Announcing the 2023 Eureka Prize finalists

19 July 2023
10 University of Sydney researchers are finalists in prestigious science awards
Researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Science, and Faculty of Medicine and Health have been recognised for their contributions in research, innovation, leadership and engagement.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are awarded annually, honouring outstanding research, innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.

This year, 10 researchers from the University of Sydney have been named as finalists for prizes recognising outstanding contributions to their fields.

Coming from the Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine and Health, the University of Sydney finalists have displayed excellence as researchers, leaders and mentors.

The 2023 Eureka Prizes will be awarded on Wednesday 23 August at an awards dinner held at the Australian Museum, and broadcast live from the event.

Faculty of Engineering

UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research: Professor Antonio Tricoli and Professor David Nisbet

Together, Professor Antonio Tricoli (School of Biomedical Engineering and Sydney Nano, University of Sydney) and Professor David Nisbet (Graeme Clark Institute for Biomedical Engineering, University of Melbourne), are making breakthroughs in understanding how bacteria and viruses contaminate surfaces.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and new virus strains are on the rise, and current disinfection and biosecurity strategies are becoming less effective at combating them. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the urgent need to develop new ways of preventing the spread of pathogens.

Professor Tricoli and Professor Nisbet have used their findings to engineer disinfectant-free approaches, including a sprayable coating that shields objects from pathogens over months. They are now working on the rollout of these technologies to mitigate the spread of future superbugs.

Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science: Dr Tongliang Liu

Dr Tongliang Liu is the Director of the Sydney Artificial Intelligence Centre in the School of Computer Science. By designing complex learning algorithms that help machines respond to problems, Dr Liu aims to create advanced technology that improves our quality of life.

Today, AI is playing a large role in our lives. However, this technology needs to be made more trustworthy to maximise its potential.

Dr Liu’s research involves understanding, justifying and improving AI models. By advancing the decision-making, reliability, and trustworthiness of AI technologies, he builds user confidence and promotes the responsible and ethical use of AI.

Department of Industry, Science and Resources Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion: Engineering Aid Australia, Associate Professor Petr Matous, Christina Bacchiella

Engineering Aid Australia (EAA) is a registered charity supporting First Nations youth to pursue education and career opportunities in engineering and technology. As part of their work, EAA runs the Indigenous Australian’s Engineering School (IAES) – a week-long program filled with hands-on activities and practical experience that gives students an insight into the profession.

Since 1995, IAES has been encouraging First Nations students with an aptitude for science and maths to finish year 12 and pursue a career in the field.

IAES is hosted by the Faculties of Engineering at the University of Sydney (led by Associate Professor Petr Matous, member of the Sydney Environment Institute and Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, and Christina Bacchiella) and Curtin University.

University of Sydney Eureka Prize for Innovative Research in Sustainability: Professor Ali Abbas

Professor Ali Abbas is a researcher at the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, member of Sydney Nano, Founding Director of the Waste Transformation Research Hub, and Circular Australia’s first Chief Circular Engineer. His research transforms waste into valuable resources and drives a circular economy in Australia.

Professor Abbas addresses global challenges like energy and waste, creating transformative solutions with broad industry impact. His leadership fosters vital partnerships with governments and businesses, advancing environmentally-focused sustainability projects.

He leads innovations including concrete carbon capture, conversion of plastics using microorganisms, and industrial ecology to minimise waste and maximise resource reuse. Together, these technologies promise to dramatically reduce thousands of tons of CO2 emissions towards net zero targets.

Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher: Dr Fengwang Li

Dr Fengwang Li is a Lecturer at the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and member of Sydney Nano and the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. He researches how we can build a net-zero emission future using electrochemical energy.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change. To address this, Dr Li’s research provides an innovative solution to rethink CO2 emissions. His lab is developing technology that transforms CO2 into products such as ethylene, which can be used to make everyday items.

Dr Li’s work aims to create a circular economy where CO2 is recycled instead of being released into the atmosphere.

Faculty of Science

Australian Research Data Commons Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research Software: GPlates

The GPlates team are a group of University of Sydney researchers from the School of Geosciences in the Faculty of Science – Professor Dietmar Muller, Associate Professor Maria Seton, Dr Sabin Zahirovic, John Cannon and Michael Chin.

Together, these researchers have created GPlates, a unique software that reconstructs geological data. Their work allows researchers to see high-quality computer simulations of the Earth and its geological structures through space and time.

GPlates currently has thousands of users in industry, education and research.

Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science and Innovation: Professor Michael Kassiou

Professor Michael Kassiou is a medicinal chemist, leader, mentor, researcher, start-up founder, member of Sydney Nano and the Brain and Mind Centre, and professor at the School of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science.

Professor Kassiou dedicates his research to developing drugs that treat challenging health conditions, like disorders of the brain and cardiovascular disease. He combines his expertise in medicinal chemistry, disease biology and advanced imaging to address these complex conditions.

His mission is to commercialise his discoveries, bringing them into the real world and improving health outcomes for those suffering from these disorders.

University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers: Professor Kate Jolliffe

With three decades of experience in her field, Professor Kate Jolliffe, from the School of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science and member of Sydney Nano, has dedicated her career not only to producing world-leading research in supramolecular and organic chemistry, but mentoring the next generation of scientists.

When Professor Jolliffe took up her first independent research position at the University of Sydney in 2002, she was the ‘only woman in the room’. This inspired her to mentor other aspiring young female chemists with the goal of closing the Chemistry ‘gender gap’.

Jolliffe has mentored over 150 students, many of whom are now in senior academic and industry roles. She is also co-founder of the International Women in Supramolecular Chemistry network, which aims to improve gender equality in the sector.

Faculty of Medicine and Health

Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science: Dr Stephanie Partridge

Dr Stephanie Partridge

Dr Stephanie Partridge is a Senior Research Fellow and an Accredited Practising Dietitian in the School of Health Sciences, and member of the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. Combining her experience in digital health, public nutrition and research, Dr Partridge is dedicated to understanding how we can prevent obesity and chronic diseases by working in collaboration with young people.

Research shows that nine in ten young people don’t eat a balanced diet. Dr Partridge is addressing this by investigating how digital technologies can be harnessed to improve access to healthy foods, and to improve the health and wellbeing of young people.

Dr Partridge is currently studying how meal delivery apps affect the ways teenagers access and consume food. She is also developing digital health and well-being programs to help young people live a healthy lifestyle.

University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researcher: Professor Renae Ryan

Professor Renae Ryan is a Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology at the School of Medical Sciences and Sydney Nano. Her research focuses on how transport proteins move molecules across the cell membrane, and how this effects neurotransmission in the brain.

In addition to this work, Professor Ryan dedicates her career to helping young researchers achieve success in their fields.

As a mentor, Professor Ryan is passionate about not only providing good academic supervision, but personally investing in the success of others.

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