University of Adelaide experts awarded top honours

World-renowned University of Adelaide medical expert Professor Helen Marshall AM has been named the SA Scientist of the Year, alongside experts who have been recognised for excellence in their chosen fields.

Professor Helen Marshall

Professor Helen Marshall AM

Professor Marshall AM, who is the Research Leader for Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at the University’s Robinson Research Institute and Clinical Research Director at the Women’s and Children’s Health Network, received the top honour at the 2023 Science Excellence and Innovation Awards.

The awards, which were announced in a ceremony on Friday 17 November, are the State’s premier science showcase event highlighting the importance of research in South Australia.

Professor Marshall’s vision is to give children and young people, particularly those living in disadvantaged circumstances, the best protection against life-threatening infections such as meningococcal disease, by improving equitable access to vaccines.

“Professor Marshall is an exceptional research scientist, leader and mentor and I congratulate her on being recognised as the SA Scientist of the Year for 2023,” said University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter H­­­øj AC.

“She is a world leader in her field, working tirelessly through her research to improve the lives of children and their families while inspiring future generations of scientists.”

Ms Jill Bauer

Ms Jill Bauer

Other University of Adelaide experts who won awards include Ms Jill Bauer who has been named STEMM Educator of the Year.

With a diverse career spanning a quarter of a century in the wine industry, Ms Bauer brings a passion for wine science and building community and culture to her teaching. Her innovative approaches combine contemporary teaching and technologies, including equipment and software new to the Australian wine landscape. Ms Bauer thrives on catalysing connections between students and industry, having initiated the Vintage Conversations series, which invites professionals to share their stories on career pathways, mentors, and exposing gender biases.

Ms Bauer creates a positive learning environment where students of all backgrounds are challenged to succeed. She created a series of videos, transcribed into Mandarin, to level the playing field for students without experience in a semi-industrial setting, which have resulted in improved student confidence, and were invaluable when remote teaching was introduced.

Professor Sean Connell

Professor Sean Connell

Additionally, a team including University of Adelaide researchers Professor Sean Connell and Dr Dominic McAfee, and colleagues Ms Sandy Carruthers, Ms Anita Nedosyko and Mr Alan Noble, has won the award for Excellence in Science and Industry Collaboration for their project to revive lost oyster reefs.

The collaboration between the researchers, conservation organisations and the Government has revived an extinct ecosystem to restore fish production and water quality for the enjoyment of people, and to provide economic opportunities.

Oyster reefs once carpeted our gulfs to provide food and shelter for fish and clean the coastal waters with their filter feeding but had been dredged to extinction. Drawing on knowledge from marine biologists and marine engineers that baby oysters can hear underwater sounds and use them to navigate, the team played underwater music that is attractive to baby oysters and provided them with highways of sound to navigate to reefs being built for them.

Part of this work involved building homemade speakers to play the most attractive sounds for oysters, so that the oysters can rebuild their reefs far quicker than nature would normally allow. This journey created a eureka moment in science with the discovery that marine life can be so fundamentally influenced by sound that their entire life cycles can depend on the natural production of healthy soundscapes.

“These awards demonstrate that University of Adelaide experts are leading the way not just through their world-class research but also through our exceptional teachers and innovative teaching methods,” said Professor H­­­øj.

The SA Science Excellence and Innovation Awards recognise the work of inspiring Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine leaders and teams working in research and education institutions, schools, industry and the community.

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