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Three outstanding UNSW academics have today been recognised by the Australian Academy of Science with 2023 honorific awards for their outstanding contributions to science. They are among 22 of Australia’s top scientists to be celebrated by the country’s most prestigious scientific organisation.

President of the Australian Academy of Science Professor Chennupati Jagadish said recipients have much to be proud of and are making tremendous contributions to science.

“Each year, the depth and breadth of achievements, recognised by these honorific awards, continues to inspire me, as I hope it does other scientists and Australians,” Prof. Jagadish said.

“These awardees are working not only to advance their fields, but for the betterment of our communities and the planet – improving our understanding of the world while addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing us.”

Scientia Professor Matthew England: the Jaeger Medal

Scientia Professor Matthew England at UNSW Science has received the Jaeger Medal, recognising his work as one of the world’s foremost experts on the ocean’s role in climate change. His research spans physical oceanography and climate dynamics, where he has written seminal papers on global water-mass formation, ocean-atmosphere-ice interactions, modes of climate variability, and ocean overturning processes. His work has afforded profound insights into the circulation of the Pacific, Indian, and Southern oceans and their role in global and regional climate.

“I’m delighted to receive this award from the Australian Academy of Science,” Prof. England said. “But none of it would have been possible without the outstanding team of early career scientists I have worked with. I’m also very grateful for the stellar cohort of national and international scientists I have collaborated with, and for the outstanding support from agencies such as the Australian Research Council (ARC) and NCI Australia, and of course UNSW.”

He has authored more than 260 journal papers on topics ranging from global water-mass formation, climate modes of variability, the ocean overturning circulation around Antarctica and in the North Atlantic, tropical, and high-latitude climate dynamics, ocean drivers of climate variability and extremes, and global climate change.  

“I’m very grateful to see my work acknowledged in this way, it’s time for policymakers to notice the work of climate scientists worldwide, and act on our deepening climate crisis with the resolve that this impending disaster requires,” Prof. England said.

Scientia Associate Professor Rona Chandrawati: the Le Fèvre Medal

Scientia Associate Professor Rona Chandrawati at UNSW Engineering received the Le Fèvre Medal for her internationally recognised work as an emerging leader in the fields of nanosensors and nanoparticle-based drug delivery. She has achieved world-class research results in the synthesis and development of colourimetric nanosensors and nanozymes for nitric oxide delivery.

“I’m truly honoured to receive the Le Fèvre Medal and to be named alongside prominent researchers in Australia’s science community,” Prof. Chandrawati said.

“I would like to thank my research team, collaborators, and mentors who have been instrumental in my research career. Without their expertise and dedication, this technology would not have been possible. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such talented and passionate individuals, and I share this award with each and every one of them.”

Prof. Chandrawati is a prominent researcher in colourimetric polymer sensor technology and a rising leader in the field of nanozymes development for drug delivery. Her innovative research has already found widespread application in areas including food safety, disease diagnosis and the treatment of glaucoma, a condition affecting one in 10 Australians. As the country’s leading researcher in colourimetric polymer sensor technology, her patent-pending nanosensors have enabled real-time monitoring of food quality without the need for specialised equipment.

“Our colorimetric food sensor technology has the potential to address some of the most pressing global challenges facing us today. With its ability to monitor changes in food quality, this technology can help reduce food waste, prevent foodborne illnesses, and ensure that consumers have access to safe food. In a world where food security and sustainability are becoming increasingly critical issues, our technology has the potential to make a real difference,” Prof. Chandrawati said.

Associate Professor Emily Wong: the Fenner Medal

Associate Professor Emily Wong at Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and the School of Biotechnology & Biosciences at UNSW Science has received the Fenner Medal. Prof. Wong’s work explores the influence of the non-protein coding genome on gene regulation, with the aim of comprehending the intricate connections between DNA sequence and gene activity. Key discoveries include insights into evolution of regulatory elements and the relationship between genetic variations and their effect on genome activity.

“It's a privilege to be recognised by the Australian Academy of Science, and I'm deeply grateful for this recognition of my work in discovery science,” Prof. Wong said.

“This award is the result of collaborative endeavours with other scientists and a reflection of the support and encouragement I have received from my colleagues and mentors and the wider scientific community. I look forward to continuing to contribute to the advancement of science in Australia and beyond.”

UNSW Professor Dane McCamey, Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), congratulated the two academics on being recognised for their cutting-edge scientific research and outstanding contributions to the field of science in Australia and internationally.

“UNSW is very proud of Prof. England’s internationally renowned work regarding the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans and the recognition of Prof. Chandrawati’s leadership in nanosensors and nanoparticle-based drug delivery,” he said.

“This impressive result demonstrates the great depth and diversity of research talent we have at the University, and I congratulate the recipients on their exceptional achievements.”

Nominations are now open for the Academy’s 2024 honorific awards. Nominations close 1 May 2023. Find out more.