UNSW researchers have capped a stellar year with a swag of prestigious awards in science, medicine and engineering.

Dr Michael Valenzuela, from UNSW Medicine, has been honoured with an NHMRC excellence award for being the highest-ranked researcher in the clinical category. His research aims at understanding the competing forces of degeneration and neuroplasticity in the human brain.

UNSW researchers also won two career medals presented by the Australian Academy of Science as part of its annual scientific excellence awards.

Professor Ian Dance received the David Craig Medal for research in chemistry and Professor Colin Rogers took the Hannan Medal for research in applied mathematics and computation mathematics.

A number of early career researchers were recognised by the Academy. Associate Professor Martina Stenzel won the Le Fevre Memorial Prize for research in basic chemistry; Drs Scott Sisson and Mark Tanaka were jointly awarded the Moran Medal for research in statistics; and Dr Stuart Tangye, from the UNSW-affiliated Garvan Institute, won the Gottschalk Medial for research in medical sciences.

Quantum physicist Professor Michelle Simmons was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales and Professor Joe Wolfe received the Australian Institute of Physics' 2010 Education Medal.

Internationally, solar power pioneers Scientia Professors Martin Green and Stuart Wenham were both recognised by the UK's Energy Institute.

Professor Green was honoured with the Individual Achievement award and, along with Professor Green and Suntech Power, won the Technology Award for their jointly developed Pluto Technology - the world's most commercially successful solar cell.