22 scientists who make outstanding contributions to science

From predicting volcanic eruptions to the role of the ocean in climate, the tiny neurotransmitters in our brains and the genetics of gender, 22 scientists have been recognized for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of science today.

The Honorific Awards are presented annually by the Australian Academy of Sciences to the country’s leading emerging talent and those who have made advancements in their field throughout their careers.

More information on the award winners, including descriptions of their research and interview videos, can be found here or by hyperlinking to each individual’s name.

Premier Honorific Awards

Professor Jennifer Graves AC FAA, La Trobe University

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Professor Jennifer Graves AC FAA. Credit: Australian Academy of Sciences

Professor Graves is an international leader in comparative vertebrate genomics, who has shown that Australian animals, as ‘independent evolutionary experiments’, are a particularly valuable resource for studying the evolution and mechanisms of sex chromosomes.

Studying kangaroos, dragons, devils and more, she has made fundamental discoveries about how the X chromosome is genetically silenced in female mammals and that the Y chromosome decays and could “destruct itself” in a few million years.

By using the biology of Australian marsupials, monotremes and reptiles to study conserved genetic structures and processes, Graves pioneered a comparative approach that has led to many fundamental discoveries in her field.

Professor Lidia Morawska FAA, Queensland University of Technology

Career Honor Awards

Scientia Professor Matthew England FAA, University of New South Wales

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Scientia Professor Matthew England FAA. Credit: Australian Academy of Sciences

Professor England is one of the world’s leading experts on the role of the ocean in climate, specifically what controls ocean currents and how these currents affect climate and climate variability on timescales ranging from seasonal to millennial.

In particular, his work has provided profound insights into the circulation of the Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans and their role in global and regional climates.

His research interests range from physical oceanography to climate dynamics, where he has authored works on global water mass formation, ocean-atmosphere-ice interactions, modes of climate variability, and ocean turnover processes.

Professor David Craik FAA FRS, University of Queensland

Professor Catherine Lovelock FAA, University of Queensland

Professor Terence Hughes FAA, James Cook University

Professor Susan Scott FAA, Australian National University

Professor Nick Wormald FAA, Monash University

Professor Richard Hartley FAA, Australian National University

Mid-Career Honorific Awards (8–15 years after PhD)

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7814_1_Women_in_STEAMM_Frankie. Photographed on Level 3 CPC Hub. lean together; Schumi Ruan; Jacqueline Thomas; Elly Williams; Renae Ryan; Darmica Mistry; Clara Chou. RENAE RYAN

Professor Renae Ryan, University of Sydney

Professor Ryan is internationally recognized for her research on neurotransmitter transporters. These are the nanoscale proteins that suck neurotransmitters — the chemical messengers responsible for cell communication in the brain — back into cells after they’ve sent their message.

In diseases such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and stroke, these transporters can break down, leading to confusion in cellular communication and eventual cell death.

Ryan’s research has revealed the mechanisms of this transport and how drugs interact with these proteins, allowing scientists to understand why they stop working in disease states and providing the basis for developing new drugs to treat brain diseases.

Professor Di Yu, University of Queensland

Honors for career entry (up to 10 years after graduation)

dr Teresa Ubide, University of Queensland

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dr Teresa Ubide. Credit: Australian Academy of Sciences

dr Ubide works to find out what triggers volcanic eruptions by studying the chemistry of tiny crystals in previously erupted volcanic rock. The ultimate goal of the research is to predict future eruptions, which is of paramount importance to the millions of people who live near or visit active volcanoes around the world.

Her research also examines the connection between volcanoes and critical metals that are essential for the development of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar power.

Ubide has been part of the Superstars of STEM program and has lectured nationally and internationally on her work on volcanoes.

dr Valentina Wheeler, University of Wollongong

dr Raffaella Demichelis, Curtin University

dr Emily Wong, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

Professor Si Ming Man, Australian National University

dr Amelia Liu, Monash University

Associate Professor Rona Chandrawati, University of New South Wales

Professor Tianyi Ma, RMIT University

Associate Professor David Frazier, Monash University

dr Rachel Wang, University of Sydney

Professor Yuerui Lu, Australian National University

Nominations for the 2024 Academy Awards are now open. The nomination deadline is May 1, 2023. Find out more.

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