The Young Tall Poppy trifecta

17 August 2018
University of Sydney has scooped the Australian Institute of Policy & Science's Young Tall Poppy Awards, with public health researcher Dr Melody Ding named as the 2018 overall winner.

2018 winner Dr Melody Ding

Public Health researcher Dr Melody Ding has been named the 2018 Young Tall Poppy of the Year in NSW for her outstanding research in chronic disease prevention, physical activity and environmental health.

Dr Ding, from the Sydney School of Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre, this week took out the top Young Tall Poppy Science Award at the prestigious Australian Institute of Policy & Science gala event at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

Science researchers Dr Laura Parker from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Dr Samantha Solon-Biet from the Charles Perkins Centre were also honoured with a Young Tall Poppy Award, which recognises the achievements of outstanding young researchers in the sciences.

This is the second year running that the University of Sydney has sported a number of winners including the overall winner, with Dr Angela Crean named the NSW Tall Poppy of the Year in 2017.

A passion for health

Dr Melody Ding is one of the brightest public health scientists in Australia. Her research encompasses lifestyle epidemiology and behavioural change as well as globally important issues around environmental health, climate change and sustainability.

Her research aims to identify and understand lifestyle risk factors and their impact on physical and mental health and longevity, including obesity, physical activitysleep, social participation, retirement, and a vegetarian diet.

Melody has a remarkable track record in leading a number of ground-breaking public health scientific papers in the last five years, including leading the Physical Activity series in the Lancet journal where she published the first-ever global estimate for the economic burden of physical inactivity. The series has been considered a milestone for the field of physical activity and public health and Melody has received international acclaim and recognition for her scientific quality and leadership.

Since 2013, Melody has been awarded $2.5 million in research funding from the NHMRC, Heart Foundation, and other organisations.  Her many papers are also in the highest impact journals in her disciplines, such as JAMA Internal Medicine, and have led to important policy-influencing prevention work in Australia, and globally, such as 2018 US Physical Activity Guidelines.

Dr Ding said she felt truly humbled by the award. “I am feeling very grateful to all the amazing people who have helped, encouraged, supported and mentored me along the way. This award is for all of them.

“The field of public health plays such an important role in optimising the health and wellbeing of people and our societies. We know that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and that the public health community shares a big responsibility.

“As a public health researcher, my aspiration is to identify disease-causing risk factors, develop solutions for prevention, educate the public, and guide evidence-based policymaking.

“I am passionate about creating a healthy, equitable and environmentally sustainable environment for all and am currently expanding my research into understanding the role of urban design on health and wellbeing.

“I hope that my award this year will encourage more people to pay attention to public health issues, to support public health initiatives, and to consider contributing to the field of public health in some way.”

Outstanding science research awarded

Marine Scientist Dr Laura Parker, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, has focused her career on climate change impacts and has been at the forefront of the field from her very earliest studies. 

Her work has underpinned efforts to develop strategies to build climate resilience within the oyster industry - NSW’s largest and most valuable fishery - and we now lead the world in this area. 

Nutrition and healthy ageing researcher Dr Samantha Solon-Biet, from the Charles Perkins Centre and the School of Life and Environmental Science, is an emerging research leader who is changing the way we think about ageing.

Her innovative research has provided compelling evidence for the importance of dietary balance in late-life health and longevity. She constantly asks big, challenging questions, exemplified by her landmark research showing that diets low in protein and high in carbohydrate can improve late-life immune function, delay disease and increase lifespan in mice.

Dr Caragh Threlfall, an affiliate of the University of Sydney, received a Tall Poppy award for her work on urban ecology. Dr Threlfall is a postdoctoral research fellow in the National Environmental Science Program’s  Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub managed by the University of Melbourne; she works from her base in the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences’ Integrative Ecology group.

About the award

The Tall Poppy Campaign was established in 1998 by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) to promote public awareness of Australia’s intellectual achievements. An important component of the Campaign is the Young Tall Poppy Science Awards which recognise the achievements of outstanding young researchers in the sciences including technology, engineering, mathematics and medical research.

These prestigious awards uniquely acknowledge the recipients’ research achievements alongside their capacity and commitment to communicate science and its significance to the broader community.

Read more about the AIPS and the Tall Poppy Campaign.

Find out about our vision for gender equity and SAGE work – promoting Science in Australia Gender Equity.

Kobi Print

Media and PR Adviser (Medicine & Health)

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