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Lasers and dung beetles: the 2017 Eureka Prizes celebrate the best of Australian science

More than one dozen researchers took home Australian Museum Eureka Prizes on Wednesday. Flickr/Matthew Perkins, CC BY-NC

Lasers and dung beetles: the 2017 Eureka Prizes celebrate the best of Australian science

Scientists working on malleable electronics, more effective blood tests and lasers were just some of the winners at the 2017 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

The awards were presented at an event in Sydney on Wednesday, and authors for The Conversation were well represented among the finalists.

University of Sydney professor Salah Sukkarieh won the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science. An expert in robotic and intelligent systems, and with a focus on building tools for the aviation, farming and mining industries, Sukkarieh heads the strategic research and industry engagement program at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics.

Professor Salah Sukkarieh, winner of the 2017 Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science.

Professor Andrew Whitehouse of the Telethon Kids Institute was awarded the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science. He is an autism advocate and researcher, aiming to improve the lives of children living with autism. His research looks at the causes of autism, as well as diagnosis and therapies.

Professor Andrew Whitehouse, winner of the 2017 Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science.

Swinburne University of Technology professors Elena Ivanova and Saulius Juodkazis took home the UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research. After observing that bacteria was being killed on the wings of cicadas and dragonflies, they created a nano-material that replicated the surface.

Bacteria Busters, winner of the 2017 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.

Emilie Ens of Macquarie University, along with Ngandi Elder Cherry Wulumirr Daniels, the Yugul Mangi Rangers, Ngukurr School and members from the remote Aboriginal community of Ngukurr, won the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

Their project, Ngukurr Wi Stadi bla Kantri (We study the Country), is a knowledge exchange between Indigenous communities and scientists. The group track down new species and help manage sensitive ecological systems, among other projects.

We study the Country Research Team, winner of the 2017 Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

Professor Alan Cooper from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA was awarded the UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Research. Working with the South Australian Museum and Aboriginal families and communities, The Aboriginal Heritage Project uses DNA from hair samples to construct a map of Indigenous Australia prior to colonisation.

In March, he wrote a piece detailing the DNA work, which showed that following initial migration to Australia, Aboriginal groups lived in “discrete geographical regions” until the arrival of Europeans.

Alan Cooper, winner of a 2017 Eureka Prize, talks about the Aboriginal Heritage Project.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute associate professor Andrew Steer won the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research. With the the University of New South Wales, the Ministries of Health of Fiji and the Solomon Islands, Steer has been investigating the parasitic skin infection scabies. A clinical trial in Fiji virtually eliminated scabies.

In 2016, he wrote about the trial, calling for scabies to be targeted for global elimination.

The Scabies Research Team, winner of the 2017 Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research.

Of course, there were winners on the night who aren’t quite at the PhD level yet.

Year 4 students from the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Sydney, Caitlyn Walker and Amelia Lai, won the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for primary students. Their film, Icy Cold But Toasty Warm, reveals how Antarctic penguins stay warm using special feathers and down, blubber and of course, by huddling.

Icy Cold but Toasty Warm, winner of the 2017 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize Primary.

At the secondary level, Year 11 students Claire Galvin and Anna Hardy and Year 12 students Eliza Dalziel and Georgia Hannah from St Monica’s College in Cairns won the University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for Secondary students. Their film, Manure You Know, shares the important work dung beetles do for our soil.

Manure You Know, winner of the 2017 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize Secondary.

The complete awards lists can be found here.