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Prime Minister's Prizes recognise excellence in science

17 October 2019

Joint media release with the Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MP

A pioneering mathematician has received the top award at the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, receiving $250,000 in prize money.

Emeritus Professor Cheryl Praeger has profoundly influenced the mathematics that underpins computer cryptography used for secure banking, digital signatures and internet connections. Her algorithms have been incorporated into powerful computer systems used in algebra research and teaching.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison congratulated those who were recognised on the night.

“These prizes are a wonderful celebration of our world-leading scientists, mathematicians, innovators, and educators,” the Prime Minister said.

“Our science community plays such a big role in the prosperity of our country. Scientists are the ultimate problem solvers, they grow the economy and create jobs.

“I particularly want to congratulate Professor Praeger on her outstanding contribution to mathematics.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews also commended the recipients for inspiring future generations of Australian scientists and preparing the nation for future economic growth.

“Science supports innovative and productive businesses. It drives economic growth, job creation and improved living standards for all,” Minister Andrews said.

“Scientific innovations can improve health outcomes for Australians, solve business challenges and make our lives better.

“The Morrison Government understands increasing our science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) capability is critical to creating new opportunities for industry and competing in global markets."

Minister Andrews also applauded the significant number of female winners.

“We’ve gone from just one female recipient last year to five this year, the most ever represented in the awards. I hope this will inspire even more girls and women to be involved in STEM.”

The other major prize, the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, went to a Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research team for its role in the development of a breakthrough anti-cancer drug.

Team members Associate Professor Peter Czabotar, Professor David Huang, Professor Guillaume Lessene and Professor Andrew Roberts were recognised for their roles in the development of venetoclax, a drug that can flick a switch within a leukaemia cell to kill the cell, giving patients a vastly improved treatment outcome.

Other recipients on the night included:

  • The $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools to Dr Samantha Moyle for leading integrated learning in STEM and being an effective and passionate role model for her students.
  • The $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools to Mrs Sarah Finney for raising student interest and participation in science and advocating for a stronger science curriculum in South Australian schools.
  • The $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year to Associate Professor Laura MacKay from The University of Melbourne for her breakthrough work in identifying the role of tissue-resident T cells in protecting the body from infection and cancer.
  • The $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year to Associate Professor Elizabeth New, for pioneering the development of new chemical imaging tools to observe healthy and diseased cells.
  • The $50,000 Prize for New Innovator to Dr Luke Campbell, for inventing the nuraphone headphones that adapt to an individual’s unique hearing to enhance the audio experience.

Full citations, photos, videos and other information is available online: www.industry.gov.au/pmsprizes

Media contacts:

Prime Minister's office 02 6277 7700

Minister Andrews' office 02 6277 7070