Recipients of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science announced!

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3 November 2021

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:

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

2021 Science Prizes

The Prime Minister’s Prize for Science

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.

Read more about Professor Edward C. Holmes.

The Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation

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.

Read more about Professor Tony Weiss AM.

Prize for New Innovators

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.

Read more about Associate Professor Michael Bowen.

Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year

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.

Read more about Professor Sherene Loi.

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

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.

Read more about Dr Keith Bannister.

2021 Science Teaching Prizes

Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

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.

Read more about Mrs Megan Hayes.

2021 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools

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.

Read more about Mr Scott Graham.

Watch the event highlights

[Music plays and images move through various views of the medallions for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science]

[Image appears of Rae Johnston talking to the camera and text appears: Ms Rae Johnston, STEM Journalist, Master of Ceremonies]

Rae Johnston: For the second year running, the Prizes have moved from Parliament House to an online celebration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the setting is different, the audience is greater,

[Image changes to show a single medallion rotating to a facing position and the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and words ‘Australian Government’ can be seen in the top left corner and text appears: 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science]

[Image changes to show Prime Minister Scott Morrison standing between two Australian flags and talking to the camera and text appears: The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia]

Prime Minister Scott Morrison: Tonight we celebrate our science community and how you are advancing Australia.

[Images move through close shot of Professor Edward C Holmes, close shot of data on his computer, Close Shot of Professor Anthony Weiss on his mobile phone, Mrs Megan Hayes with Students in a garden, and back to Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressing Camera]

So, to the scientists, the innovators, the educators, the research organisations being honoured today, congratulations on your contribution. Thank you for what you’re doing for our country.

[Images move through lab setting Associate Professor Michael Bowen walking into Shot, then changes to camera moving towards Mr Scott Graham teaching in a classroom, image changes to show the Hon Melissa Price MP talking to the camera and text appears: The Hon Melissa Price MP, Minister for Science and Technology]

The Hon Melissa Price MP: thank you to all tonight’s recipients for reminding us of the important role science plays in just about every aspect of our lives.

[Images move through young students in classroom at desk, Megan Hayes teaching, then to Professor Sherene Loi at a computer, images changes to a wide reverse shot of Dr Keith Bannister at a computer, then to close up of blue liquid in a bottle vibrating on a machine, Image changes to show Dr Cathy Foley talking to the camera and text appears: Dr Cath Foley AO, Australia’s Chief Scientist]

Dr Cathy Foley: The recipients are united by a common thread. They are doing great science and have gone a step further to look for new ways to build on their discoveries, or ask how their work can be applied for the benefit of the wider community.

[Images move through Sherene Loi pointing at computer with patient, close shot of Scott Graham teaching in a classroom then Image changes to show Rae talking to the camera]

Rae Johnston: Tonight, we will be awarding seven Prizes

[Images move through Galaxy showing interpretation of fast radio burst, close side shot of Keith Bannister, then to Anthony Weiss walking past a glass window, then to Michael Bowen swirling a beaker of blue liquid, then to a close shot of Edward C Holmes walking along a covered walkway, to a slow motion shot of Sherene Loi walking in a lab corridor, a graphics representation of DNA strands]

to those who have made a significant contribution to Australia’s world-class science community, and who have inspired the next generation of Australian scientists and innovators.

[Images move through various views of the medallions for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, then to Rae Johnston talking to camera, to a close up of a sample on a microscope slide, then a close shot of Michael Bowen with the beaker of blue liquid, then a reverse shot of Anthony Weiss sitting and talking with another person, then referencing graphics on a computer screen, then to Sherene Loi watching a person work in a lab, then to Megan Hayes talking to two students in a garden,  then to Scott Graham explaining a solar object on a stand to students in a garden]

The Ministers Prizes for Science are the most prestigious awards for outstanding achievements in scientific research, research-based innovation and excellence in science teaching.

[Images move through Edward C Holmes opening his computer, then to a graphical representation of a COVID molecule, then to Edward Holmes walking down a street, then to telescopes monitoring the night sky, then to Keith Bannister walking into the CSIRO, then to Michael Bowne looking through a microscope, then to Anthony Weiss walking up staircase, then to a close side shot of Edward Holmes, then to a galaxy in the night sky, then to a close shot of the night sky, then to a close shot og Scott Graham, then to Megan Hayes teaching in classroom, then to an aerial shot of a group of students on a hilltop]

It has been a pleasure to witness, with you, these remarkable stories of achievement and I’m sure they will all continue to be at the forefront as we map a path for the future and inspire the next generation

[Image changes to show a single medallion rotating to a facing position and the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and words ‘Australian Government’ can be seen in the top left corner and text appears: 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. Text changes to Watch the full event at industry.gov.au/PMPRIZES or YouTube@Industrygovau]

 

Find out more about this year’s recipients and watch the full event.

More event highlights

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.

Read more

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