Eureka! Australian scientists celebrated at awards night

Fatherhood by Richard Wylie, winner of the 2013 New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography. © Richard Wylie, 2013 New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography winner

One of The Conversation’s most popular writers and columnists, evolutionary biologist Professor Rob Brooks, has won a 2013 Eureka Prize for his work on science communication.

The annual Australian Museum Eureka Prizes celebrate the best in Australian science, innovation, leadership, research and science journalism.

Director of the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, Professor Brooks won the Australian Government Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research.

He was described by the judges as one of Australia’s most prolific science writers, tackling subjects as diverse as atheism, orgasms, lying and Miley Cyrus.

“Rob Brooks follows in the footsteps of Stephen J Gould with his stories of the ‘consquences’ of evolution,” the Director of the Australian Museum, Frank Howarth said.

“He helps people join the scientific conversation by communicating complex ideas without dumbing them down.”

In the past two years, Professor Brooks has published an award-winning book, written 16 articles and 44 columns for The Conversation, been heavily involved in a 30-minute television program, given 44 print, 50 radio and five TV interviews, and presented a host of public lectures on the science behind the evolution of sex, reproduction and human behaviour in general.

2013 Eureka Prize finalists discuss their work.

Science leadership

Professor Frank Caruso, a nanotechnology expert from the University of Melbourne, won the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science for his work developing nanotechnology-enabled materials that may one day improve drug delivery and medical imaging.

“Frank Caruso has succeeded in creating a new field of science creating interdisciplinary approaches to push forward the boundaries of nano-medicine, nano-biotechnology and drug delivery,” said Mr Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum.

“He has brought together teams of researchers combining chemistry, biology, medicine and engineering. He has supervised more than 50 PhD students and research fellows and mentored many early career researchers.”

Professor Caruso, an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow at the university’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is a co-inventor of 16 patents in the past six years and has authored over 300 papers, which have been cited more than 26,000 times.

The full list of 2013 Eureka Prize winners is as follows:

  • The University of Queensland’s Dr Kerrie Wilson won the Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Young Researcher for her work developing ways to maximise conservation outcomes through smarter, more targeted spending.

  • A University of Melbourne and Monash University team featuring Dr Lars Kjer-Nielsen, Professors James McCluskey, and Jamie Rossjohn won the University of New South Wales Eureka Prize for Scientific Research for their discovery of a previously unknown function of the immune system, paving the way for new tuberculosis and irritable bowel syndrome treatments or vaccines.

  • The University of Melbourne’s Professor Lloyd Hollenberg and colleagues won the University of New South Wales Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research for their work developing nano-scale diamond sensors that light up the insides of cells, which may help improve drug delivery in future.

  • A group of Year 6 students from Beauty Point Public School in Mosman, NSW – Nathan Gori, Reuben Shepherd, Billy McLeod, Jack Dougall and Sacha Balme – won the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for primary school students for their short film about friction.

  • The Future Farm Industries CRC Enrich Project Team won the Caring for our Country Landcare Eureka Prize for Sustainable Agriculture for their discovery that feeding native shrubs to livestock could improve profitability, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and reduce erosion.

  • CSIRO scientist Dr Elliot Duff and his colleagues won the ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology for the invention of Zebedee, a hand-held laser scanner can create 3D maps of hard-to-map places like the inside of caves, mines and forest canopies.

  • Murdoch University Professors Steve Wilton and Sue Fletcher won the NSW Health Jamie Callachor Eureka Prize for Medical Research Translation for a treatment they developed for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

  • Professor Rick Shine, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Sydney, has won the University of Technology, Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers for his work assisting young scientists.

  • Casino High School student Brandon Gifford won the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for secondary students for his mini-documentary about spiders.

  • Scanalyse/Outotec, a company formed by Curtin University researchers to sell 3D laser imaging technology that maps the internal wear of the crushers and grinders used in mining won the Rio Tinto Eureka Prize for Commercialisation of Innovation.

  • University of Tasmania Professor Chris Johnson and his colleagues won the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research for their work showing that dingoes control kangaroo populations and suppress foxes and feral cats.

  • Amateur photographer Richard Wylie, from Safety Beach in Victoria, won the New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography for a shot of a male Weedy Sea Dragon.

  • The Armour Applications Program of the Defence Materials Technology Centre won the Defence Science and Technology Organisation Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia for their work developing new materials and manufacturing techniques to protect Australian troops in hostile environments.
    * The Eliminate Dengue team, led by Professor Scott O’Neill from Monash University, won the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research for their work on successfully infecting dengue-carrying mosquitoes with a naturally occurring bacterium that stops the development of dengue fever.

  • Program head at the Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Associate Professor David Wilson won the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science for his work developing models to help guide evidence-based health policy.

  • Ian Townsend from the ABC won the Australian Government Eureka Prize for Science Journalism for his radio report “The hidden cost of flooding.”