Eureka Prizes: Sydney leads the way in leadership and innovation

28 August 2019
Our researchers have won three Eureka Prizes, including two prizes for scientific leadership and a third for innovative use of technology.
Professor Branka Vucetic.

Professor Branka Vucetic.

For the third year running, a University of Sydney researcher has won the coveted Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science.

Professor Branka Vucetic from the Faculty of Engineering has been recognised for her contributions to the fields of coding and wireless communications with much of her work underpinning the wireless technologies we use today.

Underpins WiFi, self-driving cars

Her development of algorithms for cellular WiFi and satellite communication provide fast connectivity for millions of people. Professor Vucetic is leading work that will enable large-scale industrial automation, self-driving cars and robotic surgery.

“Within the area of the internet-of-things, my focus has been on providing wireless connectivity for mission-critical applications, such as automated power grids, information exchange between vehicles and smart satellites.”

“Being chosen as a recipient of a Eureka Prize emphasises the importance of this area and is a wonderful honour.”

Last year the Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science was won by Professor Thomas Maschmeyer from the School of Chemistry. In 2017 the prize was won by Professor Salah Sukkareih from the Faculty of Engineering.

Professor Vucetic explains her research

What are the Eureka Prizes?

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are among Australia’s highest honours for science, engineering and medical research. Seventeen prizes were awarded at a gala dinner at the Sydney Town Hall tonight, with the University of Sydney taking out the highest number of awards.

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, said: “We are very proud of all our winners and finalists at this year’s Eureka Prizes. For three outstanding women academics to be recognised shows the strength and depth of engineering, medical and science research at the University.”

Chronic disease research 

Associate Professor Melody Ding.

Associate Professor Melody Ding.

Associate Professor Melody Ding from the Charles Perkins Centre and the School of Public Health won the Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science.

Working at the intersection of physical activity, epidemiology and chronic disease prevention, Associate Professor Melody Ding has devoted her career to generating policy-relevant research outcomes.

Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, are responsible for 75 percent of deaths globally. As most chronic diseases are preventable, Associate Professor Ding and her team’s work identifying risk factors, such as physical inactivity, is key to tackling public health challenges.

“With this recognition, I am more motivated than ever to make a difference in environmental and population health through my research, teaching, mentoring and community engagement,” Associate Professor Ding said.

Her award follows on from winning the NSW Tall Poppy of the Year award in 2018.

Associate Professor Melody Ding.

Recognised for biotechnology

Professor Hala Zreiqat was 2018 NSW Woman of the Year.

Professor Hala Zreiqat was 2018 NSW Woman of the Year.

The Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology has been won by Professor Hala Zreiqat from the University of Sydney Nano Institute and Faculty of Engineering.

Professor Zreiqat and her team have developed the world’s first synthetic biomaterials capable of healing large bone defects, even in load-bearing positions such as the spine or lower limbs.

Using mathematical modelling techniques and customised 3D-printing technology, they have also developed the capabilities to print these strong biomaterials in any size or shape. The bioceramic material not only heals the bone, it also disappears when its job is complete.

“Winning this prestigious prize is a great honour. It’s fantastic to see the field of biomedical engineering recognised, particularly as our industry continues to make enormous advancements,” said Professor Zreiqat, who last year was NSW Woman of the Year.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Duncan Ivison, said: “We are delighted with the Eureka Prizes recognising our researchers, whose dedication embody the University of Sydney’s goal of nurturing high-impact and innovative work.

“These prizes shine a light on the amazing things achieved by Australian researchers through their leadership and dedication to excellence.”

Other University of Sydney finalists were Professor Michael Biercuk for Promoting Understanding in Science; and Professor Warwick Britton and Associate Professor Greg Fox as part of the ACT Now for Tuberculosis Control team, which was a finalist for the Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research.

Professor Zreiqat is a biotech pioneer

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