Epidemiologist Raina MacIntyre among brilliant Australian scientists awarded Eureka Prize

COVID-19 cases are up in Australia, but the number of people in ICU remains relatively low.

COVID-19 cases are up in Australia, but the number of people in ICU remains relatively low. Photo: AAP

Australian researchers tackling some of the world’s biggest issues, such as COVID-19 and the loss of endangered plants and animals, have been honoured at the country’s leading national science awards.

The Australian Museum’s Eureka prizes were presented at a ceremony in Sydney on Wednesday night.

The annual awards celebrate the achievements of scientists across the country in the areas of research and innovation, leadership, engagement and science in schools.

Public health expert Raina MacIntyre took out one of the top individual gongs for her role in the international COVID-19 response, while farming pioneers and cancer researchers were among 13 others recognised.

Professor MacIntyre led international efforts in preventing the spread of COVID-19 through her research into emerging diseases, vaccines and masks.

Her work helped establish life-saving public health policies in Australia and around the globe.

With the international focus on environmental and health issues, given the dual challenges of climate change and COVID-19, scientists in the twin fields were well represented among the winners.

The Australian National University’s Sustainable Farms team was recognised for its work tracking how changes to land management on farms affects biodiversity.

The research helped the development of Birdcast, a digital tool helping farmers predict which bird species are suited to different land conditions.

A group of cancer researchers working together across the country was recognised for developing revolutionary new technology, making possible for a fast, accurate and cheap cancer diagnosis without the need for specialised equipment.

Australian Museum director Kim McKay emphasised the role Australian scientists had taken in addressing major global challenges.

‘‘The scientists recognised tonight show that the odds are in our favour to find solutions to those challenges,’’ she said.

‘‘Their achievements demonstrate that we have the resources and ideas to build a world that helps sustain us for the future.’’

Since being established in 1990, 476 Eureka prizes have been awarded as well as more than $4 million in prize money.

This year’s 14 winners shared in a $140,000 prize pool.

Other Winners

Emerging Leader in Science: Professor Sumeet Walia, RMIT University

Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research: Professor Manfred Lenzen, Professor David Raubenheimer, Dr Arunima Malik, Dr Mengyu Li and Navoda Liyana Pathirana, University of Sydney

Infectious Diseases Research: Associate Professor Eric Chow, Professor Christopher Fairley, Professor Catriona Bradshaw, Professor Jane Hocking, Professor Deborah Williamson and Professor Marcus Chen, Monash University and University of Melbourne

Scientific Research: Professor Justin Yerbury, University of Wollongong

Innovation in Citizen Science: The Environment Recovery Project, UNSW and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research

Promoting Understanding of Science: Professor Veena Sahajwalla, UNSW

Primary School Science: Genevieve S. Bucasia State School, Qld


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