Young scientists awarded, embark on year-long campaign

29 October 2015

Awards by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science have recognised early career scientists who combine world-class research with a commitment to communication.

Dr Camilla Whittington recieving her 2015 Young Tall Poppy Award
Dr Camilla Whittington recieving her 2015 Young Tall Poppy Award

Five researchers from the University of Sydney have been recognised with prestigious Young Tall Poppy Science Awards, Dr Camilla Whittington from the School of Biological Sciences amongst them. The awards ceremony took place at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science in Sydney last week. As part of the Young Tall Poppy Campaign, they will spend a year sharing their knowledge with school students, teachers and the broader community through workshops, seminars and public lectures. Camilla said, "I believe it's the responsibility of scientists to engage with the community."

Camilla is using cutting‐edge techniques to identify pregnancy genes, the instructions in an animal's DNA causing it to have a live baby rather than laying an egg. Her work identifies the fundamental processes of pregnancy. This understanding is critical to designing captive breeding programs for threatened and endangered species.

"Pregnant lizards, seahorses and mammals face complex challenges, like having to provide nutrients to their embryos and protect them from disease," Camilla said. "My research suggests that these distantly related animals can use similar genetic instructions to manage pregnancy and produce healthy babies."

Former School of Biological Sciences scientist, Dr Tanya Latty, also received a Young Tall Poppy Award. Tanya (now in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment) is working with computer scientists, mathematicians and engineers to apply what has been learned from ants toward building smarter and more efficient infrastructure systems. "Biological systems have had millions of years to evolve solutions to many of the same problems currently facing human engineers," Dr Latty said.