Three research students studying quantum computing, facial recognition, and the molecular biology of blood disorders have each won $5000 prizes in the 2015 UNSW Science Postgraduate Research Competition.

Three runners-up also received $3000 each for their research on dingo control, reproduction, and resilience.

More than 80 research students entered the competition in which they were judged on the quality of an abstract and a poster outlining their research project and findings.

The third, and possibly most difficult task, was to give a one-minute long presentation about their work in front of a large audience. Judging criteria included communication style, clarity of topic and audience engagement.

Presenter of The Science Show on ABC Radio National, Robyn Williams, astronomer and author Professor Fred Watson, and ABC Science online journalist Genelle Weule, were the three celebrity judges for the event. The judging team also included more than 20 UNSW Science staff.

The six students will use their prize money to travel to international conferences or go on research visits. The winners will also represent the Faculty at the UNSW Three Minute Thesis Competition on 23 September 2015.

In handing out the prizes Robyn Williams told the students there were great benefits in learning to communicate well.  “It helps you to understand your own work better,” he said.

As well, prospective employers would be interested in knowing what the students had studied and the competition provides valuable practice “so you know what to say.”

There were five categories: Climate, Environment and Sustainability; Cutting-edge Discovery; Energy, Materials Technology; Health, Lifestyle, Ageing; and Science and Society.

Playlist: The 6 Winning Presentations


The three winners:

Sam Hile (Physics), Cutting-edge Discovery

For his research on the quantum behaviour of single atoms and electrons within tiny nano-fabricated transistors that could lead to the development of a new kind of quantum computer

Gabriella Martyn (BABS) Health, Lifestyle and Aging

For her research on how to reawaken a sleeping haemoglobin gene as a possible new kind of therapeutic approach to treating sickle cell anaemia 

James Dunn (Psychology) Science and Society

For his research the human ability to recognise familiar and unfamiliar faces in different situations, which could have implications for identity checks

The three runners-up:

Viyanna Leo (BEES) Climate Environment and Sustainability category

For her research on the ecological impacts of poisoning dingoes in Northern Australia, including the benefits to small mammals and native rodents

Rebecca Alexander (Psychology) Health, Lifestyle and Aging

For her research on the neuroscience of resilience, focusing on the cognitive, neural and genetic factors that could underpin this beneficial trait

Teagan Gale (BEES) – Science and Society 

For her research on the late Bruce effect – how exposure to a new males during late pregnancy can in mice can affect the growth rate of the offspring

The People’s Choice award went to:

Mehran Bolourian Kashi (Chemistry) Cutting-edge Discovery

For his research on a light-activated silicon-based electrode that could lead to the development of a portable bio-sensor to detect diseases at an early stage

Media contact: Deborah Smith: 9385 7307, 0478 492 060,