29/07/2021 - The Premier's Science Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding scientific research and engagement taking place in Western Australia. The awards are a keystone in the Western Australian government’s efforts to raise the profile of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Western Australia.
The Life Sciences finalists are:
Scientist of the Year
Professor Johannes (Hans) Thieo Lambers The University of Western Australia
Professor Johannes (Hans) Thieo Lambers’ research in the field of plant physiological ecology has transformed our understanding of plant-environment interactions and plant nutrition. His work has impacted practices in mine site restoration, increased our understanding of Western Australia’s hyperdiverse communities, informed efficient use of phosphorus in farming systems and provided guidance on effective combinations of intercrops for more sustainable agriculture. Beyond his own research, Professor Lambers has shown strong leadership in outreach. As founder of the Kwongan Foundation, he has organised regular colloquia, field trips and workshops to inform the public and industry about our State’s spectacular environment. His contributions to education have motivated many young scientists to pursue careers in plant physiological ecology, to benefit conservation, restoration and agricultural industries.
Professor Britta Regli-von Ungern-Sternberg The University of Western Australia | Perth Children’s Hospital | Telethon Kids Institute
Professor Britta Regli-von Ungern-Sternberg is a paediatric anaesthetist who has gained global recognition as a research leader in her field. Professor Ungern-Sternberg has achieved this by identifying key issues for clinicians, children and families, and by driving collaborations that extend the reach and impact of her research. Professor Ungern-Sternberg’s patient-centred research has led to significant global practice changes to paediatric anaesthesia and consequently, a reduction in complications. Her goal is to ensure that when a child needs a vital operation, it is as safe and pain-free as possible. She mentors junior researchers and emerging research leaders with her vision, generosity and enthusiasm having long-lasting positive effects in Western Australia, both on paediatric anaesthesia research and on patient care.
Professor Christopher Reid Curtin University
Professor Christopher Reid is a renowned clinical trialist and epidemiologist. He is leading research that saves lives and identifies better ways to prevent and treat individuals and communities in order to reduce one of Australia’s major causes of death and disease burden. Professor Reid’s research into the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease has led to improved health outcomes at both the individual and community level. He has established world class capability in the conduct of large-scale community based clinical trials and leads the development of Australian cardiovascular clinical quality registries in cardiac surgery, interventional cardiology and heart failure. Professor Reid’s work has had an impact on clinical guidelines around the world, starting in the Western Australian healthcare system.
Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year
Associate Professor Edward Litton The University of Western Australia | Fiona Stanley Hospital
Associate Professor Edward Litton is an intensive care specialist whose goal is to improve the outcomes for critically ill patients requiring treatment in intensive care. Recently, his contribution to the COVID-19 response includes developing and helping to implement a large international clinical trial that has identified effective treatments for severe COVID-19, leading a study to inform Australian intensive care COVID-19 preparedness, and evaluating, reporting, and feeding back Australian intensive care COVID-19 outcomes. His research findings have been incorporated into international guidelines, informing intensive care policy and practice, and helping to improve outcomes for more than 10,000 Western Australians who require intensive care treatment each year.
Dr Alex Tang The University of Western Australia
Dr Alex Tang leads a research team that seeks to develop novel treatments to promote ‘healthy brain ageing’ for aging patients and those with brain injuries. His research has investigated how brain stimulation can be used to promote neuroplasticity in health and disease. Key achievements include the development of novel brain stimulation devices to study and alter the brain in an experimental setting, now used in laboratories in Australia, New Zealand, France and the USA, and the development of critical brain stimulation safety data that is being adopted in clinical practice worldwide. Outside of the lab, Dr Tang is a passionate science communicator and enjoys participating in STEM activities both locally and internationally.
ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year
Nikhilesh Bappoo The Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research | The University of Western Australia
Nikhilesh Bappoo is a passionate biomedical engineer specialising in vascular engineering research and medical devices. He has a vision to use medical research and engineering innovation to modernize and improve the quality, delivery and equity of global healthcare. His research spans from “engineering the placenta” by simulating the blood flow to predict developmental abnormalities during pregnancy to predicting aneurysm rupture, hence assisting vascular surgeons best plan treatment. Nik’s entrepreneurial mindset has led to the formation of VeinTech, a WA medical device company, aiming to reduce the high rate of failure of first pass cannulation. He also manages product development, regulatory affairs and quality management for VitalTrace, another WA medical device company developing a novel biosensor device to improve the childbirth process for mothers, clinicians and babies.
