's lab into the practice of horse whipping in the racing industry saw them take out the Scientific Research that Contributes to Animal Protection category.
Estimates from the Australian racing industry's own data suggest racehorses suffer more than a million whippings annually. Research by Professor McGreevy's team found whipping does not increase a horse's chance of finishing in the top three, and that they actually run faster when they are not being hit.
The 2009 winner of the Eureka People's Choice Award, Associate Professor Kathy Belov, was successful once again, this time as part of a group that triumphed in the Eureka Prize for Environmental Research category.
Associate Professor Belov and her colleagues from across Australia - collectively known as The Devils' Advocates - are collaborating across disciplines to try to save the Tasmanian Devil from extinction from a contagious cancer.
"The brilliance and tireless dedication of a team of researchers has the potential to save the devils - renowned for their eerie screeching and bad temper - from Tasmanian Devil facial tumour disease," the judges noted.
Our researchers leading the field
Professor Jill Trewhella, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) described the results as "outstanding".
"They demonstrate the breadth of research being carried out at Sydney, particularly within the natural sciences," she said.
"Our commitment to sustainability research is clear: it is fantastic to see the multi-disciplinary team led by Manfred Lenzen, Christopher Dey and Joy Murray recognised for their work in this area.
"It is also pleasing to see our researchers recognised for leadership and communication. We are determined to see our research go beyond the boundaries of our campus and have a real affect on broader society; we want to solve problems and innovate. Ben Eggleton and Rick Shine have both shown exemplary leadership in this area."