2014 Eureka Prizes for science winners unveiled

By Frances Mao/AAP 11 September 2014
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The top leaders and communicators in Australian science have been revealed

INVENTORS OF A $2 smartphone microscope and Ebola-fighting resources have won the nation’s top gongs at the 2014 Eureka Prizes for science.

Sydneysiders Tri Phan and Steve Lee won the Innovative Use of Technology prize for creating a plastic droplet that can be hooked into smartphones to create a cheap high-powered microscope.

“I think where this will have a lot of potential is in the delivery of medicine to remote and rural communities,” said Tri before the awards.

“If someone has a suspect-looking mole you could get them to take a magnified image on the phone and send it to a specialist thousands of kilometres away and they could receive a diagnosis.

“There are so many possibilities for a portable microscope that’s cheap but really high-powered … we’re looking to get a model out on the market in six months.”

Tri projects the technology will be available in six months.

Eureka Awards celebrate excelence in science

In creating the first vaccine against the Hendra virus, a CSIRO unit in Victoria developed methods that are being used in the ongoing battle against Ebola.

The Eureka Prizes are presented annually by the Australian Museum and recognise outstanding contributions to the industry across the fields of research, innovation, leadership and communication.

In the 25th year of the awards, scientists from universities, private research institutions and even schools have been rewarded from the $150,000 prize pool.

Australian Museum chief executive Kim McKay said the awards showed the brilliance of the nation’s scientists.

“An optical plastic droplet that costs a cent to make and that can be used by anyone who has a smartphone – it’s an excellent example of how clever research is making people’s lives better and the technology accessible,” she said.

Other winning inventions included water-efficient grain farming methods and life buoys for helicopter crashes at sea.

Kim says she expects the prize money to fund future inventions.

“We provide the money as an incentive because unlike you or me, we know scientists will re-invest that money and use it for more research and more innovation,” she said.

Full list of Eureka Prize winners

Australian Government Eureka Prize for Science Journalism
Winner: Sonya Pemberton, Genepool Productions

Australian Government Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research
Winner: Professor Lesley Hughes, Macquarie University

University of Technology, Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
Winner: Professor Maree Teesson, Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use, University of New South Wales

Defence Science and Technology Organisation Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia
Winner: Tim Lyons, One Atmosphere.

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize – Primary
Winner: Harry Driessen, Croydon Public School, NSW

CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science
Winner: Professor Terence Speed, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography
Winner: Dr Mark Talbot, CSIRO Plant Industry.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research
Winner: Professor Graham Edgar and Dr Rick Stuart-Smith, University of Tasmania.

3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
Winner: Dr Adriana Downie, Pacific Pyrolysis Pty Ltd

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize – Secondary
Winner: Jackson Huang, Queensland Academy for Science, Mathematics and Technology, Qld

Department of Agriculture Landcare Eureka Prize for Sustainable Agriculture
Winner: Dr John Kirkegaard and Dr James Hunt, CSIRO and Stuart Kearns, Grains Research and Development Corporation

Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research
Winner: Hendra Virus Research Team, CSIRO

ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology
Winner: DIY Droplet Lens, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Australian National University

Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
Winner: Associate Professor Simon Ho, University of Sydney

University of New South Wales Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
Winner: SEARCH Project, University of Melbourne

University of New South Wales Eureka Prize for Scientific Research
Winner: B-cell Team, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research