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In fields ranging from infectious disease control and palaeontology, to solar and chemical engineering, ten UNSW researchers and a medical research institute have been named finalists for prestigious Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

Known as the Oscars of Australian science, the high-profile Eureka Prizes celebrate excellence in scientific research, leadership, education, communication and innovation. The winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Sydney on 31 August.

Among the UNSW finalists are two scientists, four engineers, and a team of four medical researchers from the Kirby Institute at UNSW.

The Kirby Institute is a finalist for two Eureka Prizes – one for excellence in infectious diseases research, and another for excellence in interdisciplinary scientific research. In total, UNSW has finalists in six different categories.

Professor Brian Boyle, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UNSW says he is excited about the University’s representation in the 2016 Eureka Prizes.

“The calibre of research at UNSW is world-class and, as an institution, we are focused on developing solutions to some of the most important challenges facing modern society,” says Professor Boyle.  

“I am thrilled that our finalists are being recognised for the quality of their research, but also for their work as leaders, collaborators, and communicators.”

The UNSW finalists for 2016 Eureka Prizes include:

  • Associate Professor Cyrille Boyer from the School of Chemical Engineering for the UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research. 

Boyer has made major contributions to the field of polymer chemistry. By mimicking photosynthesis, he’s helping to develop more sustainable polymers using light. For this work, Boyer won the 2015 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year, one of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

Eureka finalist 2016 - Cyrille Boyer

  • Dr Bernhard Mitchell, Daniel Chung and Professor Thorsten Trupke from UNSW Engineering for the ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology.

Through the application of highly innovative ‘spectral’ photoluminescence imaging, a key limitation in silicon solar cell manufacturing can now be overcome. This technology can be compared to an X-ray machine for the solar industry, providing high-res imaging that can spot hidden defects in silicon. The trio have been able to accurately measure contamination levels in silicon, significantly lowering the cost of solar cell production.

Eureka finalist 2016 - Bernhard Mitchell

  • Dr Dane McCamey from the UNSW School of Physics for the 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science.

The reigning NSW Young Tall Poppy of the Year, McCamey is widely regarded as an expert and future leader in the field of electron spin resonance, which has applications for solar energy and quantum devices. He’s working to develop research capacity at the institutional, national and international level, establishing experimental facilities for materials characterisation and developing the next generation of researchers.

Eureka finalist 2016 – Dane McCamey

  • Professor Miles Davenport, Dr Deborah Cromer, Dr Mykola Pinkevych and, Dr David Khoury from the Kirby Institute at UNSW are part of a team in the running for the UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research.

The Infection Analytics Program Group integrates mathematicians, computer scientists and physicists, in close collaboration with experimental scientists and clinicians, to develop a novel understanding of the ‘mathematics of infection’. The team has used these insights to design and optimise treatment and vaccination for major infectious diseases.

Eureka finalist 2016 – Miles Davenport

  • The Kirby Institute at UNSW, in its role as part of the SHIFT team, is also a finalist for the Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research.

The SHIFT trial is a landmark study showing that mass drug administration with the oral drug ivermectin is highly effective in controlling scabies and related bacterial skin sores. SHIFT has transformed the global conversation on integrated programs for neglected tropical diseases.

  • Associate Professor Darren Curnoe from UNSW Science for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research.

An engaging science communicator, Curnoe has reached millions of people through his films, on-line articles and opinion columns. His ground-breaking research in China about the “Red Deer Cave people” became the focus of an award winning documentary, and his work continues to attract global media coverage.

Eureka finalist 2016 – Darren Curnoe

Also in the running for this award is CSIRO astronomer Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith, an ultra-marathoner who is working on the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder project. Dr Harvey-Smith is also an adjunct associate professor in the UNSW School of Physics.