Adelaide researchers win Academy of Science awards

Professor Tanya Monro.
Photo by Jennie Groom.

Professor Tanya Monro.
Photo by Jennie Groom.

Full Image (96.79K)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Two University of Adelaide researchers have been rewarded for scientific excellence in the Australian Academy of Science awards.

The awards will see the Academy present a total of $218,000 in medals and support to researchers from across Australia at its annual conference in May 2012.

"Each year, it is the Academy's privilege to recognise excellence in diverse fields of science," said the Academy's President, Professor Suzanne Cory.

"Several of the awards celebrate career-long contributions by some of Australia's most distinguished researchers; others draw attention to remarkable discoveries made by younger investigators. The Academy warmly congratulates each of these outstanding awardees."

2012 award winners from the University of Adelaide are:

Professor Tanya Monro

Professor Monro has won the prestigious Pawsey Medal. The medal - named in honour of the late Dr JL Pawsey, FAA - recognises outstanding research in physics by scientists under the age of 40.

As Director of the Institute for Photonics & Advanced Sensing (IPAS) and the Centre of Expertise in Photonics (CoEP) at the University of Adelaide, Professor Monro leads a team of academics, researchers, technicians and professional staff.

Professor Monro has made contributions of international significance to emerging areas of optical physics, most notably in the development of novel photonic, sensing and measurement technologies.

The Pawsey Medal recognises a number of key achievements by Professor Monro and her team, including: creating optical fibre cores that act as nanowires for sensing devices; creating the world's first surface-functionalised optical fibre 'dip sensor'; a new form of surface sensor that enables rapid virus detection; a new form of optical fibre that allows the fibre itself to be an active sensing material; setting the record for the world's smallest nonlinear fibre, nearly 6000 times smaller than conventional telecommunications fibres; creating porous fibres for transmission of TeraHertz radiation (T-rays); and encapsulating diamond nanoparticles in glass to create a hybrid material.

"Winning the Pawsey Medal is a great honour, and it reflects the enormous breadth and depth of the work being conducted at IPAS, from the discovery and demonstration of new devices, pushing the boundaries of known optical fibre theory and design, and our research into materials and fabrication," Professor Monro said.

"Ultimately, our work aims to change the way science is done within traditional discipline areas, to stimulate the creation of new industries, and to inspire a new generation of scientists to be engaged in solving real-world problems."

Professor Monro was named the 2011 Scopus Young Researcher of the Year for Physical Sciences, and is South Australia's Australian of the Year 2011.

Rebecca West

Ms West has won research support from the Margaret Middleton Fund. This fund assists research into native Australian endangered animals, in the hopes of better understanding the causes of their decline and the means for their recovery.

A PhD student with the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Ms West will receive funding for her project, Returning warru (black-footed rock-wallabies) to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of South Australia.

Ms West has been using GPS collars and remote surveillance cameras to monitor the movement patterns of wild and reintroduced black-footed rock-wallabies (known to traditional land owners as warru), to assess how they use the habitat and how they interact with one another. She is also using the data to examine how warru use patch burns, to see if fire management can be used to improve the habitat structure and food availability for rock-wallabies.

Ms West said the Academy's funding would be an important boost for her research, which is part of the Warru Recovery Team's broader Recovery Plan.

"This funding will enable me to conduct the next stage of my research, which, as well as the ongoing monitoring, will also include genetic analyses of new wild warru found this year. It will also allow me to continue to employ Anangu rangers to assist with the field work for next year," she said.

"The remote camera surveillance, which is based at a number of water points, has been very useful. Recently we've seen that three out of four females reintroduced to the APY lands are carrying pouch young, which means they've been breeding since reintroduction. That's excellent news."


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