‘Discovery of the century’ recognised in the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

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28 October 2020

The Australian scientific, research and science teaching community came together virtually tonight to celebrate achievements of the country’s leading scientists and science educators.

We announced the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science recipients in an online public event that recognised:

  • outstanding achievements in scientific research and research-based innovation
  • excellence in science teaching

The Prime Minister’s Prize for Science

A team from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) took out the top award, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science:

  • Emeritus Professor David Blair, The University of Western Australia
  • Professor David McClelland, The Australian National University
  • Professor Susan Scott, The Australian National University
  • Professor Peter Veitch, The University of Adelaide

They were recognised for their critical contributions to the first direct detection of gravitational waves in 2015 – a ground-breaking discovery in the world of physics. Albert Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves more than a century ago in his theory of general relativity.

Prizes for research

Professor Mark Dawson, Clinician-Scientist at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, received the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. His pioneering research in epigenetics and ground-breaking discoveries have revolutionised the way we understand and treat blood cancers.

Scientia Associate Professor Xiaojing Hao of UNSW received the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. She has emerged as a world leader in thin-film solar photovoltaics. Her research is changing the way we think about renewable solar energy.

Prizes for innovation

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer of The University of Sydney received the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation for his work in translating fundamental research into two pioneering technologies. These are poised to transform how we address two of humanity’s most pressing challenges – the need for more efficient commercial waste recycling, and boosting the performance of renewable energy storage..

Associate Professor Justin Chalker of Flinders University received the Prize for New Innovators.He invented a new class of polymers that will also enable sustainable solutions – clean air, fresh water and sustainable food production.

Prizes for science, mathematics or technology teaching

Sarah Fletcher, Bonython Primary School’s STEM Specialist Teacher, received the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools. She has made outstanding contributions to the school’s STEM program and the wider ACT education community.

Darren Hamley, Willetton Senior High School teacher, received the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools He initiated extracurricular programs to help students relate their theoretical scientific learnings to real-world applications.

Watch the video highlights

More event highlights

The Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology acknowledged this year’s Prize recipients. Professor Alan Duffy, a Professor of Astrophysics at Swinburne University and Lead Scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia, hosted the event.

The PM’s Prizes award up to $750,000 in total each year. Each recipient receives prize money, a medallion and lapel pin designed by international artist Wojciech Pietranik from the Royal Australian Mint.

They also receive an award certificate, recognising their contributions to:

  • Australia’s scientific and commercialisation capabilities, or science education
  • the country’s social and economic well-being

Read more

Connect with us

Get the latest news about the 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science on Twitter @ScienceGovAu. Or follow the conversation with #pmprizes. 

Contact us

Email pmprizes [at] industry.gov.au