The Premier’s Prizes recognise excellence in science and engineering, and reward leading researchers for cutting-edge work that has generated economic, environmental, health, social or technological benefits for New South Wales.
Tonight’s winners from the University of Sydney are Professor Albert Zomaya from the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Stephanie Watson from the Faculty of Medicine and Health, and Professor Nalini Joshi from the Faculty of Science.
Professor Nalini Joshi has focused her research on mathematical methods to study nonlinear systems that arise as universal models in modern physics. Her work has applications in a wide range of research, including the spontaneous magnetisation of metals and understanding the surface tension of water waves.
She said: “Mathematics is so deeply a part of science and engineering that its impact is not always visible to everyone. I am particularly pleased for my work to be recognised as representative of mathematics through this award.”
Professor Joshi’s new methodologies have uncovered hidden information across multiple fields, stimulating mathematicians across the globe to take up significant new research directions.
With a keen interest in diversity, Professor Joshi was foundation co-Chair of the Science in Australia Gender Equity national initiative. In 2016, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to mathematical science and tertiary education, to professional societies, and as a role model and mentor of young mathematicians. She was awarded the 2018 Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers. She is currently a Vice-President of the International Mathematical Union.
With more than 20 years’ experience in computer science, the University of Sydney’s Director of the Centre for Distributed and High-Performance Computing, Professor Albert Zomaya has been recognised for his research in advancing computing technology capability and developing sustainable computing practices.
“I am delighted and humbled to be announced as the recipient of this prestigious prize and to have not only my research recognised, but also my work in engaging the industry,” said Professor Zomaya.
Professor Zomaya’s research has focused on advancing the development of computing technologies that support a vast range of everyday systems and services that operate in the cloud, such as internet banking, social media and email.
“The problem of computing energy consumption is complex, depending on the platform one is using,” Professor Zomaya said.
Over many years, he and his team have worked on several methods to reduce computing energy consumption. For example, spreading the load across multiple servers (in a cloud environment) that run at a lower speed can be more energy efficient than shutting down servers.
Also, the team exploited the fact that modern day processors can run at different speeds with varying levels of power consumption. This resulted in the discovery of the combination of voltages that lead to optimal and near-optimal power consumption.
Professor Stephanie Watson is an innovator and clinician. Her discoveries have led to novel therapies for corneal diseases – globally, the most common cause of irreversible blindness. These innovations have not only provided solutions to restore sight and promote eye health, they now have changed clinical practice and improved patient outcomes.
She said: “The award is important as it recognises the value of the innovation and research that I have bought to the clinic – patients with corneal blindness have had their sight restored and accessed new and effective treatments. Working within NSW Health and at the University of Sydney, the award affirms the world-class environment being created to support innovation.
“My work aims to transform the lives of those affected by corneal blindness by leading with integrity, using innovation and research to restore sight, and training the next generation of eye experts.”
Professor Watson’s innovations have placed NSW and Australia on the global ophthalmology map, including an internationally recognised world-first stem cell therapy. These treatments use simple solutions to save sight and have a potential global market worth of over $20 billion.
Her research has also established NSW as the national frontrunner in clinical trials, leading to real-world evidence that has directly improved patient outcomes. She developed the first local surveillance report and guidelines for corneal infection – work which has changed practice in NSW Health.
In recognition of her outstanding achievements, Professor Watson has been made Fellow of the Academy of Asia-Pacific Professors of Ophthalmology, received the People’s Choice award and was Grand Final winner on ABC’s The New Inventors, and claimed first prize in the Medical Device Commercialisation Training Programme.
She is chair-elect to the ARVO Advocacy and Outreach Committee.