The University celebrates Eureka Prize winners

September 15 / 166

Eureka Awards 2015 (L-R) Professor Snow Barlow, finalist for the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science, Dr Phillip Urquijo, awarded the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science and Dr Marilyn Renfree, awarded the University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
Eureka Awards 2015 (L-R) Professor Snow Barlow, finalist for the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science, Dr Phillip Urquijo, awarded the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science and Dr Marilyn Renfree, awarded the University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers

 

University of Melbourne staff have been recognised with the 2015 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes – also known as the ‘Oscars of Australian Science’.

 

The Eureka prizes are awarded to researchers, leaders and communicators breaking new ground in their fields, and are intended to inspire those around them to follow suit.

The University of Melbourne 2015 Eureka Prize winners include:


•     Dr Phillip Urquijo, awarded the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
•     Dr Marilyn Renfree, awarded the University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for      Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
•     Dr Marc Pellegrini and Dr Greg Ebert, honorary University researchers based at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, and their teams, who were awarded the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research 
•     Professor Snow Barlow, finalist for the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science for his policy and research leadership in the field of climate change.

 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jim McCluskey said that the prizes were a wonderful recognition of the researchers’ work.

“The Eureka Prizes reward excellence across many fields of research and academia, and this year the University has been exceptionally well represented in the winners’ list.  My sincere congratulations to the recipients - it is wonderful that their work has been nationally celebrated in this way,” Professor McCluskey said.

Dr Phillip Urquijo has been awarded the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science in recognition of his leadership of the Belle II project, which includes 99 organisations from 23 different countries.

The Belle II project is a collaboration of 650 physicists looking for answers to questions our standard model of particle physics cannot answer, including why fundamental particles have mass. Why is there more matter than antimatter in the Universe? And, what fundamental particles can we find beyond the standard model?

“It’s an honour to receive this prestigious award,” Dr Urquijo said. “It reflects the interest in Belle II and calibre of its research program – a huge global effort of 650 collaborators, including my group in Melbourne, which plays key roles supported by the ARC.”

Dr Urquijo is helping build Australian’s position in the field of particle physics, with the aim of making a hub for particle physics in the Asian region.

Professor Marilyn Renfree has been awarded the University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers, recognising three decades of inspirational mentoring of young researchers, particularly women.

Professor Renfree’s team studies marsupials such as wallabies to better understand human reproduction and development.

Professor Renfree has been recognised as a champion of women in science, with many of her previous female mentees now working in senior science roles.

In her own words she is “an umbrella to protect them from the day to day trivia that gets in the way of the exciting thing that is discovery of science.”

For research into the treatment of hepatitis B, honorary Melbourne researchers Dr Pellegrini and Dr Ebert and their teams at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research have been awarded the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research.

Previous hepatitis B treatments have encouraged immune cells to attack infected cells, but an over active immune system carries its own health risks. Instead, by targeting a particular protein, whose job it is to inhibit programmed cell death, the new treatment selectively targets liver cells that are infected with hepatitis B, bypassing healthy cells.

If this broad approach is successful, it may pave the way for the development of similar treatments to tackle other major chronic infections such as HIV and tuberculosis, which kill millions of people around the world each year.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence in Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Communication and Journalism, and School Science.

Story by Nerissa Hannink

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