13 September 2001

A scientist working on ways of putting a "prawn into space" is among nine winners of the 2001 UQ Foundation Research Excellence Awards, announced at a ceremony at Customs House in Brisbane last night.

The Awards, which are now in their third year, recognise outstanding performance and leadership potential of early career researchers at the University of Queensland.

One of the winners is Dr Justin Marshall, from the Vision, Touch and Hearing Research Centre, who is examining how the colour receptors of a small crustacean known as the mantis shrimp could help in the design of satellite cameras.

"Mantis shrimp have 12 colour photo-receptors in their eyes whereas humans only have three", Dr Marshall said.

"At the moment, design of cameras is driven very much by human-centred ideas. I'd like to go outside the envelope in an attempt to put a prawn into space.

"This prawn, which has 12 colour channels, is very much like a hyper-spectral satellite camera system and there are design principles in the perfectly evolved visual system of a prawn that can teach us something about how to design cameras for satellites," he said.

Other researchers presented with awards and funding of up to $80,000 each were:

- Dr Michael Jennings from the School of Molecular of Microbial Sciences for his work related to a possible vaccine for group B meningococcal meningitis. Dr Jennings is analysing the structure and mechanisms of sugar-containing molecules in the bacteria which causes meningococcal meningitis (Neisseria meningitidis), in the hope of finding a viable vaccine target.

- Dr Judith Greer from UQ's Medicine Department at Royal Brisbane Hospital for her work on the mechanisms of multiple sclerosis. Dr Greer is an immunologist who is interested in the processes which occur in auto-immune diseases, when the body literally turns on itself.

-Dr Alpha Yap from the School of Biomedical Sciences and the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) for his research on cell recognition. Dr Yap!|s work has implications for understanding tumour growth and the onset of cancer.

- Dr Robyn Gillies from the School of Education for her work on teacher and student communication. Dr Gillies is monitoring and analysing small-group dynamics to show the potential benefits of small-group learning.

- Dr Joanne Tompkins from the School of English, Media Studies and Art History for her research on the socio-political context of theatre spaces. Dr Tompkins is studying a number of key Australian theatre spaces, both for their individual features and for their location in the history of western theatre architecture.

-Associate Professor Michael Nielsen from the Special Research Centre for Quantum Computing Technology for his research on quantum information processing. Dr Nielsen is working on a project to build a computer based on quantum mechanics rather than the silicon chip.

- Dr Jian-xin Zhao from the School of Physical Sciences for his work on the geological dating of a human-like fossil known as Nanjing Man and the last interglacial-ice age boundaries. Dr Zhao's research casts further light on human origins and climate change.

-Dr Arne Dahle from the School of Engineering and the CRC for Cast Metals Manufacturing (CAST) for his work on the development of lighter, stronger metal alloys. Dr Dahle has discovered a way of controlling the solidification process of aluminium alloys.

The Awards are a joint initiative of The University of Queensland Foundation, the Vice-Chancellor!|s Strategic Initiative Fund and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Media: For more details about the research of the nine winners contact Peter McCutcheon (07 3365 1088 or 0413 380012) or Jan King (07 3365 1120 or 0413 601 248)