Eleanor Dunlop Curtin University
Eleanor Dunlop is a dietitian and final-year PhD student at Curtin University, with a focus on dietary vitamin D. Eleanor’s research has determined the vitamin D content of commonly-consumed foods in Australia and the amount of vitamin D Australians usually consume from food. Eleanor is assessing whether increasing vitamin D in the food supply would safely and effectively improve vitamin D status in the Australian population. During her research training she has published extensively, attracted significant research funding and her findings have been presented at ten national and international conferences. She supervises Master of Dietetics students, and engages actively with the community through presentations to community groups and organisations.
Katherine Landwehr Curtin University | Telethon Kids Institute
Katherine Landwehr is a final-year PhD student studying the health impacts of exposure to biodiesel exhaust. Employing a suite of advanced pre-clinical exposure models, Katherine has shown for the first time that the type of biodiesel used is critical when assessing exhaust toxicity and that there is a spectrum of toxicity related to the chemical properties of the fuel. Her research has provided evidence for targeted future investment in certain renewable oils and has been widely disseminated at numerous local, national and international conferences and meetings, and published in high-impact journals. She is the recipient of multiple awards and has initiated and fostered several collaborations between teams in Western Australia.
Niamh Troy Telethon Kids Institute | The University of Western Australia
Niamh Troy is a PhD candidate at the Wal-yan Respiratory Research Centre who is conducting research to better understand the immune response to respiratory viral infections in asthma using cutting-edge bioinformatics. Niamh’s work provides critical evidence for how we can use bacterial therapeutics to harness the innate immune system to protect against severe lung infections in infants. This work places Western Australia at the forefront in the global race to identify safe preventative therapies for lower respiratory infections that can be given during infancy. Niamh has an impressive track record of high impact publications, competitive awards and prizes and additionally extends her leadership skills beyond her own research, through collaborations, primary school outreach and communicating her research to the public.
Shell Aboriginal STEM Student of the Year
Daniel Curran Curtin University
Daniel Curran is an outstanding Aboriginal medical student committed to Closing the Gap. He completed the Indigenous pre-medicine enabling course through the Centre for Aboriginal Studies as the top achiever and is now in his third year of a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery at Curtin University. Daniel is the first Aboriginal tutor in the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme. He has acted on the Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association Student Representative Committee and is the First Nations representative for Curtin’s Health Sciences Student Consultative Committee. He is a role model for aspiring Aboriginal medical doctors and healthcare professionals.
Danielle Headland The University of Western Australia | Telethon Kids Institute
Danielle Headland is a Whadjuk Yued woman from the Noongar Nation and emerging child health researcher. She holds a Bachelor of Health Science from The University of Western Australia and is currently deepening her research skills and knowledge through a Graduate Certificate in Population Health Studies. Danielle combines her studies with ongoing work as an Aboriginal Research Officer with the Telethon Kids Ear Health team as well as mentoring in the Aurora Education Foundation, Aboriginal high school program. She is Chair of the Telethon Kids Aboriginal Staff Network, serves on the Summer Indigenous National Genomics Conference organising committee and volunteers at the Telethon Kids Discovery Centre. She is a passionate advocate for STEM education and the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal communities.
Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year
Exciting Enthusiasm for BioDiscovery in Young Minds Lotterywest BioDiscovery Centre, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
The Lotterywest BioDiscovery Centre at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research has been a focal point of health literacy in Western Australia since launching in 2014. Visitors to the BioDiscovery Centre engage in research-based experiments under the guidance of researchers. This experience, where members of the public can use a purpose-built teaching laboratory within a medical research facility, is the only one of its kind in Australia. Over the past seven years, more than 10,000 people have participated in its programs, including those from diverse backgrounds and life stages, including school students, community groups and corporate teams. Participants often remain connected for many years after their initial visit, through volunteering, community fundraising or completing research degrees.