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Sydney scoops NSW Premier’s Prizes

14 October 2016
Four out of ten STEM prizes including Scientist of the Year.

The University of Sydney tonight won more awards than any other organisation at the NSW Premier's Prizes for Science & Engineering - covering the spectrum from early career to career scientist.

Dr Elizabeth New in her laboratory at the University of Sydney

Early career researcher Dr Elizabeth New, 32, in her laboratory. Above: Photo of Professor Rick Shine taken near Broken Hill by Terri Shine.

Four researchers from the University of Sydney have been recognised in the annual NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering, including the overall award.

The University of Sydney winners included at both ends of the spectrum – early career to career scientist – all undertaking fascinating research spanning biology, chemistry, astronomy and medical science.

The winners are: inventor of the Galactic Archaeology survey, astrophysicist Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Charles Perkins Centre Professor David James; early career chemist Dr Elizabeth New; and evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Shine AM, who was named New South Wales Scientist of the Year.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison said the University of Sydney’s dominance highlighted the strength of its research community.

“We are proud to have so many outstanding and dedicated researchers coming up with creative solutions to challenging problems in our community – from finding new treatments for devastating diseases, to fighting invasive species that devastate Australia’s natural environment,” Professor Ivison said.

The winners of the nine category awards each received a trophy and $5000 and the overall winner received $60,000. The winners are:

1. Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry and Physics

Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn, Director of Sydney Institute for Astronomy

For more than two decades, Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn has played a key role in keeping Australia at the forefront of optical astronomy, in particular, through his development of galactic archaeology and near-field cosmology. His outstanding research at the interface between astrophysics and new technologies has led to innovative astronomical instruments and devices used in other applied fields.

2. Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences (Cell and molecular, medical, veterinary and genetics)

Professor David James, Systems Biology Chair at the Charles Perkins Centre

Building on more than 30 years’ study into insulin action and diabetes, Professor David James is pioneering systems biology approaches to tackle the disease – which impacts 1.7 million Australians and costs the national economy $14.6 billion annually. Professor James’s research is opening up novel avenues in the area of precision medicine, and has major implications for public health and the prevention of diabetes.

3. NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year

Joint Winner: Dr Elizabeth New, Senior Lecturer of Chemistry

The principal focus of Dr Elizabeth New, 32, is on diseases of ageing. Her team has developed a range of chemical sensors for medical application, including one that can indicate the effect of copper levels in Alzheimer’s disease, and another that can be used to track the anticancer drug cisplatin within the body. The outcomes of her research are generating enormous impact, with two sensors already commercially available.

4.  2016 New South Wales Scientist of the Year

Professor Rick Shine of the Shine Lab

A world-renowned ecologist at The University of Sydney who has led the war against the toxic cane toad, Professor Rick Shine and his team have discovered a novel way to control the alien amphibians. The team found that cane toad tadpoles eat the freshly laid eggs of their own species as part of their fight for survival. A pheromone found in the eggs attracts the cane toad tadpoles, and the researchers were able to use the same chemical to lure tadpoles by the tens of thousands into specially designed traps.

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