The winners include Professor Robert Park, who won the Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science. This is the fourth year running that a University of Sydney researcher has been awarded this prize, with Professor Branka Vucetic winning in 2019, Professor Thomas Maschmeyer winning in 2018, and Professor Salah Sukkarieh winning in 2017.
Announced on 24 November at the Eureka Prizes online awards ceremony, due to covid-19 restrictions, the prizes celebrated their 30th anniversary this year.
The annual awards, often referred to as Australia’s science Oscars, are run by the Australian Museum.
The Eureka Prizes are Australia’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence in research and innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.
With eleven Eureka Prize finalists this year, the University of Sydney had more finalists than any other organisation in Australia.
Our 2020 Eureka Prize winners are:
Sydney Institute of Agriculture, Plant Breeding Institute, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science
Winner: Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science
"The Eureka Prizes are an important initiative that does a tremendous job of promoting Australian science. I feel very lucky to have been recognised by the award for Leadership in Innovation and Science, but importantly I have to say that it is impossible to innovate and lead without a great team – and I have a terrific group of people here at the University of Sydney’s Plant Breeding Institute that have been a delight and privilege to work with," said Professor Robert Park.
For nearly two decades, Professor Robert Park has led world-class efforts to develop cereal varieties with inbuilt genetic disease resistance. He is a highly regarded plant pathologists who has successfully translated his biological discoveries to real-world application. His research has had a sustained global impact on the economic viability of cereal production and food security.
Sydney Medical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health
Winner: Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
"Having had the opportunity to mentor and guide careers over many years, I appreciate what a privilege it is to share young people’s passion for research. I have been lucky to work in an environment that encouraged the development of the next generation of researchers. Thank you to all the senior researchers who shared a passion for helping others to achieve in research – you are all part of this," said Professor Carol Armour.
Professor Carol Armour has devoted the last 20 years of her academic career to enhancing local and national research capacity. She has taken her passion for mentoring and career development of staff and created transformative programs and unique opportunities that have advanced the careers of the next generation of researchers.
School of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering
Winner: Eureka Prize for Excellence in Data Science
"Thank you for this brilliant news! It is my great honour to receive this distinction. I would like to thank the Austrailian Museum for organising this award, the University of Sydney for building an awesome research environment, our senior leaders Willy Zwaenepoel, Duncan Ivison, and Michael Spence who fully support my research, my colleagues and students who work with me so hard to conquer research challenges, my nominator and endorsers who supported my nomination, UTS who sponsor this prize, and my family who understand my very busy working schedule. These are the main reasons why I am here today," said Professor Dacheng Tao.
Deep learning has been shown to reduce human bias, however practical challenges – such as accidents caused by driverless cars – have lowered society’s trust in artificial intelligence. Professor Dacheng Tao has advanced deep learning theory and technologies, enabling the design of innovative algorithms for tasks that include object detection and image enhancement.
School of Physics, Faculty of Science, and Sydney Nano, and Associate Professor Stephen Madden, Australian National University
Winner: Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
"This is great recognition of more than a decade of research with a great team. We have taken a breakthrough discovery and translated it into advanced prototypes that have been tested in end-user laboratories in Australian and North America. These will soon become sovereign capability for defence," said Professor Ben Eggleton.
By harnessing the delicate interaction between light and sound, Professor Ben Eggleton and his team have produced a microchip that provides a unique advantage for defence platforms. With prototypes already developed in Australia and internationally, this compact technology heralds a new era in microwave signal processing and represents real gains in performance, efficiency and cost.
School of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, and Sydney Nano
Winner: Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science
"I'm beyond thrilled to be awarded a Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science. Sharing the research from our institution and from colleagues around the world is a privilege and something that couldn't be more important if we are to tackle our biggest societal challenges together," said Associate Professor Alice Motion.
Associate Professor Alice Motion is a chemistry researcher, educator and public communicator of science who is committed to engaging new and underrepresented audiences. An important voice for the popularisation of science, she has reached millions of Australians through a range of methods that include original podcasts, musical festivals, television appearances and social media.