News: News, NSW, SA, Tas, WA

Microscopy Australia users take out country’s top science prizes

Researchers who rely on Microscopy Australia’s facilities and linked labs have been recognised with awards around the country, winning three out of seven of the Prime Minister’s prizes for science along with many state government awards. Awards won by our users include:

Prime Ministers Prizes for Science

2020 Prize for New Innovators – Associate Professor Justin Chalker

A/Prof. Chalker has developed a new class of polymers that are now being commercialised. They have proven effective in a range of real-world applications, including:

  • removing mercury contamination from soil
  • retrieving oil after a large-scale spill
  • enabling a non-toxic method for leaching gold
  • facilitating a slow-release fertiliser to reduce nutrient run-off

To undertake this he research relies on Microscopy Australia’s facilities at Flinders University.

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2020 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation – Professor Thomas Maschmeyer

Prof. Maschmeyer is recognised for the development and commercialisation of his zinc-bromide gel batteries which promise to make renewable energy storage cheaper, safer and more deployable. Prof. Maschmeyer relied on Microscopy Australia’s University of Sydney facility to develop the zinc-bromide battery technology.

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2020 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year – Associate Professor Xiaojing Hao

A/Prof. Hao is a world leader in thin-film photovoltaics (PV). Her research at into solar cells made from sulphide kesterite, an abundant and non-toxic thin-film material, is changing the way people think about producing renewable solar energy. Prof. Hao relies on Microscopy Australia’s UNSW facility to conduct her world leading research.

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NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering

Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry or Physics – Distinguished Professor Sue O’Reilly

Prof. O’Reilly’s research is enabling the discovery of critical metals hidden deep underground. By analysing zircons found on the surface she has produced a tool for identifying deep mineral deposits which used by mining giants including BHP-Billiton, Anglo American, Codelco, Vale and Rio Tinto to significantly speed up exploration and detection. Over the course of her career Prof. O’Reilly has used Microscopy Australia’s University of Sydney and UNSW Sydney microscopy facilities.

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Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences (Cell and molecular, medical, veterinary and genetics) Joint Award – Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen

Prof. van Oijen is not just a user, but the director of Microscopy Australia’s University of Wollongong liked laboratory the Molecular Horizons Cryo-EM facility. He is recognised as a pioneer in the visualisation of biological processes at the single molecule level. In particular his research has transformed our understanding of how bacteria copy and repair their DNA and how these processes play a role in the development of drug resistance.

Excellence in Engineering or Information and Communications Technology – Distinguished Professor Zaiping Guo

Prof. Guo is a materials scientist with a focus on identifying the practical, physical and chemical properties of nanomaterials that can be used to improve the performance of energy storage devices, and batteries in particular. Prof. Guo relies on the facilities of Microscopy Australia’s linked laboratory the University of Wollongong Electron Microscopy Centre, along with our UNSW Sydney facility to conduct her research.

NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year (Physical Sciences) – Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina

Dr Rnjak-Kovacina is an emerging leader in the field of biomedical engineering and has been recognised for her research in developing new therapeutic solutions for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. She has used Microscopy Australia’s University of Sydney and UNSW Sydney facilities extensively since 2011.

Western Australian Premier’s Science Awards

Scientist of the Year – Professor Ryan Lister

Prof. Lister is a pioneer in the field of epigenomics, the study of the molecular code that controls gene activity. He generated the world’s first complete maps of the human epigenome, and his groundbreaking research in plant and animal systems has revolutionized our understanding of genome regulation, stem cell biology, and brain development. He has used Microscopy Australia’s University of Western Australia facility in his research.

ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year – Ms Morgan Cox

Ms Cox’s research seeks to uncover the evolution of the Earth and planetary bodies through identifying evidence of asteroid impacts in the geological record. Ms Cox has published multiple high impact papers, such as the discovery of the ultra-rare mineral ‘reidite’ near Shark Bay and confirming ‘Yallalie’ as the newest impact structure discovered in Western Australia. She relies on Microscopy Australia’s linked laboratory at Curtin University, the John de Laeter Centre, to conduct her research.

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South Australian Science Excellence and Innovation Awards

South Australian Scientists of the Year
  • Professor Sharad Kumar – Prof. Kumar relies on Microscopy Australia’s University of Adelaide facility in his pioneering research into “programmed cell death” and “cellular maintenance”, critical determinants of health and disease.
  • Professor Colin Raston – Prof. Raston’s research focus is on devising environmentally friendly alternatives to toxic chemicals processing. He invented the vortex fluidic device, which earned international recognition. He has also commercialised his research, establishing successful spin-out companies 2D Fluidics and Hazer Group. Prof. Raston relies on both Microscopy Australia’s Flinders and Adelaide University facilities.

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winner of Innovator of the Year – Micro-X Carbon Nano Tube Project Team

Micro-X developed, commercialised and manufactures the novel light-weight, mobile X-ray unit ‘Nano’, which is based on ground-breaking carbon nanotube (CNT) technology. They are solving global health, defence and security challenges by making X-ray machines significantly lighter and more portable. They relied on Microscopy Australia’s Flinders University to develop the carbon nanotube technology.

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winner of PhD Research Excellence – Dr Erinn Fagan-Jeffries

Dr Fagan-Jeffries research focuses on describing new species of parasitoid wasps to better document and understand our biodiversity. She used Microscopy Australia’s University of Adelaide Facility as part of this research.

Tasmanian STEM Excellence Awards

Tasmanian STEM Researcher of the Year – Professor Michael Breadmore

Prof. Breadmore is recognised for his outstanding and sustained research in analytical chemistry. He is a user of Microscopy Australia’s liked laboratory, the University of Tasmania’s Central Science Laboratory Microscopy & Microanalysis Facility.


December 17, 2020