On Wednesday, 3 November 2021, the Australian scientific, research and science teaching community came together online to celebrate achievements of the country’s leading scientists, research-based innovators and science teachers at the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.
This year, prizes were awarded to seven recipients from across diverse diciplines, including the University of Sydney’s Professor Edward C. Holmes for his transformative role in the scientific response to COVID-19, and Professor Sherene Loi, medical oncologist from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for translating scientific findings into innovative treatments that can improve the survival of breast cancer patients in Australia and around the world.
Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, and Minister for Science and Technology, the Hon Melissa Price MP, delivered keynote addresses acknowledging the work of this year’s Prize recipients.
The 2021 recipients join an esteemed Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science alumni, who are a tribute to Australia’s world-class science community, and to the critical role that teachers play in inspiring the next generation of Australian scientists and innovators.
The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science recognise:
The University of Sydney’s Professor Edward C. Holmes was awarded the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, for his transformative role in the scientific response to COVID-19.
In early 2020, Professor Holmes was the first person in the world to publicly share the genome sequence of COVID-19. Sharing this data was critical in helping the global response to the pandemic. It fast-tracked research efforts around the world and enabled work on designing a vaccine to begin within days, saving countless lives.
He is now at the forefront of research on the origins and evolution of COVID-19.
The University of Sydney’s Professor Tony Weiss AM received the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, recognising his pioneering research and commercialisation of synthetic tropoelastin-based biomaterials, which can accelerate and improve the repair of human tissue.
The University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Michael Bowen received the 2021 Prize for New Innovators. He has been instrumental in driving scientific discoveries relating to serious brain disorders that lack effective treatments.
Professor Sherene Loi, medical oncologist and Head of the Translational Breast Cancer Laboratory at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, received the 2021 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. She was recognised for translating scientific findings into innovative treatments that can improve the survival of breast cancer patients in Australia and around the world.
Dr Keith Bannister, Principal Research Engineer in Space and Astronomy at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has been awarded the 2021 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. He was recognised for his pioneering research into fast radio bursts – short, sharp pulses of radio waves that last a few milliseconds and are extremely hard to detect, which is now solving several of the big astronomical mysteries of our generation.
Mudgeeraba Creek State School’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) specialist and primary teacher, Mrs Megan Hayes received the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools. Mrs Hayes is recognised for her outstanding work in championing the importance of STEM education for primary children, both in her community and at a national level.
Head of Agriculture at Barker College, Mr Scott Graham received the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. Mr Graham is changing the way agricultural science is taught at secondary schools, by developing unique programs to engage students and emphasise the positive difference agriculture makes to society.
Ms Rae Johnston, proud Wiradjuri woman and multi-award winning STEM journalist, emceed the online event.
The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science award up to $750,000 in total each year. Each recipient receives a medallion, lapel pin, prize money and an award certificate. The medallions were designed by internationally-renowned artist Wojciech Pietranik, and produced by the Royal Australian Mint.
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