[ASC-media] 2009 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science announced tonight

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Wed Oct 28 07:25:45 CET 2009

Dear ASCers,

Tonight the Prime Minister presents his prizes for science to five
Australians including an electrical engineer who went looking for
exploding black holes and ended up putting a little bit of radio
astronomy into the daily lives of almost a billion people.

They're all good talent and keen to talk about their work, about
science, and about the importance of science teaching. 

Here's a summary of the five prize recipients. 

John O'Sullivan: How astronomy freed the computer from its chains

Nearly a billion people use John O'Sullivan's invention every day. When
you use a WiFi network-at home, in the office or at the airport-you are
using patented technology born of the work of John and his CSIRO

They created a technology that made the wireless LAN fast and robust.
And their solution came from John's efforts to hear the faint radio
whispers of exploding black holes.

Today John is working on technology that will allow us to look back
almost to the beginning of time itself.

For his achievements in astronomy and wireless technologies John
O'Sullivan receives the 2009 Prime Minister's Prize for Science. 

Full story:

Video interview:


Amanda Barnard: Testing new technologies in the computer not the real

Every new technology brings opportunities and threats. Nanotechnology is
no exception. It has the potential to create new materials that will
dramatically improve drug delivery, medical diagnostics, clean and
efficient energy, computing and more. But nanoparticles-materials made
small, just a few millionths of a millimetre in size-could also have
significant health and environmental impacts.

Amanda Barnard hopes to predict which nanoparticles will work most
efficiently and which could be dangerous. Using supercomputers, she's
making the particles in the virtual world and testing how they interact
in various environments before they get made in the real world. Her
peers told her it couldn't be done. But this young scientist proved them
wrong and now leads the world in her field of nanomorphology-predicting
the shape, structure and stability of nanoparticles.

For her early career achievements in modelling nanoparticles Amanda
Barnard receives the 2009 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist
of the Year. 

Full story:

Video interview:


Michael Cowley: Breaking the link between fat and diabetes

Why do we get fat? What's the link between obesity, diabetes and
hypertension? Can we break the link? These are critical questions for
Australia's long-term health, and Michael Cowley may have the answers.

He's shown how our brains manage our consumption and storage of fat and
sugar and how that can go wrong. He's created a biotech company that's
trialling four obesity treatments.

Michael has shown unequivocally that losing weight isn't just a matter
of will power.

Now with his colleagues at Monash University he is discovering why
obesity increases risks of heart disease and diabetes. And he's
developing therapies to break the connection between these conditions.

For his contribution to our understanding of metabolism and obesity,
Michael Cowley receives the 2009 Science Minister's Prize for Life
Scientist of the Year. 

Full story:

Video interview:


Len Altman: Creating new careers in the rocks

Geoscience is at the heart of some of humanity's biggest challenges in
the 21st Century: access to water; alternative energy sources like
geothermal and hydro; and adapting to climate change. "So why," asks Len
Altman, "Are students in our schools more likely to learn about the
moons of Jupiter or the rings of Saturn than about the planet Earth and
its history?"

Len is changing that at Marden Senior School and at the schools in his
region and state. Along the way he is helping more young people discover
science, and helping mature students discover new careers in the
minerals industries.

For his achievements in teaching geoscience Len Altman receives the
Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Teaching in Secondary Schools. 

Full story:

Video interview:


Allan Whittome: Living science

Badgingarra Primary School is perched on a hill three hours north of
Perth, looking out across fields of canola and wheat. The approach to
the school is lined with sculptures of native animals and a model of the
Solar System made in limestone, set amongst native plants. In the
classroom the students are fine- tuning model racing cars they've
designed and manufactured online. All this is due to the work of Allan

In Allan's classes the students live with the science-experiencing it
and playing with it every day.

The school has embraced science and the investigative process. Students
engage in science by choice-designing their own investigations,
questioning 'why?' and formulating new or reaffirming answers to those

Students participate in competitions, awards programs and community
projects including the NATA Young Scientist of the Year awards, the
Earthwatch Teachlive Whale Sharks of Ningaloo project, Community
Hydrogen Fuel Vehicle Challenge and the F1in Schools program.

For his achievements in engaging young students in science Allan
Whittome receives the Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Teaching
in Primary Schools. 

Full story:

Video interview:



Media contacts for the PM's Prizes for Science

Niall Byrne, Science in Public, 0417 131 977,
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au <mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au> 

Leigh Exelby, shac studio, 0422 396 111,   leigh at shaccommunications.com
<mailto:leigh at shaccommunications.com>  


Niall Byrne
Science in Public


ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au

Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com/blog 


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