News & Views item - November  2012



Prime Minister's 2012 Prizes for Science Awarded. (November 1, 2012)

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were presented by the Prime Minister and Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research at the Prize Dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House yesterday evening.




Professor Ken Freeman from the Australian National University received the $300,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. He discovered that what we see of galaxies—as stars, gas and dust—is only a small fraction of their mass. The rest is dark matter. Today he is exploring the archaeology of our own galaxy – the Milky Way, and mentoring the next generation of astronomers.


Australia's most recent Nobel Laureate, astrophysicist Brian Schnidt said: "While Australia’s achievements in astronomy abound, Ken’s scientific discoveries, his supervision of more than 50 PhD students and his scientific leadership make him stand out from the crowd. Over the past century, astronomy has transcended from essentially having no knowledge of the Universe around us, to its current state where, despite ongoing mysteries, we have a solid description of the universe from its birth, 13.7 Billion years ago, to the present day. Australia has been at the forefront of this research for the past 50 years, and Kenneth C. Freeman, more than any other single Australian astronomer, has helped advance our understanding of the cosmos, through his discovery of dark matter in galaxies, studies of the structure of galaxies, and development of the field of galactic archaeology."



Eric May from the University of Western Australia received the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year for his work towards making liquid natural gas a cleaner resource.


Dr Marc Duldig, President, Australian Institute of Physics noted: "Australia’s minerals and energy sectors are transforming our economy. We often forget that they don’t just ‘dig it up’ and ship it. Both sectors are highly technological and innovative. Physicists and engineers in particular play critical roles in finding and exploiting new resources and getting them to market. So I’m delighted to hear that a physicist has received one of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science for his work in improving the efficiency and sustainability of liquid natural gas. Eric May’s techniques for making accurate measurements of the thermodynamic properties of fluids are central to the engineering of extraction and production facilities, and to capturing carbon dioxide in the process. His work improves efficiencies by a few percentage points. In an industry worth tens of billions of dollars that’s a very important contribution."



Mark Shackleton from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre received the $50,000 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Mark’s work on breast cancer and melanoma is transforming our understanding of how cancers grow and resist treatment.


Prof Doug Hilton, Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research  commented "I have known Mark for about 10 years. He is a stunningly creative guy. He is that wonderful mix of a trained clinician—an oncologist—who has an absolute verve for research. He made some stellar discoveries on breast cancer at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute as a PhD student, and then again with melanomas as a post-doc in the US and in his current position at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. These are two of the most significant cancers for Australians. I couldn’t think of a better recipient.”


Michael van der Ploeg, assistant principal and specialist science teacher at Table Cape Primary School in Wynyard has opened the world of science to students on Tasmania’s northwest coast. He received the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools.



Anita Trenwith, science teacher at Salisbury High School, north of Adelaide, received the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. She has created a unique program that makes science accessible to special‐education students.