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The 2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were awarded to 10 amazing Australian scientists and science educators by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews on Wednesday, 17 October.
The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are Australia’s most prestigious and highly-regarded awards for outstanding achievements in scientific research, research-based innovation and excellence in science teaching. This year, Astronomer-at-large Professor Fred Watson AM and Women in STEM Ambassador Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith presided over the awards ceremony held in the Great Hall at Parliament House, Canberra.
The 2018 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science was awarded to Emeritus Professor Kurt Lambeck AO for his work on our planet’s constantly changing shape. It revealed how changes in the Earth’s shape influence sea levels, the movement of continents and the orbits of satellites. His work has transformed our understanding of the Earth as a ‘living’ planet.
The 2018 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation was awarded to Dr Simon Poole, Mr Andrew Bartos, Dr Glenn Baxter and Dr Steven Frisken (known as the Finisar team). Their work in involved developing optical wavelength switches, a technology that makes internet connections faster and more efficient.
The 2018 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year was awarded to Dr Lee Berger, who solved the global mystery of frog extinction. Dr Berger’s work found that many cases of frog extinction were caused by a fungus growing on the skin of sick frogs. Thanks to her work, conservation practices across the world have been updated to protect frogs into the future.
The 2018 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year was awarded to Associate Professor Jack Clegg for two key achievements. Firstly, for designing crystals that are flexible. This is important work because of its impact on modern electronic devices such as mobile phones. These are packed with crystal semiconductors that, until now, have been brittle and prone to breaking. Associate Professor Clegg’s second achievement is his creation of new, more efficient separation technologies, which can be used in manufacturing processes across a range of industries.
The 2018 Prize for New Innovators was awarded to Dr Geoff Rogers, who created and commercialised a new, less-invasive robotic guidewire that cardiologists can steer with a joystick though the body to reach a damaged artery.
For their work in educating our future generation of scientists, the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary and Secondary Schools, respectively, were awarded to Mr Brett Crawford from Warrigal Road State School in Queensland, and Dr Scott Sleap from Cessnock High School Learning Community in New South Wales.
Mr Crawford is acknowledged for creating an environment where every teacher at his school is engaged in science. His knowledge and enthusiasm for science extends to other schools through his successful mentoring program. Dr Sleap is acknowledged for developing the Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence, a partnership between Cessnock High school, feeder primary schools, and local industry. This integrated education model brings together science, technology, engineering and mathematics to deliver a ‘real world’ perspective.