Two Fellows first Australians to win global prizes

November 25, 2022
Left: Professor Susan Scott speaks about the first direct detection of gravitational waves in 2020, after she was jointly awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. Right: rofessor Martin Green has been recognised for his leadership in developing world-leading solar cell technology.. Photo: Anna Kucera for UNSW Sydney.

Two Academy Fellows made Australian science history recently, winning prestigious international prizes for their research.

A pioneer in gravitational wave detection

Distinguished Professor Susan Scott has been named the European Academy of Sciences 2022 Blaise Pascal Medallist in Physics, in recognition of her contributions to the advances of physics. She is the first Australian to win the medal.

A theoretical physicist at the Australian National University, Professor Scott’s ground-breaking discoveries in general relativity and cosmology have shaped the emerging field of gravitational wave science in Australia and around the world.

In 2015, Professor Scott was an Australian leader in the international team that first detected gravitational waves – ripples in space and time caused by massive cosmic events such as collisions of black holes, which had been predicted more than 100 years ago by Albert Einstein.

This detection kicked off further discoveries, many by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), of which Professor Scott is a Chief Investigator.

“I am the first Australian, and Australian woman, to be awarded this medal, so this is a tremendous honour,” Professor Scott said.

“It is important because it recognises research in gravity performed in Australia, by an Australian, on the global stage.

“I hope this recognition goes some way in showing Australian girls that they can go on to achieve amazing things in science and shape the world of scientific discovery if that’s what they are passionate about and want to do.”

The Blaise Pascal medals recognise the work of the world’s best scientists in the fields of physics, maths, engineering, materials science, medicine, Earth sciences, social sciences and humanities, and chemistry.

Global leader in solar cell efficiency

Scientia Professor Martin Green AM has been awarded Technology Academy Finland’s 2022 Millennium Technology Prize for his leadership in developing the world’s most commercially viable and efficient silicon solar cell technology.

Professor Green’s teams at UNSW Sydney developed the Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) technology, which allows for greater and more efficient energy generation, more than doubling the conversion efficiency of standard solar cells.

“I believe the prize will increase my credibility as a spokesperson for what needs to be done to address climate change,” Professor Green said.

“The pace of change is accelerating, and the world will shift to solar and wind energy over the coming decade.

“I believe a huge transformation of historic significance is underway.”

The Millennium Technology Prize highlights the impact of science and innovation on society and is worth €1 million.

© 2024 Australian Academy of Science