7 September 2011

The University of Queensland has taken out three awards in the 22nd Annual Australian Museum Eureka Prizes in Sydney last night.

Professor Jian-xin Zhao, Mr John Cook and researchers from the Nanopatch Vaccination Team joined 76 other finalists for Australian science’s ‘night of nights’, each winning the award for their category and receiving $10,000 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 Zhao from UQ’s Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis won the inaugural University of Technology, Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers for his mentoring of researchers in the field of geochemistry and geochronology.

Under Professor Zhao’s direction, UQ’s Radiogenic Isotope Facility has become a world-class laboratory renowned for its ability to determine with great precision the age and composition of rock samples using elemental concentration and isotopic ratio analysis.

Five of Professor Zhao’s recent mentees at the facility have received Australian Research Council (ARC) fellowships and many more have gained other ARC and competitive grant schemes.

UQ alumnus Mr John Cook, the creator of SkepticalScience.com and a new appointment to UQ's Global Change Institute (GCI), won the NSW Government Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge.

The prize is awarded to an Australian individual, group or organisation for work that motivates action to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Mr Cook is Research Fellow in Climate Change Communication at the GCI and won the Eureka Prize for his work in communicating science to an online audience.

In his new position at UQ, Mr Cook will focus on the effective communication of the science around climate change and, working with the GCI team, enhance the delivery and use of evidence-based information by business, government and the wider community.

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

The stamp-sized vaccination device could revolutionise immunisation programs in developing nations, and has been described “vaccine utopia”.

The Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research by an Interdisciplinary Team is awarded to an Australian research partnership, group or team for a ground-breaking research outcome that has involved collaboration and integration between researchers from two or more unrelated disciplines.

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu congratulated the winners on their outstanding achievements.

“It is very exciting to see Professor Zhao, Mr Cook and the Nanopatch team be rewarded for their high-quality, internationally-recognised work,” he said.

“To have three of our academics receive a prize in such a prestigious award is an excellent outcome and reflects the University’s strengths in research and science.”

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

The University's recently established centre sponsored The Eureka Prize for Infectious Disease Research, which was won by Professor Alan Cowman and his team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) for their outstanding research on malaria.

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

Media: Caroline Bird (Office of Marketing and Communications; 07 3365 1931 or c.bird1@uq.edu.au)