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Prime Minister's Prizes for Science

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The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are Australia’s most prestigious awards for outstanding achievements in scientific research, research-based innovation, and excellence in science teaching.

The prizes recognise achievements across diverse disciplines and career stages. Recipients share $750 000 in prize money, and have the opportunity to showcase important work undertaken in their field.

Prime Minister's Prizes for Science 2020

This year’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science will be presented in an online public event on Wednesday 28 October. Read more about the event and save the date!

Prize recipients

The PM's Prizes have been awarded annually since 2000.

Watch our video

Celebrating 20 years of the PM Prizes for Science.

Prof. Jennifer Graves:

I guess the reason I love science is partly because science is fascinating, it’s a never-ending detective story, but also the life of science is tremendously fun.

Some of the most important work I did was very early on looking at X-chromosome inactivation, the mapping was a huge revolution, the sequencing even more huge revolution, it makes it possible to look at questions that we were asking in the ’60s that we can now actually answer.

Prof. Stuart Wyithe:

The most satisfying moment I think I’ve had in science is when I realised the giant regions of ionised gas that formed around the first galaxies had a finite size that could be observed.

And this is something that’s very important for the next generation of radio-telescopes, because it sets the resolution that they need in order to study the first galaxies properly.

Associate Prof. Lee Berger:

By the end of the ’80s there was a huge concern that frogs were disappearing.

Initially we were suspected there might be a virus that was killing them, but it turned out to be this superficial fungus that grows on the skin that caused the fatal disease.

So this fungus, it’s among the worst infectious diseases in history, it’s caused over 200 hundred species of frogs around the world to decline or become extinct. I’ve loved being a researcher because I feel like it’s making a difference to the world.

Prof. John Shine:

I discovered the way that genes are regulated and how proteins are initiated and terminated, how we make the products of genes.

The discovery was a simple sequence known as the Shine-Dalgarno Sequence that lets you regulate the amount of protein that is made off a clone gene.

Sarah Chapman:

I like doing experiments with things that students don’t expect.

We have a V8 supercar race which occurs just at the front of the school, and my Year 11 students examine the health of our local estuary before and after the V8 race in order to establish if there are any impacts with the V8’s.

We have around 90 per cent of our students that choose to do tertiary studies, choosing a science-based study.

Prof. Eric Reynolds:

There was a unique form of calcium that was very bioavailable, and it was made that way by specific proteins in milk.

We actually could isolate those and then deliver those in pure form, and in concentrated form to show that we could strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to tooth decay.

Prof Geoff Rogers:

Cardiovascular disease in Australia alone is responsible for five deaths every hour.

And the major reason is because clinicians can’t get access to the problem site.

The technology they currently use is a tiny wire called a guide wire. What we’ve done is make that tip robotically steerable inside the patient using a joystick controller.

Prof. Ingrid Scheffer:

Since we found the first gene for epilepsy in 1995 we now know of many genes for epilepsy, and we’ve been involved in finding roughly half of those.

Prof. Samuel Berkovic:

We’re now identifying the cause in a much greater number of people with epilepsy.

Brett Crawford:

I love it when we find something happening in an experiment and the student turns to me and says, ‘Mr Crawford, why is this going on’? And I can say to them, ‘I don’t know, isn’t it great’! Because that means that we are mutually learning something new. It empowers them and you explain to them, no, not magic, science.

About the prizes

Prizes for research:

  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Science ($250 000)
  • Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year ($50 000)
  • Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year ($50 000)

Prizes for innovation:

  • Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation ($250 000)
  • Prize for New Innovators ($50 000)

Prizes for science, mathematics or technology teaching:

  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools ($50 000)
  • Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools ($50 000)

The Frank Fenner, Malcom McIntosh and New Innovators prizes reward early-career achievements made within 10 years (full time or full time equivalent) of completing relevant studies. The New Innovators prize rewards steps towards translating research into a commercially available product.

Each recipient receives prize money, a medallion with a lapel pin and an award certificate. Internationally renowned artist, Wojciech Pietranik from the Royal Australian Mint, designed the medallions.


We encourage nominations of eligible scientists, innovators and teachers, including from under-represented groups such as women and Indigenous Australians.

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Last updated: 21 October 2020

Content ID: 12631