From beekeeping to robotics our scientists are NSW winners

22 October 2014

Professor Ben Oldroyd, a honey bee specialist in the School of Biological Sciences, at the  2014 NSW Science & Engineering Awards.
Professor Ben Oldroyd, a honey bee specialist in the School of Biological Sciences, at the 2014 NSW Science & Engineering Awards.

The 2014 NSW Science & Engineering Awards have recognised the achievements and contributions of two University of Sydney academics in a ceremony at NSW Government House last night.

The 'Excellence in Engineering and Information and Communications Technologies' prize was awarded to Professor Salah Sukkarieh, Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, and Director of Research and Innovation at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics.

The 'Excellence in Biological Sciences (Ecology, environmental, agricultural and organismal)' prize was awarded to Professor Ben Oldroyd, a honey bee specialist in the School of Biological Sciences in the Faculty of Science who focuses on behavioural genetics and the evolution of social behaviour.

The NSW Science and Engineering Awards are given annually and acknowledge the state's leading researchers in science and engineering for innovative work that generates economic, health, environmental or technological benefits for New South Wales.

Professor Sukkarieh's award celebrates his cutting-edge robotic and information systems research and his engagement in a wide range of automation applications for multibillion-dollar industries including agriculture, environment monitoring, stevedoring, education, mining and aerospace.

His many achievements include pioneering the development of intelligent remote sensing and adaptive flight control systems for aerospace. He has also researched and developed novel data analytic and planning tools for commercial aviation that support greener flight.

The professor works closely with environment agencies in developing systems for detection of invasive species and linking these automated tools to ground operations.

As leader of the Systems research theme in the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence in Autonomous Systems, Professor Sukkarieh has pioneered research in large-scale modeling, data fusion and control of automated software and robotic systems, driving innovation in areas such as mining and agriculture.

Professor Ben Oldroyd has made significant contributions to our understanding of how honey bee societies are regulated and policed, and how they evolved. He is also heavily involved with the Australian beekeeping industry, helping beekeepers breed better, healthier strains, and providing scientific advice on matters ranging from quarantine and the problems of feral bees.

He has shown that sterility has a genetic basis and identified related genes. His work on the evolution of sociality is particularly profound, because it has united the disparate fields of theoretical population biology and molecular biology. Professor Oldroyd's ground-breaking work on feral bee populations includes providing the only reliable estimates of feral colony distributions across South East Australia, based on an ingenious genetic sampling technique.

Professor Oldroyd's breeding techniques are now widespread in the Australian beekeeping industry, enhancing productivity. His book, titled Asian Honey Bees: Biology, Conservation and Human Interactions, published by Harvard University Press, is the authoritative text on the subject.

Contact: Verity Leatherdale

Phone: (02) 9351 4312, 0403 067 342

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