Michael Alpers has made truly seminal observations on the epidemiology, pathogenesis and aetiology of the prion disease kuru. Critically, he showed that kuru was a transmissible disease. His many other major contributions to tropical medicine in Papua New Guinea include pivotal field studies on pneumonia and malaria. Through his leadership, the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research has achieved world renown.
Joss Bland-Hawthorn has the rare distinction of making seminal contributions to both experimental physics (instrumentation) and to astrophysics. In particular, he pioneered the field of astrophotonics, developing key devices that are revolutionising astronomical instrumentation enabling astronomers to observe much clearer images of distant stars and galaxies improving the quality of data obtained. Joss’ broad contributions to astrophysics include the creation, with Ken Freeman, of the fields of galactic archaeology and near-field cosmology, recovering the formation history of the galaxy from stellar motions and chemical abundance.
In the field of organic semiconducting materials, Paul Burn has been fundamentally involved in discovering and developing a world leading position for two new classes or materials, new characterisation techniques and device technologies. Pauls’ discovery of light-emitting polymers and dendrimers has led to worldwide interest in organic semiconductors across a broad range of applications.
John Church made substantial improvements in estimates of ocean heat uptake and resolved discrepancies between observation and models and the long-standing conundrum about the causes of sea-level rise in the 20th century, pioneering what is now the standard way observations are made. In addition, John elucidated the dynamic balances at work in some of the major current systems around Australia, and his multidisciplinary work remains a model of the application of oceanographic information to biological fisheries issues.
Patrick De Deckker pioneered the study of the Quaternary (that is, the last two million years) history of the oceans bordering Australia, using principally microfossils and their chemical composition to reconstruct past changes. In addition, Patrick was the first to link the patterns of environmental change on land and at sea using microfossils and other proxies, found that glacial oceans have become progressively warmer as aridity increased in Australia and most recently, Patrick is looking at the microbiological and geochemical fingerprinting of airborne dust with the aim of linking dust events with changes in the oceans.
Peter Dodds’ innovative discoveries are internationally recognised for the rational design of synthetic rust resistance genes to protect the world's most important food crops from rust diseases. Peter isolated the first rust avirulence protein and showed that it is secreted into the host plant during infection and that the pathogen protein triggers immunity by direct protein-protein interaction with a host resistance protein.
John Endler is one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists. He achieved international recognition for showing how geographically varying environments can cause divergent evolution and speciation. His studies of sexual and natural selection on colour patterns of guppies in the wild spawned a generation of research into selection in natural populations. John pioneered the new science of Sensory Ecology and his work on colour vision is revolutionising our understanding of how animals perceive the world.
Tim Flannery is a powerful public advocate for science. A well-known author, broadcaster and speaker, he has raised awareness of science in the Australian community. His books have increased public debate on major issues relevant to the impact of society on the environment. As a researcher, he has made significant contributions on both living and extinct marsupials and mammals. Tim was Australian of the Year in 2007.
Johannes Lambers is an outstanding international leader in plant physiological ecology. Johannes’ recent focus on Australian plants and their interactions with the predominantly phosphorous-limited ecosystems of Australia was based on his novel understanding of the causes and consequences of variation in growth rate amongst plant species and its impact on nutrient transport and respiratory metabolism. Johannes eminently promotes education and performance of young researchers in Australia and overseas.
Stephen MacMahon is a leading international authority on the risks associated with high blood pressure and the benefits resulting from blood pressure reduction. He was the first to demonstrate in epidemiological studies that there was no lower threshold, within the normal range of blood pressure, below which cardiovascular risks did not continue to decline. He has proven that blood pressure reduction would benefit high-risk patients irrespective of their initial blood pressure level. These findings have changed clinical guidelines and patient care worldwide.
James McCluskey has contributed extensively to our understanding of the biology of the Human Leukocyte Antigens of the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). He has made critical discoveries underpinning the biochemical basis for peptide selection, the structural basis for antigen recognition and the immunogenetics of MHC-linked drug hypersensitivity. He is an international leader in the field of antigen processing and presentation.
