COMBATING neurological and psychiatric disorders and investigating fungal disease resistance in WA crops are just some of the research areas in contention for the 2015 Premier's Science Awards.
Premier and Science Minister Colin Barnett has announced 13 finalists for the awards who represent a broad cross-section of research and engagement activities across WA.
Applications for the awards were judged by a panel chaired by WA Chief Scientist Professor Peter Kinken who found the 2015 quality of entrants to be of a very high standard which is why four finalists were announced in the student category.
Winners and the 2015 inductee into the Science Hall of Fame will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday, August 20, during National Science Week.
Congratulations to all the finalists. They are:
Scientist of the Year
Professor Mark Cassidy
Director, Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems, UWA
Professor Mark Cassidy is a distinguished civil engineer whose research has underpinned the safe and economic construction of oil and gas platforms in our oceans. His advice has been incorporated into the design of platform and pipeline infrastructure currently being constructed off the coast of Western Australia. As an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, Professor Cassidy's research seeks solutions to unlock the vast reserves of stranded gas in our remote and deep oceans, where the geotechnical response of the seabed sediment is poorly understood.
Professor Shaun Collin
Winthrop Professor in the School of Animal Biology and Director of the Oceans Institute, UWA
Professor Collin, a former WA Research Fellow, is a world leader in how animals perceive and process their sensory world under different environmental conditions. He uses innovative techniques in anatomy, electrophysiology, bioimaging, molecular biology and behaviour to understand the evolution and mechanisms of neural processing for a range of senses including vision, hearing, olfaction and electroreception. Professor Collin's research is being incorporated into shark mitigation technologies, improving aquaculture industries, identifying the effects of anthropogenic disturbances such as underwater noise and dredging activities, with the ultimate aim of informing management strategies to conserve Western Australia's unique biodiversity.
Read more about Shaun on SNWA here.
Professor Richard Oliver
Chief Scientist, Centre for Crop and Disease Management, Curtin University
Professor Oliver has developed a range of molecular genetic tools to study plants and their pathogens, and he has improved the understanding of fungal disease resistance in wheat, barley and a range of other crops. Professor Oliver is now also studying the genetic and biochemical development of fungicide resistance, which will allow farmers to effectively and sustainably manage fungal diseases in their crops for decades.
Read more about Richard on SNWA here.
Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year
Dr Scott Draper
Senior Lecturer, School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering and the Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems, UWA
Dr Draper's research focuses on modelling the interaction of wind, current and waves with offshore structures. This ranges from estimating the stability of subsea structures to optimising the configuration of arrays of offshore wind and tidal turbines. He has first authored a new industry design guideline that may revolutionise the design of subsea oil and gas pipelines. Dr Draper's work has also provided the first accurate assessment of marine renewable energy resources in the United Kingdom.
Dr Hannah Moore
Senior Research Fellow, Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines & Infectious Diseases, Telethon Kids Institute
Dr Moore, an epidemiologist, is currently investigating how to prevent and reduce serious respiratory infections in children. Her primary focus is Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and she has successfully developed the first model for how the disease develops and spreads in the community. Dr Moore's impressive research career includes her being awarded various research grants, prizes and fellowships; most notably a Fellowship to attend the 64th Meeting of Nobel Laureates.
Dr Nicole Smith
School of Animal Biology and the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UWA
Dr Smith's multidisciplinary research is focused on understanding the status of the blood brain barrier following traumatic injury in the central nervous system and unravelling the interplay between DNA modifications and DNA topology in relation to underlying biological changes in cancer, fibrosis and neurodegeneration. Her contribution to research in WA has resulted in several high impact publications and grants awarded from the Neurotrauma Research Program, and the National Health and Medical Research Council. Her multidisciplinary research program engages leading researchers from Australia, France, UK, and USA, and has served as an excellent training ground for aspiring students.
ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year
Mr Christopher Brennan-Jones
PhD Candidate, Ear Sciences Centre, UWA
Mr Brennan-Jones' research on automated audiometry is focused on improving access to ear and hearing healthcare services in rural areas of Western Australia. The methods he has developed can also be applied to under-serviced areas throughout the world. His work has the potential to improve treatment for people living in rural areas and remote indigenous communities. He is passionate about science communication and community engagement, regularly providing expert articles and interviews to the media and community science presentations.
Read more about Chris on SNWA here.
Ms Kalina Makowiecki
PhD Candidate, Department of Experimental and Regenerative Neurosciences, UWA
Ms Makowiecki's research focuses on how electromagnetic stimulation can be used to enhance the brain's natural plasticity capabilities and repair abnormal or damaged brains. Her ultimate goal is to improve treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders featuring abnormal plasticity, including depression, schizophrenia, tinnitus, and stroke. Ms Makowiecki also passionately promotes science through volunteering activities in numerous science outreach programs.
Read more about Kalina on SNWA here.
Mr Thomas Russell
PhD Candidate, International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University
Mr Russell's research into black holes is shaping our understanding of one of the greatest mysteries of the Universe. Using state-of-the-art facilities, including space-based and ground-based telescopes from around the world, he is studying how black holes extract and recycle energy from in-falling matter; an extremely efficient source of power that shapes the formation of stars, the evolution of galaxies and the distribution of matter in the Universe.
Ms Melanie Walls
PhD Candidate, School of Women's and Infants' Health, UWA
Ms Walls' research focuses on an innovative fertility treatment called in vitro maturation (IVM), which can be a cheaper alternative to traditional IVF techniques and is more patient friendly. As part of her research, she has combined IVM treatment with the time-lapse incubation of embryos known as morphokinetics. Her commitment to IVM treatment now extends to the field of fertility preservation, particularly in cases following a cancer diagnosis in young patients.
Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year
Earth Science Western Australia
Earth Science Western Australia supports earth science education by developing teaching and learning resources, providing professional development for teachers, offering free classroom incursions, assisting with field experiences for students and supporting events. These services are freely available to schools across Western Australia for students and teachers from kindergarten to Year 12.
Fireballs in the Sky
Fireballs in the Sky encourages the community to engage with planetary science in Australia. Through an innovative smartphone app, via social media, or catching the team at a local event, West Australians share their skyward observations and get involved in real science. The active Fireballs community includes followers on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to more than 13,000 app users from Western Australia and more than 80 countries across the globe.
Read more about Fireballs in the Sky here.
Lotterywest BioDiscovery Centre
Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
The new Lotterywest BioDiscovery Centre at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research is successfully increasing community awareness about the importance of medical research. With the vision to develop and enhance health literacy in the Western Australian community, the custom-built laboratory, engaging multimedia displays and community areas provide hands-on interactive experiences. These experiences are led by real scientists who are currently carrying out cutting-edge research at the institute.