Science magazine Cosmos has named the top 10 young scientists in Australia - and two of them are UNSW researchers pursuing big advances in the very small worlds of molecular engineering and quantum physics.

Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik from the Faculty of Engineering and Associate Professor Alex Hamilton from the Faculty of Science were last week named among the recipients of the 2007 Cosmos Bright Sparks Awards.

The awards are decided by an expert advisory panel in recognition of outstanding research and contributions to knowledge.

Professor Barner-Kowollik, an ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, was nominated for his work in polymer science at UNSW's Centre for Advanced Macromolecular Design.

Professor Barner-Kowollik's research is focused on improving the performance of synthetic polymers at molecular level to produce substances which can be used in a broad range of applications including drug delivery inside the human body.

"We provide techniques to make these complex polymers that can be used in these applications - it's fundamental enabling science," Professor Barner-Kowollik said.

The 34-year-old told Cosmos magazine the key to his success was "perseverance".

"Not giving up in the face of adversity because in reality most things you try don't work the first time," he said.

Professor Hamilton's award recognised his groundbreaking research in the field of semiconductor nanoelectronics at UNSW's Quantum Electronic Devices Group.

Professor Hamilton, 40, and his team have developed a "hole quantum wire" - a breakthrough which uses the gaps between electrons to carry an electrical current without need for electrons.

These tiny wires could enable a new world of super-fast, low-powered transistors and powerful quantum computers which represent the next step on from today's silicon chip-based technology.

"The first transistors were built in the late 1940s and theyv'e given us over half a century of incredible advances," Professor Hamilton told Cosmos magazine.

"What I envisage now is that we can start to use quantum physics to keep this information revolution going."

Cosmos editor-in-chief Wilson da Silva said Australia produced "some of the finest scientists in the world".

"Many of them show exceptional talent early in their careers. The Bright Sparks Awards is our way of giving this excellence the recognition it deserves," he said.

"These young men and women will have a resounding impact on society for generations to come."