23 August 2011

Three scientists and a research team from The University of Queensland are finalists in the prestigious Australian Museum’s Eureka Prizes, which offers more than $240,000 in prize money.

Presented annually by the Australian Museum, the Eureka Prizes reward excellence in the fields of scientific research and innovation, science leadership, school science and science journalism and communication.

Professor Jian-xin Zhao, Dr Gene Tyson, Mr John Cook and researchers from the Nanopatch Vaccination Team will head to Sydney next month for the announcement of the winners of a range of categories, each valued at $10,000.

Based at the UQ Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, Professor Zhao is a finalist in the Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers category. He teaches his mentees how geochemistry and geochronology can unravel the past for a better understanding of the future.

He said being nominated for the Eureka Prize was both professionally and personally rewarding.

“I was quite humbled by the outcome,” he said.

“Being a finalist in this prize has put my team and me in a stronger position to attract research students and early career researchers to the University.

“I’ve always taught by the principles of treating my mentees the same way I treat my family and sharing team values, and that leadership is about serving, not lording.”

Dr Tyson, from UQ’s Advanced Water Management Centre, is a finalist in the Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science for his research in microbial communities in the environment, which could help provide solutions to today’s environmental challenges.

Mr John Cook, the creator of SkepticalScience.com and a new appointment to UQ's Global Change Institute (GCI), has been named as a finalist for the NSW Government Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge and is a Research Fellow in Climate Change Communication at the GCI.

The Nanopatch Vaccination Team, led by Professor Mark Kendall from UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering, is in the running for the Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research by an Interdisciplinary Team for its invention of a needle-free vaccine delivery device.

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research Professor Max Lu said having four finalists in the competition was a demonstration of the high-quality research being undertaken at UQ.

“The Eureka Prize is a highly respected and internationally recognised award, so to have four finalists, not only in the running for a prize but in a broad spread of categories, is a testament to the diverse research and science strengths of the University,” he said.

“I wish Professor Zhao, Dr Tyson, Mr Cook and the Nanopatch Vaccination Team all the best for the remainder of the competition.”

UQ’s new Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre (AID) is the first sponsor outside of NSW of the Eureka Prizes.

The University's recently established centre is sponsoring The Eureka Prize for Infectious Disease Research for the next three years. The $10,000 prize will be awarded to an individual or group for outstanding contribution to infectious disease research.

AID Centre Director Professor Mark Walker said: “This is an important step in raising awareness about infectious disease research both here at UQ and on an international scale.”

The winners of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes will be announced on September 6, 2011.

For more information visit the Australian Museum’s website at http://www.australianmuseum.net.au/eureka

Media: Caroline Bird (UQ Communications; 07 3365 1931 or c.bird1@uq.edu.au).