2013 Category Award Winners

Best and brightest recognised at 2013 NSW Science and Engineering Awards

The state's best and brightest have been recognised at the 2013 NSW Science & Engineering Awards. 

Laureate Professor Graeme Jameson AO, from the University of Newcastle, was named NSW Scientist of the Year for his trailblazing work in the field of floatation technologies.

His creation, the Jameson Cell, has redefined mineral processing – with mining companies in 25 countries now using the radically-different technology to separate valuable minerals from host rock.

The Cell adds more than $3 billion in minerals exports to the Australian economy annually.

Trophies were handed out in eight categories during an awards ceremony at Government House, Sydney, attended by NSW Governor, Her Excellency Marie Bashir AC CVO, and NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, on Friday 1 November 2013.

For the first time in the Awards' six-year history, a husband and wife, Professor Justin Gooding and Professor Katharina Gaus, were among the prize winners.

Professor Gooding received the award for Emerging Research for his outstanding contribution to the evolving field of surface chemistry, while Professor Gaus collected the prize for Excellence in Biological Sciences.

Teacher Nicolette Hilton from Uralla Central School, south of Armidale, in the state's New England region, was rewarded for her Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education.

Nicolette has worked with NASA to develop cross-curricular learning activities and programs, which she has not only used to assist and engage her own students in science and mathematics but shared with her fellow educators both nationally and internationally.

Professor O'Kane has praised all the award winners.

"We had a great response to our call for nominations across all the award categories and it is truly wonderful to see the high standard of work being undertaken across the sciences, not only in terms of research but also the teaching of science and mathematics to our young people," Professor O'Kane said.

"Not only do I want to congratulate our 2013 NSW Scientist of the Year, Graeme Jameson, and all our category winners, I would also like to thank all of the other nominees for the brilliant work they have been doing to make this state a great research and innovation hub."

Professor Jameson received $55,000 in prize money for taking out the top gong.The eight category winners, who each received $5000, were:


Professor John Webb

Professor John Webb is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of New South Wales.  He is recognised as one of the world's most high profile researchers of the physics of the early universe. 

Professor Webb's research spans the boundary between fundamental physics and astronomy, studying how the universe has evolved over the 14 billion years since its birth.

In his letter of reference for Professor Webb, Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt said "Webb's group gained notoriety when they announced that the fine-structure constant appeared to vary significantly over time in 2001, and a revision in 2012, which indicates that the variation appears spatially across the universe" and "while substantive work still needs to be done to confirm the results, Professor Webb is influencing a whole range of discussion and new experiments on this very important topic, with his group setting the international agenda".

This work has had a major impact challenging our understanding of fundamental physics and the role of astrophysics in it, as well as the scientific goals of the next generation of the world's major observatories.

He has published over 180 internationally refereed journal papers, and in 2012 led the team that received the prestigious Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.

Prof Robert ParkEXCELLENCE IN BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (Ecology, environmental, agricultural and organismal) 

Professor Robert Park

Professor Robert Park currently holds the Judith and David Coffey Chair in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Sydney Plant Breeding Institute. He is an international leader in plant pathology and genetics, focusing on rust fungi infecting crop plants in agriculture.

Professor Park has made major contributions to the global effort to control these diseases, especially in cereal rusts. Working across a number of related areas to combat rusts, Professor Park has made crucial research findings in the genetics of resistance (including classical, molecular and cytogenetics), pathogenic and molecular variability in rust pathogens, and functional genomics of host-pathogen interactions. He also leads the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program, the largest group of cereal rust researchers in the world.

By helping to safeguard the world's primary cereal crops, Professor Park is making a significant contribution to national and global food security, the economic viability of agricultural production, and the ecologically sustainable use of NSW's and Australia's natural resources.Professor Park has authored and co-authored two books, five book chapters and review articles, and more than 85 peer reviewed research papers. He has also authored and delivered over 60 national and international conference papers, and written many articles for journals and magazines.

Prof Katharina GausEXCELLENCE IN BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (Cell and molecular, medical, veterinary and genetics)

Professor Katharina Gaus

Professor Katharina Gaus is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Vascular Research at the University of New South Wales. She is an international leader in the field of cellular immunology and molecular microscopy.

The overarching objective of her research has been to gain a mechanistic understanding of the organisation of the cell (plasma) membrane; specifically, the role of membrane domains in signal transduction (relay) of T lymphocytes (white blood cells that play a central role in cell-mediated immunity).

To do so, she has pioneered fluorescence microscopy approaches to examine and quantify T-cell signalling on a single molecule level (so-called 'superresolution microscopy') in living cells.  

Her research has provided the first evidence for lipids being linked to T-cell activation on a molecular and functional level, and may explain why immune function is compromised in obese people.

In the last five years alone Professor Gaus has published 50 original research articles and reviews in international journals in the discipline. She also received the Australian Academy of Science Gottschalk Medal and was a national finalist in the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.


