Remarkable achievements in research recognised with Academy awards

April 03, 2024
The Academy's 2024 honorific recipients.

Today, 22 researchers from around Australia who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of science are recognised for their achievements with Australian Academy of Science honorific awards.

The Academy’s annual honorific awards celebrate the achievements of the country’s leading minds, from researchers who are early in their careers to those who have spent a lifetime contributing to science.

Academy President Professor Chennupati Jagadish said the awards recognise the diverse contributions of researchers across Australia and the power of long-term commitment to science.

“From climate change to public health, Australian researchers are addressing the challenges our communities face every day.

“Their dedication to the pursuit of knowledge enriches our understanding of the world around us and sets a great example for generations to come.

“It is a tremendous privilege to be given the opportunity to honour their contributions to science.”

The awardees this year include:

Professor Kerrie Mengersen FAA, Queensland University of Technology

Ruby Payne-Scott Medal and Lecture

Professor Kerrie Mengersen is this year’s recipient of the Ruby Payne-Scott Medal and Lecture, one of the Academy’s most prestigious awards.

Professor Mengersen’s research focuses on the development of new statistical methodology. She is driven by challenging real-world applications in a career spanning 35 years.

From helping to save the declining population of jaguars in the Amazon to creating Australia’s first interactive cancer atlas, Professor Mengersen’s statistical models have helped us better understand the world around us.

Recently, she led a citizen science project aimed at improving monitoring efforts for the Great Barrier Reef. The online tool, Virtual Reef Diver, allows divers to upload photos they’ve taken of the reef which anyone in the world can then annotate with features such as coral, algae and sand. This project engages everyday people in reef conservation.  

Professor Mengersen said the opportunity to work with different challenges using skills in data analysis is what keeps her passionate from day to day.

“It’s what gets me up in the morning wondering, ‘What will today bring?’” 

Dr Adriana Dutkiewicz, University of Sydney

Mawson Medal and Lecture

This year’s recipient of the Mawson Medal and Lecture, Dr Adriana Dutkiewicz has spent the past decade advancing our understanding of deep-sea sedimentation and the long-term carbon cycle, which is the movement of carbon between the solid Earth, atmosphere and oceans. While carbon is the backbone of life, changes to the environment that put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere result in warmer temperatures on Earth.

Dr Dutkiewicz used 50 years of data to develop a digital map of global deep-sea sediments—the first of its kind. She has also led research into the movement of sediments across the seafloor.

Dr Dutkiewicz said her team discovered a huge pile of sediment along an 8,000 km segment of the South-East Indian Ridge of the Southern Ocean, which had not been known before.

“That area potentially contains a very high-resolution record of Earth’s past climate, but it still remains to be drilled and properly mapped using ships.”

Professor Andrew Steer, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI)

Gustav Nossal Medal

Professor Andrew Steer is a paediatric infectious diseases physician and Director of the Infection and Immunity Theme at MCRI. He is this year’s recipient of the Gustav Nossal Medal, recognising his research as among the highest standing in the field of global health.

As an international authority on tropical infectious diseases, Professor Steer has established global community-based treatment programs for tropical skin infections such as scabies, influenced vaccine development for Strep A diseases, and introduced diagnostic technologies and control programs for rheumatic heart disease.

“Up to one child in every classroom might be affected by rheumatic heart disease in the Pacific. And usually, up to one in two children are affected by scabies,” Professor Steer said.

His team has led efforts in controlling the spread of scabies in the Pacific, supporting local researchers and medical professionals so they are empowered in disease control programs.

Professor Steer said that Sir Gustav Nossal was involved in some of his scabies work as an advisor.

“I feel a particular personal connection, and so being awarded the medal is extra special and meaningful to me.”

Professor Eric Chow, Monash University

Gottschalk Medal

Professor Eric Chow is one of two recipients of the Gottschalk Medal, for his contributions to our understanding of how sexually transmissible infections (STIs) spread, and how we can reduce their transmission.

Gonorrhoea is a preventable and curable STI, with over 82 million cases world-wide annually. Professor Chow’s research was the first in the world to identify kissing as the major means of transmission of gonorrhoea, rewriting 100-year-old paradigms on our understanding of the disease.

Originally from Hong Kong, Professor Chow lived through the 2003 SARS epidemic, which is what drove him to pursue a career in public health research.

“I really love this area—that we can actually do research to help people, to help the community, to protect the community,” Professor Chow said.

Professor Chow’s research aims to educate people about the best ways to prevent STIs, and drive changes in future sexual health education programs.

All 2024 award recipients

Read more about all the awardees and their research. Individual links below take you to the video and award citation for each recipient.

Premier honorific awards

Career honorific awards (for lifelong achievement)

Mid-career honorific awards (8—15 years post-PhD)

Early-career honorific awards (up to 10 years post-PhD)

Nominate for our 2025 awards

Nominations are now open for the Academy’s 2025 honorific awards. Nominations close 1 May 2024. 

© 2024 Australian Academy of Science