Bright stars of Australian science recognised with Academy Awards

November 17, 2017

Outstanding contributions to science have been recognised by the Australian Academy of Science today with 18 of Australia’s leading scientists and future superstars receiving prestigious 2018 honorific awards.

The scientists’ discoveries cross the breadth of science, from the threat posed by the melting ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, to solving the mysteries of the universe and interpreting how disruptions of brain connectivity can lead to mental illness.

Professor David Cooke from the University of Tasmania has been awarded one of the top honours, the Academy’s Haddon Forrester King Medal and Lecture. His investigations into the geological processes that produce copper-gold deposits as a result of fluids released from magma deep within the Earth’s crust, have transformed geochemical exploration techniques used by mining and resource companies around the world.

Others recognised among the Academy’s lifetime achievement awards include Professor Douglas MacFarlane from Monash University, awarded the 2018 David Craig Medal. His discovery and research on ionic liquids (salt compounds that are liquid at or around room temperature) has resulted in major advances in solar cell and battery storage technology. His research group has also pioneered the use of ionic liquids in new pharmaceutical products which have opened up new treatments, including a topical treatment for skin cancer.

Mid-career researcher Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, has been awarded the 2018 Nancy Millis Medal for Women in Science. Combining data-crunching with a genetic approach, Dr Asselin-Labat’s research has provided new insights into the development of lung diseases such as lung cancer and emphysema. Her team has demonstrated for the first time that some lung cell types are more efficient than others in repairing their DNA following exposure to damage.

Associate Professor Tracy Ainsworth from James Cook University has been awarded the Dorothy Hill Medal. She is one of 10 early career researchers to be recognised in this year’s annual awards. Her research has improved our understanding of how stress responses and diseases occur in corals. Associate Professor Ainsworth has also discovered that while small increases in sea temperatures negatively impact the health of corals, under the right circumstances corals can acclimate to increased sea temperatures and survive the bleaching process.

President of the Academy of Science, Professor Andrew Holmes, congratulated all the award winners for their inspiring research.

“Research by this year’s awardees is addressing some of society’s biggest challenges and also changing the world for the better. It is absolutely crucial that we continue to recognise and support their outstanding contributions so that people continue to be reminded of the important role of science for humankind,” Professor Holmes said.

Read more about the awardees and their research.

The awards go to:

Career honorifics (for lifelong achievement)

2018 David Craig Medal—Professor Douglas MacFarlane FAA FTSE, Monash University

2018 Haddon Forrester King Medal and Lecture—Professor David Cooke, University of Tasmania

2018 Mawson Medal and Lecture—Professor Matt King, University of Tasmania

2018 Ian Wark Medal and Lecture—Professor Calum Drummond, RMIT University

2018 Macfarlane Burnet Medal and Lecture—Professor Geoffrey Burnstock FAA FRS, University of Melbourne (previously announced)

Mid-career honorifics (815 years post-PhD)

2018 Gustav Nossal Medal for Global Health—Professor Anushka Patel, UNSW Sydney

2018 Jacques Miller Medal for Experimental Biomedicine—Professor Swaminathan Iyer, University of Western Australia

2018 Nancy Millis Medal for Women in Science—Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Early career honorifics (up to 10 years post-PhD)

2018 John Booker Medal—Associate Professor Shanyong Wang, University of Newcastle

2018 Frederick White Medal—Dr Alex Sen Gupta, UNSW Sydney

2018 Christopher Heyde Medal—Dr Zdravko Botev, UNSW Sydney

2018 Ruth Stephens Gani Medal—Dr Irina Voineagu, UNSW Sydney

2018 Fenner Medal—Dr Ceridwen Fraser, Australian National University

2018 Anton Hales Medal—Dr Rhodri Davies, Australian National University

2018 Gottschalk Medal—Associate Professor Alex Fornito, Monash University

2018 Pawsey Medal—Dr Paul Lasky, Monash University

2018 Dorothy Hill Award—Associate Professor Tracy Ainsworth, James Cook University

2018 Le Févre Medal—Associate Professor Amir Karton, University of Western Australia

The majority of the awards will be presented at the Academy’s annual signature science event, 'Science at the Shine Dome', on 24 May 2018.

© 2018 Australian Academy of Science