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For their research in theoretical physics, brain mapping, civil engineering and rock sampling technology, four UNSW researchers have been awarded prestigious 2015 NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering.

Scientia Professor Victor Flambaum of the Faculty of Science, Scientia Professor George Paxinos of the Faculty of Medicine, and Scientia Professor Mark Bradford and Professor Christoph Arns of the Faculty of Engineering, received their awards from the NSW Premier Mike Baird at a ceremony at Government House last night.

The awards, established in 2008 and newly named the Premier’s Prizes this year, recognise the state’s top researchers and teachers for cutting-edge work that has generated economic, environmental, health, social or technological benefits for NSW.

Mr Baird congratulated the 10 winners and thanked them for their hard work and contribution to the state: “This event allows us to honour and celebrate your research efforts, clever ideas and unwavering dedication to your chosen field."

NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane, who oversaw proceedings, said that acknowledging outstanding research effort was essential for advancing society and the economy.

The NSW Governor, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley, welcomed the guests to Government House and said it was an honour to be Patron of the Prizes: “I have immense respect for individuals who devote their lives to solving society’s toughest problems. The men and women we are celebrating here tonight – scientists, engineers and teachers – are perfect examples.”

The UNSW winners:

Professor Victor Flambaum of the School of the Physics won the award for Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry and Physics. He tackles some of the most challenging theoretical problems in particle physics, astrophysics and general relativity. And his research has led to fresh directions in the search for variations in the fundamental constants of nature and the development of super-precise ionic and nuclear clocks needed for next-generation GPS and autopilot systems.

Scientia Professor George Paxinos of Neuroscience Research Australia won the award for Excellence in Biological Sciences (cell and molecular, medical veterinary and genetics). He is the author of more than 45 books on the structure of the brain and spinal cord of humans and experimental animals, and his 3D brain maps have allowed neuroscientists and surgeons to better understand brain illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. His first atlas published in 1982, The Rat Brain in Stereotaxic Coordinates, is among the most cited scientific texts ever published.

Scientia Professor Mark Bradford of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering won the award for Excellence in Engineering and Information and Communications Technology. As founding director of UNSW’s Centre for Infrastructure Engineering and Safety, he has been proactive in translating university research into industry practice, especially through design standards and textbooks. His latest research is on innovative deconstructable steel-concrete composite frame systems to minimise environmental damage when buildings are demolished and to maximise reuse of their structural components.

Professor Christoph Arns of the School of Petroleum Engineering won the award for Leadership in Innovation in NSW. His revolutionary technique for high resolution 3D scanning of rocks to identify their physical properties has benefited oil and gas exploration. He is a key inventor of the intellectual property that underpinned UNSW and ANU’s spin-off company Digitalcore and which was eventually sold to US company FEI in 2014 for $76 million.

James Ruse Agricultural High School head science teacher Sheila Pooviah and Cherrybrook Technology High School head maths teacher Eddie Woo were joint winners of the award for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education in NSW.

University of Newcastle civil engineer Professor Scott Sloan was named NSW Scientist of the Year.

For the full list of winners visit the website.