Two NSW teachers recognised for excellence at 2017 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

19 Oct 2017

Two New South Wales public school teachers have been honoured at the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

Neil Bramsen from Mount Ousley Public School, near Wollongong, was awarded the PM’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools; while Brett McKay from Kirrawee High School, in Sydney’s south, received the PM’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.

The pair was presented their prizes by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a ceremony in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra, last night (Wednesday 18 October 2017).

NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Mary O’Kane said they’re very worthy winners.

“We need more Neils and Bretts in our schools – competent, confident educators whose innovative teaching methods, balancing fun and learning, have inspired their students to love science and use it in their daily lives,” Professor O’Kane said.

“That is really important because our young people are going to need skills in science and maths as they prepare to join the workforce of the future.

“I congratulate Neil and Brett on this tremendous achievement and thank them for their contribution to science education in NSW,” she said.

Students at Mount Ousley Public School have watched and recorded bird sightings in their outdoor classroom, talked with astronauts on the International Space Station and made global connections with schools in Africa and America via Skype.

Mr Bramsen sees science as an enabler of learning across the curriculum.

“It’s a way of hooking kids into learning. We want kids to enjoy school. It’s got to be a balance of fun and learning,” he said.

And Brett McKay has overseen a four-fold increase in students taking physics during his 20 years at Kirrawee High School – many of his students going onto a career in science.

Importantly, he’s brought science to life for students not considering science as a career – recognising that everyone needs an understanding of science to make informed decisions in the modern world.

Meanwhile, Professor Dayong Jin from the University of Technology Sydney has taken out the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year at the PM’s Prizes.

Professor Jin has created new kinds of microscopes that allow us to watch molecules at work inside living cells.

Using quantum dots, lasers, nanocrystals and other technologies, these microscopes will let us watch the inner workings of our immune system, see how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, and to find one cancer cell amongst millions of healthy cells.

It’s hoped Professor Jin’s technologies will enable portable, easy-to-use devices to detect the first signs of disease, evidence of drugs, or of toxins in food and the environment.