The finalists for the Premier’s Science Awards 2018 were announced on 16 July 2018, with winners announced at the awards ceremony on 15 August 2018.
Premier’s Science Awards – Finalists
Scientist of the Year
Professor Phil Bland
John Curtin Distinguished Professor of Planetary Science (Curtin University)
Professor Bland is a Professor of Planetary Science at Curtin University. His research is focused on the origin and evolution of the solar system through analysing meteorites to explore unanswered questions such as how our planet formed and how it acquired the ingredients for life. He established the Desert Fireball Network in Western Australia as an Australian Laureate Fellow and founded the multi-award winning Fireballs in the Sky outreach and citizen science program. In 2015 Professor Bland established a partnership between NASA and Australia in planetary, space and exploration science.
Professor Peter Newman AO
Professor of Sustainability (Curtin University)
Peter Newman is a Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University with decades of globally significant research and public advocacy on the science of cities and their sustainability. Professor Newman’s research focuses on transport practices and systems, and how urban redevelopment can be planned with sustainability in mind to enable residents to integrate with their bioregional and human environment. He has impacted public policy through government representation in Local, State and Federal government bodies, and was awarded Officer of the Order of Australia for his contribution to urban design and transport sustainability in 2014, particularly related to Perth’s rail system.
Professor Robert Newton
Associate Dean, School of Medical and Health Sciences (Edith Cowan University)
Professor Newton is internationally recognised for his professional and community contribution to exercise medicine, in particular its application to cancer management. His research focuses primarily on clinical trials of exercise medicine to reduce disease‑related illness and treatment side-effects of various cancers including prostate, breast, ovarian, lung, pancreas, brain and mesothelioma. Professor Newton co-authored the Western Australian and national guidelines for exercise and cancer, resulting in the Cancer Council WA’s development of the first-ever exercise medicine service for cancer patients. His scientific publication and community contribution has changed clinical advice and physical behaviour resulting in substantial improvements in people’s quality of life.
Professor Stephen Zubrick
Head, Brain and Behaviour, Telethon Kids Institute (University of Western Australia)
Professor Stephen Zubrick is a leading developmental scientist who has created and led some of Australia’s most important cross-sectional and longitudinal studies into the development of children and adolescents. His work has provided a critical evidence base, guiding policies and services for children across Australia, and placed Australian child and adolescent mental health into a global perspective. Professor Zubrick is regarded as Australia’s foremost social survey methodologist in the area of child and youth health and development. His work has transformed what is known about child and adolescent mental disorders in Australia and guided state and national policies, services and health promotion strategies.
Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year
Dr Wensu Chen
ARC DECRA Fellow, Senior Research Fellow, Deputy Director, Centre for Infrastructural Monitoring and Protection (Curtin University)
Dr Chen is an ARC DECRA Fellow and Senior Research Fellow in the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at Curtin University, with his research contributing to innovations in structural protection against both natural and man-made hazards. He is developing the next generation of lightweight composite structures to protect against accidental and terrorist blast and impact loads, and he advances techniques for structural strengthening/retrofitting and climate change adaptation techniques to better address the effects of strong wind. Dr Chen’s work is important in preventing the failure of infrastructure, and contributes to the development of increasingly safe, resilient, cost-effective and sustainable infrastructure in Australia.
Dr Adam Cross
Research Fellow (Curtin University)
Dr Cross is a Research Fellow at Curtin University, where his research focuses on restoring degraded mining areas into biodiverse ecosystems reflective of pre-mining landscapes, and turning hostile mine waste into healthy soils by introducing nutrient-fixing microbes, earthworms and organic matter to kick-start and accelerate soil formation. His cost-effective methods are beneficial to industry and assist companies to exceed regulatory requirements and restoration goals. Dr Cross has applied his restoration skills by volunteering with community restoration group Cambridge Coastcare for over a decade. Through his research he has discovered over 30 new species.
Dr Haibo Jiang
DECRA Research Fellow (The University of Western Australia)
Dr Jiang is dedicated to improving our understanding and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. He is developing advanced technology to ‘see’ what is happening in cardiovascular systems at a subcellular scale. Dr Jiang engages with industry to apply advanced bioimaging technology to the research and development in the pharmaceutical industry and the consumer goods sector. He is internationally recognised for his work in bioimaging, with a strong track record in initiating and maintain cross-discipline collaborations.
Dr Katarina Miljkovic
ARC DECRA Fellow (Curtin University)
Dr Miljkovic is an ARC DECRA Fellow at the School of Earth and Planetary Science at Curtin University. Initially an astrophysicist, her expertise now includes planetary geoscience, especially focused on impact processes. Dr Miljkovic analyses data from space missions and plays an active role in international planetary exploration teams such as the lunar gravity NASA mission GRAIL until recently, and currently the Martian geophysical NASA mission InSight, now on its way to Mars.
Dr Melissa O’Donnell
NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute (University of Western Australia)
Dr O’Donnell is an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia and is internationally recognised for her work in the area of child abuse and neglect. Her research is improving knowledge around factors that increase vulnerability to child maltreatment, resulting in changes to policy and practice and contributing to the international monitoring of child abuse and neglect. Knowledge gained from her research has shaped the Western Australian Department of Communities’ The Building Safe and Strong Families: Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy 2016, the Legislative Review of Western Australia’s Children and Community Services Act 2004 and Western Australia’s Youth Health Policy.
ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year
Miss Lucy Furfaro
PhD Student (The University of Western Australia)
Miss Furfaro is a PhD student in the field of microbiology, obstetrics and gynaecology. Her research focuses on describing aspects of a prominent neonatal bacterial pathogen, Group B Streptococcus (GBS), within Western Australian pregnant women. Her research also explores the potential for an alternative prophylactic non-antibiotic treatment against GBS, known as bacteriophages. If successful, this would allow targeted removal of GBS in pregnancy with little effect on other commensal bacteria. Miss Furfaro’s work has resulted in successful collaborations at local, national and international levels.
Mr Fernando Perez
PhD Candidate (The University of Western Australia)
Mr Perez is a PhD candidate and holds a Future LNG scholarship in the Fluid Science & Resources research group at The University of Western Australia. Within this group he works in close collaboration with other globally recognised research institutions such as Imperial College, Cambridge University and CSIRO. Mr Perez’s research focuses on improving and developing new technologies for energy transportation and processing. He designed, built and commissioned the world first “Boil-Off Gas” experimental apparatus which simulates the conditions occurring in an LNG storage vessel, and this research has generated significant interest from the global chemical engineering community.
Miss Claire Ross
PhD Candidate (The University of Western Australia)
PhD candidate Miss Ross is undertaking a PhD at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the University of Western Australia. She conducts research into coral geochemistry and has made significant progress in understanding coral growth mechanisms, with her research featuring in peer-reviewed publications. She has led over 25 field trips to various reef locations in Western Australia to conduct coral research for her PhD and in partnership with the 2015/2016 National Coral Bleaching Taskforce. Miss Ross is an active UniMentor at UWA, has trained and co-supervised 10 undergraduate and graduate students, and is committed to promoting science through outreach activities.
Mr Arman Siahvashi
PhD Candidate (The University of Western Australia)
Mr Siahvashi is in the final year of a PhD in natural gas process engineering. He has developed an innovative apparatus to visually measure the freezing temperatures of hydrocarbons at cryogenic temperatures. This data is crucial to solve the issue of shutdowns due to blockages caused by the freeze-out of impurities, which is a major problem facing the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.
Mr Siahvashi’s method of measuring data has been endorsed by NASA due to its relevance to NASA’s study on the weathering processes of Saturn’s moon Titan.
Mr Ryan Urquhart
PhD Student (Curtin University)
Mr Urquhart’s research into the Universe’s fastest feeding black holes has achieved important new insights into how they extract energy from in-falling matter and inject it into their surroundings. As well as discovering new black holes outside our own galaxy, his work has changed how astronomers view rapidly feeding black holes and helped to better understand how they recycle energy, a problem fundamentally linked to galaxy evolution. Mr Urquhart is actively involved with scientific outreach within Western Australia through regular engagement with primary and high school students, and mentoring undergraduate students.
Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year
(Coplin Corp Pty Ltd)
KodeKLIX is a STEM aligned digital technology teaching system developed by Australian engineering and education professionals. KodeKLIX enables the development of practical skills in electronics and coding through an easy-to-use platform distributed as kits with supporting teaching materials. KodeKLIX focuses on real-world engineering problems using BLOCKLY, a visual coding language by Google, and snap-together components to build electronic circuits. In 2017 Coplin Corp Pty Ltd received Western Australia Innovation Voucher funding to further develop its educational hardware system and better align it to the national curriculum in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. KodeKLIX has been deployed in a number of schools in Western Australia with professional development workshops for teachers in primary through to middle school.
Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park
(Kings Park - Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority)
Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park is a place for connecting kids with nature and the unique home of Kings Park Education. It is a 60,000m2 outdoor precinct set in native bushland in Kings Park, with a public zone for families and an education zone for schools. Receiving around 80,000 visitors a year, with more than 20,000 students per year from kindergarten through to tertiary students, education programs are delivered outdoors in its “living classrooms”. Kings Park Education and Rio Tinto Naturescape work in tandem as ambassadors in leading science engagement and delivering a practical solution to evidence that children are spending less time outdoors.
Stimulating the Public Interest in Astronomy and its History
(Perth Observatory Volunteer Group)
The Perth Observatory Volunteer Group is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation dedicated to creating the premier astronomical visitor experience in Australia at the Perth Observatory. They design events and activities to stimulate public interest in astronomy and its history, using modern technology and stories of discoveries to promote the value of science and technology in the community. Each year, more than 200 events attract over 6,000 visitors to learn more about our southern skies. Visitors are treated to an intimate, interactive experience of astronomy on a location where 120 years of history is tactile and accessible.
The Virtual Plant Cell
(The ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, The University of Western Australia)
A cutting-edge suite of educational virtual reality experiences created by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology. The Virtual Plant Cell lets audiences experience the microscopic inner world of a plant in an immersive way by leveraging emerging virtual reality and 360° video technology. Users can connect plant biotechnology to real-world agricultural challenges and to the need to adapt plants for changing climate and growing populations. The Virtual Plant Cell is helping to build STEM understanding, skills and capacity and support scientific literacy in the State.