We are delighted to announce that Trevor McDougall has received the 2022 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science!

Awarded by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science is Australia’s most prestigious award for outstanding achievements in the advancement of scientific knowledge and research. Prize recipients are acknowledged as exemplars of contributions to human knowledge with significant breakthroughs.

Professor McDougall has been recognised for his contribution to our understanding of the fundamental physics of the ocean, including how it moves and its mixing processes. His ground-breaking research has transformed all oceanographic practice and the field of ocean thermodynamics.

The 2022 cohort of prize recipients were announced at the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science presentation dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House on Monday 21 November.

Professor McDougall has been a Scientia Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at UNSW Sydney since 2012. His research focuses on the ocean’s role in climate, ocean mixing processes and the thermodynamics of seawater.

Globally recognised as a leader in the field of physical oceanography, he is also the world’s foremost authority on ocean thermodynamics. Professor McDougall’s major discoveries have positioned Australia at the forefront of ocean physics and climate research.

His work has improved the modelling of the effects of climate change and has led to the discovery of several new ocean mixing processes, and the development of entirely new methods of analysing oceanographic data.

“Professor McDougall’s impact on the field has been transformative”, said UNSW Sydney Scientia Professor Matthew England, who nominated Professor McDougall for the Prize.

“His theoretical work has frequently overturned century-held assumptions of how the ocean works. Moreover, he not only finds the past weaknesses, but provides simple and accurate ways forward.”

Professor McDougall’s first degree was in Mechanical Engineering, and his PhD focused on the turbulence in the upper layers of the ocean. He has remained in the field of oceanography since.

During his distinguished career, Professor McDougall has received numerous awards and accolades. These include his 2018 appointment as a Companion of the Order of Australia; the 2017 NSW Premier’s Prize for Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry and Physics; his 2015 election as a Fellow of The Royal Society of NSW; the 2015 Australian Academy of Science Jaeger Medal; his 2012 election as Fellow of The Royal Society of London; and the 2011 Prince Albert I Medal. 

Porter Novelli Aus

In complement to his own research, Professor McDougall has also taken a leadership role in the discipline to ensure that the highest standards of research, scholarship and professional practice are established and maintained. He is the current President of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans, which is the peak body overseeing the standards and methods by which all physical and chemical oceanographic research is conducted, and since 2004 he has served as Principal Australian Representative on the International Science Council’s Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research.

Professor McDougall said that receiving the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science is “an incredible honour, and it’s also an honour for the brilliant early career researchers that I’ve been working with over the last 15 years”, he said. “They’ve been really integral to some of the results that have been recognised in this Prize”.

He also acknowledged “the wonderfully supportive research environment in the UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics”. He said that research of this type leads to “a deeper understanding of the climate system and enables more confident projections of climate change”.

“The School is very proud of Trevor and warmly congratulate him on this recognition of his outstanding research and impact”, said Head of the UNSW School of Mathematics and Statistics, Professor Adelle Coster. “His work is a great representation of the power of applied mathematics”.

We wholeheartedly congratulate Professor Trevor McDougall as the 2022 recipient of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. His work and scientific advancements are of major importance to both science and human welfare, and are essential for Australia’s future prosperity.

“It’s really great that the field of oceanography and climate science has been recognised in this way, because we need these scientists more than ever in the future to understand how the planet is the way it is today, and how will evolve in the future”, said Professor McDougall.

The Prime Minister’s Prize for Science and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation are the top tier of the suite of Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, which includes two science teaching prizes and three other prizes for scientific research and research-based innovation, including The Prize for New Innovators. The recipient of the Prime Minister’s Prize for New Innovators is also from UNSW Sydney: Associate Professor Brett Hallam of the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering. 

See below for a video where Trevor McDougall describes his research which was honoured with the 2022 Prime Minister's Prize for Science.

Trevor McDougall and PhD student Josef Bisits
Image above: Professor McDougall with PhD student Josef Bisits. 

Porter Novelli Aus