UTS researchers make the cut for science ‘Oscars’
Meet the academics selected as finalists for Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, the nation's premier science awards.
The four researchers have been recognised for their work to support emerging engineering innovators, create light-based nanotechnologies and invent sustainable wastewater solutions, with another part of a multi-institution team exploring reef ecology.
UTS Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
Distinguished Professor Karu Esselle
Professor Esselle has a passion for nurturing young researchers' careers, empowering his mentees to think freely and critically while helping them integrate into the wider scientific community. He works with emerging researchers and students to develop innovative new solutions for the optimisation of antennas and other electromagnetic systems.
Karu Esselle: Australia's future depends on young researchers. As a mentor, I help them to set their goals, and succeed. Some of them are re-directing radio waves using flat electronic panels that mimic optical prisms. Some are making flexible and wearable antennas. Their success will help to provide high-speed data connectivity to anyone or anything, anywhere in the world.
3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
Dr Jiajia Zhou
Disease diagnosis, manufacturing, solar energy harvesting, and fraud prevention could all benefit from the discoveries made by Dr Zhou's research. Her work has resulted in the solution of a significant physics problem by using the typically inactive surface of a nanomaterial to convert infrared light into bright visible light.
Dr Jiajia Zhou: A handy tool makes a handyman. I have established the high-resolution optical systems. The new tool allows material scientist to see the behavior of single nanoparticles. Using this tool, I led my team and developed many fascinating optical physics. We have developed a range of nanoscale temperature sensors, microcavity lasers, and single molecular tags to achieve new limits of detection so that the biologist can detect the localized temperature generated within a single living cell. The medical doctors know how much heat needed to kill a cancer cell.
Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher
Dr Qilin Wang
Dr Wang has invented an environmentally-friendly technology to transform costly, energy-consuming sewage treatment plants into energy producers. Currently undergoing commercialisation, his sustainable technology could provide significant energy, economic, environmental, and social benefits in Australia and around the world.
Dr Qilin Wang: Sewage treatment is energy intensive and generates greenhouse gas emissions. I have invented a closed loop technology to transform the energy consuming, high emissions, sewage treatment plants into the energy producing and low emission plants. This remarkable transformation is achieved by utilizing a by product of the sewage treatment process. This technology could provide economic, environmental, and social benefits for Australia, and it has potential applications beyond the sewage treatment.
UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Research
Social-Ecological Research Frontiers (includes UTS Professor David Booth)
Professor Booth is a partner in this multi-institution reef ecology program. The Social-Ecological Research Frontiers group also includes James Cook University; University of Tasmania; Macquarie University; Australia Institute of Marine Science; WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation, and Attractions; and The Nature Conservancy.
UTS Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Kate McGrath, applauded the finalists for their achievements.
“Congratulations to Karu, Jiajia, Qilin and David for being selected as Eureka finalists. This is well-earned recognition of their truly amazing work at the cutting-edge of Australian science and technology,” she said.
“Their success also reflects the growing national acknowledgement of UTS’ research achievements and our track record in delivering excellent research with real world impact.”
The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes recognise the best in Australian science research with awards across categories such as innovation and research, leadership, science engagement, and school science.
Recent UTS Eureka prize winners include Professor Longbing Cao (2019, Excellence in Data Science), Distinguished Professor Fang Chen (2018, Excellence in Data Science), Professor Patricia Davidson (2016, Outstanding Mentor) and Distinguished Professor Dayong Jin (2015, Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research).