Prime Minister’s Prizes Honour Excellence in Science

Media release
17 Oct 2018
Prime Minister, Minister for Industry Science and Technology

A Professor who revealed how our planet changes shape from second to second, day to day has taken out one of two major awards in the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

Emeritus Professor Kurt Lambeck is one of ten winners of seven prizes awarded tonight, sharing in $750,000 of prize money.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison congratulated all those who received prizes which recognise the extraordinary contribution Australia’s scientists, innovators, and science, technology and maths teachers make to our nation.

“The practical applications for Professor Lambeck’s research at the Australian National University are incredible,” said the Prime Minister.

“His work forms the basis for GPS-based systems used in agriculture, mineral exploration and smartphone navigation.

Professor Lambeck received the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, one of the top two awards.

The other major award, the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, went to the Finisar team for creating technologies that have made the internet faster and more efficient.

Team members are Dr Simon Poole, Mr Andrew Bartos, Dr Glenn Baxter and Dr Steven Frisken.

“About half of the world’s internet traffic travels through devices developed by Finisar and made in Sydney,” Mr Morrison said.

Prime Minister Morrison also presented:

  • The $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools to Dr Scott Sleap for opening young eyes to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Dr Sleap created the Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence in regional NSW.
  • The $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools to Mr Brett Crawford, for creating an environment in which every teacher is engaged in science. Mr Crawford is the lead science teacher at Warrigal Road State School in Brisbane.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews presented three of the prizes, congratulating the winners for providing shining beacons of inspiration for a generation of new science leaders in Australia.

“I am delighted to be involved in these awards, which show the great talent in science that Australia can produce,” Minister Andrews said. 

“The Coalition Government is committed to supporting our best and brightest in science and in particular, promoting the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects at school and university level.

“It is important that boys and girls, men and women have an equal opportunity to study STEM subjects, which are the foundations of the career achievements we celebrate tonight.”

Minister Andrews presented:

  • The $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year to Adjunct Professor Lee Berger from James Cook University and The University of Melbourne for saving frogs, and revealing new extinction threats.  Adjunct Professor Berger discovered that a fungus had caused frog extinctions.
  • The $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year to Associate Professor Jack Clegg from The University of Queensland for creating flexible crystals. His crystals could make smartphones and other electronics more robust.
  • The $50,000 Prize for New Innovators to Melbourne-based Dr Geoff Rogers for creating a steerable guidewire that could transform cardiac and other non-invasive cardiac surgery.

The Coalition recognises the importance of science and technology as drivers of our economy, and ensuring Australia’s strength in these sectors will help generate more local jobs and higher living standards. That’s why we’ve invested $2.4 billion in Australia’s research, science and technology capabilities in the 2018-19 Budget, underscored by a $1.9 billion investment to update our National Research Infrastructure.

Full citations, photos, videos and overlay are available online: www.science.gov.au/pmscienceprizes