2016 Prime Minister’s Prizes reward recognizes Australia’s outstanding scientists, innovators and teachers for achievements in their fields.
This is an exciting time for science in Australia as the work of scientists happening in labs, universities and institutions is not only improving our understanding of the world but helping to tackle issues in medicine, conservation, trade industry and many other areas.
The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science was held on 19 October 2016 to celebrate the achievements and recognize seven of Australia’s outstanding scientists and science educators.
The celebratory dinner, held in the Great Hall of Parliament House, was attended by Prime Minister the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP and over 450 Members of Parliament, distinguished scientists, science educators, industry captains and prominent leaders of the science and education community.
Expressing his deepest respect and sincerest congratulations to the winners, Malcolm Turnbull said:
“The communication of science, of the value of science and its capacity to transform our lives, should be better understood by us all .. If we want to be a country that can continue to seize these answers into the 21st century, the 22nd century and beyond—if we want to be a genuine science nation—we have to be everything that your work as scientists enables us to be.”
He went on to say that “not all innovators are scientists but all scientists are innovative – because you are at the frontier of new knowledge.”
The 2016 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science was awarded to Professor Richard Shine AM for his research into reptilian behaviours and their applicability to wider understandings of vertebrate evolution; his research into the roles and importance of reptiles in ecosystems; and for his discoveries in cane toad biology that have led to new understandings of invasive behaviours and to biological and physical methods of controlling cane toad populations.
“His advocacy; his passion for innovation and science really is .. quite infectious. Personally, I am excited by the aspiration inherent in that aspiration, that ambition of Alan’s. It combines passion and commitment about the vital importance of scientific endeavour with the entrepreneur’s eye for competitive advantage, that willingness to stretch our ambition so we can put our nation and our scientific and research institutions right at the cutting-edge of the global knowledge economy ” Malcolm Turnbull remarked.
The $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science has been awarded to evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Shine of the University of Sydney in recognition of his work to ensure Northern Australia’s peak predators – snakes and lizards – are more likely to survive the cane-toad invasion.
Professor Shine has created traps for cane toads, taught quolls and goannas to avoid toads, and now plans to release small cane toads ahead of their potential arrival in new areas so predators survive their first meal of cane toad but have an aversion to eating them again.
Global stock markets are being made fairer and more efficient thanks to the work of Professor Michael Aitken, recipient of the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.
Professor Aitken, of Macquarie University and the Capital Market CRC, created services that capture two million trades a second, enabling rapid analysis of markets and systems to detect fraud. His researchers have developed a spin-off company that is targeting health and other markets and identifying billion dollar frauds and inefficiencies in Australia’s health markets.
Winner of the inaugural $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for New Innovators, Dr Colin Hall, a Senior Research Fellow at the Future Industries Institute at the University of South Australia, is creating jobs and exports through new car part technologies.
The innovation awards recognise outstanding researchers who have turned scientific research into a direct benefit to Australia’s economy, driving innovation and helping Australian industry thrive in a changing world.
Other Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science winners are:
Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson of the University of Queensland is using economics and maths to protect tropical forests, and guide bush renewal, and receives the $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year.
Professor Richard Payne of the University of Sydney is reengineering proteins from nature to fight TB, malaria, stroke, and cancer, and receives the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.
Miss Suzanne Urbaniak from Perth is turning students on to geoscience, and receives the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.
Mr Gary Tilley from Sydney is bringing science into the next generation of primary school classrooms, and receives the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools.
Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, has praised the dedication and creativity of Australia’s science community at the presentation of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. “Scientists are constantly thinking about the tremendous potential our future holds, and the best way for us to unlock it,” Dr Finkel said.
“Science, and follow-on innovation, represent our path to that future; from cutting edge research, to the development and commercialization of new products, through to the dedicated teachers who inspire our next generation .. The Prizes recognise outstanding individuals from all of these fields. But more than that – they recognise the importance of these groups working together with the community to reach Australia’s best future.”
2016 Award winners
The 2016 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science was awarded at a presentation ceremony on 19 October 2016.
- Prime Minister’s Prize for Science: Richard Shine
- Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation: Michael Aitken
- Prize for New Innovators: Colin Hall
- Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year: Richard Payne
- Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year: Kerrie Wilson
- Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools: Suzy Urbaniak
- Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools: Gary Tilley
The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are Australia’s most prestigious and highly regarded awards for outstanding achievements in scientific research, research-based innovation and excellence in science teaching.
These awards are presented by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science at a black-tie dinner in the Great Hall.
The Australian Government has created a new award in 2016. The ‘Prize for New Innovators’ will recognise the achievements of early career innovators in the commercialisation of scientific research that has had substantial beneficial economic, social and/ or environmental impacts, within ten years of completing their highest degree.
It is vital to recognize and cherish the science heroes as we rely upon science teachers to open the eyes of the next generations to the value of science, enabling them to make decisions in their lives based on evidence and scientific principles.