Graeme Moad is recognized in the areas of polymer design and synthesis and the kinetics and mechanism of radical polymerization. Graemes’ work has contributed substantially to the development of new synthetic methods for the controlled synthesis of polymers with defined architecture and molecular weight distribution. This research has revolutionized the field, with the most notable tangible outcome being polymerization with reversible addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT).
Tanya Monro is one of the Australia’s leading photonic scientists and one of the major world leaders in the field of optical fibres and optical communications, and has created the world-recognized Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing. Tanya has made exceptional scientific contributions of international significance to optical glass materials and fibres, photonics and optical physics, most notably in nanophotonics for nonlinear optics and sensing. These contributions have led to new science, and novel solutions to important measurement problems within a number of scientific and technological disciplines.
John Norris’ research has forced major revision of several basic concepts in astronomy, including changing the concept of how the Galaxy formed. John’s discovery of the most metal-deficient starts has illuminated the complexity of chemical evolution in the early Universe with his studies of the lithium abundance in the oldest stars putting a strong upper limit on the baryon content of the Universe. In addition, John’s work on globular cluster chemistry has opened up major new areas of research and initiated significant changes in the current theory of stellar evolution.
Foreseeing that herbicide resistance would become a great problem, Stephen Powles pioneered studies of resistance mechanisms. He unravelled several resistance mechanisms, and was the first to document resistance to glycosate, the world’s most important herbicide. He integrated molecular and agronomic initiatives in Australia, and became the international authority on herbicide resistance. Stephen contributes greatly to the management of herbicide resistance and GM crops, and communicates approaches to industry, crop consultants, farmers and scientists worldwide.
An internationally recognised statistician, Louise Ryan is a leading biostatistician who has made important contributions to developing and applying statistical methods in environmental and public health research, including the study of cancer. Louise has made important methodological contributions in survival analysis and the analysis of correlated multivariate data. Demonstrating leadership in her profession, Louise is a noted role model and mentor to young statisticians.
Frances Separovic, a biophysical chemist, is a pioneer in the structural studies of antibiotic peptides in model cell membranes. She developed the technique of using NMR to study peptides in aligned lipid bilayers, which is being used worldwide to study both the structure of membrane proteins and their effects on the membrane. The innovative research undertaken, and the multidisciplinary approach adopted by Frances has advanced both the understanding of how peptides insert into membranes and the application of solid-state NMR to a wide range of systems.
Greg Stuart has made formative contributions to understanding how information is processed by individual nerve cells in the brain. A world expert on the physiology of dendrites, Greg developed techniques for making electrical recordings from their fine processes. Now used throughout the world, these techniques have enabled studies of the initiation and spread of impulses in different nerve cell types and enhanced understanding of information processing in the brain.
Edmund Tobar has pioneered the invention, creation and applications of devices in the field of precision frequency generation and measurement. Edmunds’ most significant work has provided the most stringent tests of Einstein’s theories of relativity, which strive to discover physics beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics. Edmund has been invited to develop the only southern-hemisphere user group of the European Space Agency’s "Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space" mission, which will perform higher precision tests of fundamental physics in a micro-gravity environment.
In a remarkable discovery, Jane Visvader and her team identified and isolated the stem cell that generates the entire breast. Jane’s work has defined the cellular hierarchy within the breast, identified master regulators that orchestrate is differentiation program, and discovered that certain types of breast cancer originate from specific progenitor cells. The results of Jane’s research have profound implications for understanding the cellular origins of both normal and cancerous epithelial tissues.
Robert Williamson has developed scientific theory and widely used practical algorithms to solve machine learning problems. Roberts’ best known work is in the field of “kernel machines”, a particular form of machine learning methods based on the geometry of infinite dimensional spaces. In addition to developing new powerful theoretical frameworks, Robert developed three widely used Support Vector Machine algorithms – the “nu”, the one-class, and a simple online algorithm. These are popular because they are effective, efficient and the adjustable parameters are readily interpretable.
© 2017 Australian Academy of Science