We are thrilled to announce that Trevor McDougall has been awarded the 2023 NSW Premier’s Prize for Scientist of the Year in recognition of his trailblazing research which has transformed the entire fields of physical oceanography and ocean thermodynamics.

The NSW Premier’s Prize for Scientist of the Year is the top award of the NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering, presented to an outstanding individual who has made significant contributions to the advancement of science and/or engineering which has benefited, or has the potential to benefit, the people of NSW. 

"It’s an amazing honour to be selected as the 2023 NSW Scientist of the Year, and it also recognises the achievements of many others with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working", said the world-renowned oceanographer, who is an Emeritus Professor at UNSW Sydney’s School of Mathematics and Statistics.

Professor McDougall’s major discoveries have positioned Australia at the forefront of ocean physics and climate research. His pioneering work, which focuses on the ocean’s role in climate, ocean mixing processes and the thermodynamics of seawater, has improved the modelling of the effects of climate change and revealed several new ocean mixing processes, plus the advancement of new methods of analysing oceanographic data.

An internationally acclaimed leader and foremost authority in the fields of physical oceanography and ocean thermodynamics, Professor McDougall was the 2022 recipient of the Prime Minister's Prize for Science, Australia’s most prestigious award for outstanding achievements in scientific research and research-based innovation.  

His theoretical discoveries underlie the adoption of the Temporal Residual Mean parameterisation by ocean and climate models. Widely regarded as the most substantial improvement in ocean modelling since 1985, this breakthrough incorporates the effects of mesoscale ocean eddies in climate models. Professor McDougall’s dedication to advancing ocean modelling techniques has broadened our understanding of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-ice climate system, while also unveiling new avenues for future research.

Professor McDougall’s contributions to the field of oceanography includes leading an international group of researchers in redefining the 30-year-old definition of seawater thermodynamics and improving the accuracy of the treatment of “ocean heat content” by a factor of 100.

“The societal relevance of climate science and ocean science is now obvious to all”, Professor McDougall said. “I want to especially thank the School of Mathematics and Statistics at UNSW Sydney for providing such a wonderfully supportive environment in which to conduct this type of fundamental research.”   
UNSW 2023

Head of UNSW Mathematics and Statistics, Professor Adelle Coster, said that the School “has always been extremely proud that Trevor is part of our School. This prize is a fantastic recognition of Trevor's outstanding applied mathematics research and impact”.

The 2023 NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering will be conferred this evening at an awards ceremony at Government House, Sydney. These prizes are across 10 categories which recognise excellence in science and engineering, and reward leading researchers and educators for cutting-edge work that has generated economic, environmental, health, social or technological benefits for NSW.

The prizes aim to raise community awareness and appreciation of the important contributions made by scientists, engineers, and educators, and to encourage careers in STEM fields. The selection committee for the prizes is comprised of prominent members of the Australian science, technology and education sectors whose recommendations are submitted to the Premier for endorsement.

During his illustrious career, Professor McDougall has received numerous awards and honours, including the 2022 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science; 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. He is a Fellow of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics and was President of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans from 2019-2023.

UNSW Dean of Science, Professor Sven Rogge, congratulated Professor McDougall on receiving his latest award.

“Professor McDougall’s research has significantly improved our understanding of the fundamental physics of the ocean and its role in the planet’s climate system, allowing us to have more confidence in climate change predictions”, he said.

We extend our sincerest congratulations to Professor Trevor McDougall as the 2023 recipient of the NSW Premier’s Prize for Scientist of the Year. His research and scientific advancements are of major importance to the state of New South Wales and on a global scale, with significance for human and environmental welfare and Australia’s future prosperity. 

The NSW Premier’s Prize for Scientist of the Year is the top tier of the suite of NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering. The prize-winner receives a trophy and $60,000 in prize money.

The nine other prizes for scientific and engineering-based innovation and advancement include two also conferred to UNSW Sydney academics - both from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences: Professor Shinichi Nakagawa received the 2023 Excellence in Biological Sciences (Ecological, environmental, agricultural and organismal) prize; and Dr Jodi Rowley received the 2023 Innovation in NSW Public Sector Science and Engineering prize. 

Media enquiries: s.waters@unsw.edu.au
Trevor McDougall Trevor McDougall