Professor Martina Stenzel

Professor Martina Stenzel is Co-Director, Professor and ARC Future Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Macromolecular Design at the University of New South Wales. She is an established authority in the area of polymer-based nanoparticles, which are used in the treatment of cancer.

The aim of her research has been to 'package' drugs, especially chemotherapeutics, inside nanoparticles for targeted delivery to the tumour site in cancer patients. She uses the latest developments in polymer science to design nanoparticles that have been both 'tailored' for specific drugs and 'mimic' the behaviour of natural carriers, such as viruses.

The innovation in Professor Stenzel's research is clearly demonstrated by her ability to create 'smart particles'. These particles are stable and unchanged as they circulate in the blood stream but when they reach the tumour site they are triggered to release their drug payload in a 'burst-like' fashion – maximising exposure to cancer cells while minimising exposure to healthy cells.

Professor Stenzel has published 190 papers in leading journals. Her work has been recognised through several prestigious awards, including the UNSW Engineering Excellence Award for Research, the Le Fèvre Memorial Prize of the Australian Academy of Science, and most recently, the Exxon Mobil Award. 


Scientia Professor Justin Gooding

Professor Justin Gooding is Scientia Professor and ARC Australian Professorial Fellow at the University of New South Wales.  He has made outstanding contributions to the emerging field of surface chemistry, especially as it relates to the development of cutting-edge chemical and bio-sensors.

We are now realising the enormous potential of sensors to revolutionise the way we gain knowledge about our chemical environments, with major implications for medicine, environmental science, defence and security. Utilising his expertise in surface chemistry, Professor Gooding has stimulated a paradigm shift in sensor research through the design and fabrication of sensing interfaces with molecular level control. This research has enormous potential health and environmental benefits for Australia and internationally- it can be applied to improve in-field detection kits, personalised medicine, drug testing, and water contamination.

Professor Gooding has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to his field through awards such as the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Lloyd Smythe Medal for Analytical Chemistry, the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research and The Royal Australian Chemical Institute R.H. Stokes Medal for Electrochemistry.


Professor Thomas Maschmeyer

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer is an ARC Future Fellow at the School of Chemistry at the University of Sydney. His research is characterised by the intimate connection between cutting-edge fundamental research and commercialisation of technological solutions to some of the greatest challenges of our lives – energy supply and security, the provision of chemicals and materials to enhance our standard of living, and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions through the innovative exploitation of novel carbon feedstocks.

Professor Machmeyer's research into the conversion of renewable resources into chemicals, pharmaceuticals and fuels, and the remediation of waste water streams, treatment of algal blooms, and power station effluent has resulted not only in significant scientific advances but also in the establishment of two companies in New South Wales with a combined value exceeding $300 million. It has also attracted interest and participation from major international companies like Exxon Mobil, Energy Australia, Boeing, Virgin Air and GE.

Professor Maschmeyer is the author of more than 220 publications, 16 patents and 22 book chapters. He has received many awards, including the RACI Weickhardt Medal for Economic Contributions through Chemistry, the RACI Applied Research Award and the Le Fevre Prize of the Australian Academy of Sciences.


Adjunct Professor Harvey Dillon

Adjunct Professor Harvey Dillon is Director of the National Acoustic Laboratories. He is recognised as one of the world's leading authorities on hearing and hearing aid research.

Professor Dillon has made significant contributions to both hearing technologies and services used daily in hearing clinics and by audiologists and physicians nationally and internationally. He has contributed to the development of improved hearing devices and better ways to ensure the individual user receives maximum benefit from the device. He has also contributed to clinical services, developing tools that improve hearing assessment and timely remediation.

A dedicated and talented research professional, Professor Dillon has combined maths, science and engineering to deliver real innovations in the field of hearing health and diagnosis and the treatment of hearing disorders.

Professor Dillon has authored and co-authored more than 190 scientific publications and holds several hearing technology patents. His contributions to audiology and helping the hearing impaired have been recognised with awards from Audiology Australia, the America Academy of Audiology and the prestigious Callier Prize in communications disorders.


Ms Nicolette Hilton

Ms Nicolette Hilton is a science teacher and presenter at Uralla Central School.  She has used engaging learning activities to instil a passion for science and mathematics in her students.

Ms Hilton relies on her students' natural curiosity and fascination for space and her own experiences, knowledge and skills which she developed working with NASA scientists, to inform innovative cross-curricular teaching programs.

She has worked with NASA developing learning activities and programs during their Spaceward Bound expeditions to the South Australian desert and at Zzyx, the Desert Research Centre in California. She uses these programs to assist and engage students in grasping a variety of concepts in both science and mathematics.

Ms Hilton has developed and delivered her own inquiry-based programs, and has shared them nationally and internationally with her teaching peers and educational leaders and experts. Her teaching programs and methods have motivated and engaged her students, stimulating them to be young science achievers.