[ASC-media] Prime Minister's Prizes for Science

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Tue Oct 17 02:29:01 CEST 2006

Dear ASC Media - here's the Prime Minister's media release for his
Prizes for Science. 

Further details at www.scienceinpublic.com 


I have great pleasure in congratulating Mandyam Veerambudi Srinivasan on
receiving the 2006 Prime Minster's Prize for Science.  It was my honour
to present him with a gold medal and a cheque for $300,000 at a ceremony
at Parliament House in Canberra this evening. 

Professor Srinivasan - known to all as Srini - has revealed the working
of the insect mind, and in the process has helped redefine robotics.
What started 23 years ago as basic research with no apparent
application, is now followed closely by robotics experts around the
world. Professor Srinivasan's research team at the Australian National
University routinely receives NASA and US military grants.

Designs for robots are often expensive and complex. But a bee can take
off, find targets, fly through tunnels, navigate home, and land without
any of that complexity. It uses a minute brain of about a million nerve
cells, which is the size of a sesame seed and weighs just a tenth of a

Now Professor Srinivasan is looking at bee emotions, work that is also
likely to find application in the design of the machines of tomorrow. 

I am also delighted to honour the other four recipients of science and
science teaching awards. They include two of Australia's most promising
young researchers and two exceptional science teachers. 

Melbourne biochemist Dr James Whisstock has been awarded the $50,000
Science Minister's Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. This
35-year-old scientist from Monash University is exploring how proteins -
the building blocks of life - are managed in our cells. His particular
interest is in serpins, which appear to control the demolition teams
that clean up used proteins. When the process goes wrong then
devastating diseases such as liver cirrhosis, thrombosis, dementia and
Alzheimer's disease can result.

Sydney astronomer Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths is searching our galaxy
with the help of "The Dish", CSIRO's 64-metre Parkes radio telescope.
Her studies of the Milky Way over the past ten years have already led to
the discovery of a new spiral arm, and changed many long-held ideas
about the evolution of our galaxy. She received the $50,000 Malcolm
McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. 

The $50,000 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in
Primary Schools was awarded to Ms Marjorie Colvill from Perth Primary
School in Tasmania. Thirty years of science teaching has given her a
clear idea of the perfect science class: one in which students set up
their own investigations and make their own discoveries. Ms Colvill has
also shown that good primary science teaching enhances literacy. 

Sydney teacher Ms Anna Davis was awarded the $50,000 Prime Minister's
Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. Since her
arrival at Casimir Catholic School in Marrickville in 1998, results
across Year 12 science courses have improved by 17 per cent and students
now achieve above the state average.

I congratulate all the recipients of this year's Prizes. It is worth
noting that all three scientists were born overseas, demonstrating we
are attracting leading scientists to Australia.

The awards demonstrate the commitment and achievement of our talented
scientists and recognise the important work that many of our dedicated
teachers are doing in inspiring the next generation of Australian
scientists and innovators.  

 October 2006

Niall Byrne
Science in Public
Ph +61 3 5253 1391
niall at scienceinpublic.com
OR niallprivate at scienceinpublic.com
PO Box 199, Drysdale Vic Australia

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