News & Events

Young science gets a blast in WA


From investigating autism to building robust offshore pipelines, and from innovating better controls for our appliances to enhancing food security and prenatal heath, these young scientists represent the innovative drive of research in Western Australia.

Eight young scientists were honoured at the 2011 WA Young Tall Poppy Science Awards on Wednesday 7 December at Curtin University for excellence in their research and commitment to community engagement.

2011 WA winners are:

A/Prof Ben Corry, University of Western Australia
What does the provision of cheap, clean, non-salty drinking water have to do with the way that electrical signals are sent between cells in the body? Ben’s research bridges chemistry, physics and biology.  It has implications for neuromuscular diseases, the development of new antibiotics and how to decrease the cost of desalinating water.

Dr Aleksandra Filipovska, WAIMR / University of Western Australia
Mitochondria are microscopic, energy producing machines found in all human cells. Defects cause debilitating neurodegenerative diseases for which there are no cures. Aleksandra’s group has developed new technologies to help understand how defects cause disease, provide insights into new treatments and develop therapeutics that can help treatment.

Dr Lorenzo Ntogramatzidis, Curtin University
We are surrounded by control systems: household washing machines, heating and cooling systems, aircraft and CDs. As users we usually take control for granted. Lorenzo’s goal is to design of controllers that influence the behaviour of such systems in the best possible way. There are always disturbances, and he works to obtain a desired outcome nevertheless.

Dr Monique Robinson, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research / UWA
Monique is trying to find out what sorts of events during pregnancy determine whether or not a mental health problem will develop and how these experiences cause poorer mental health. She has already found numerous risk factors including stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and hypertension.

Dr Keith Stubbs, University of Western Australia
Keith studies the mechanisms by which bacteria are able to cause infections and evade our immune system. Many diseases are caused by improper function of carbohydrate-processing enzymes. He aims to find ways to restore the function of these enzymes bringing a better quality of life to sufferers. He is already a co-inventor on four patents.

Dr Bruce Webber, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
Bruce explores the effect of climate change on invasive plants (weeds) and future food security. He has generated a freely available global climate dataset and his research on food security examines the effect of climate change on yield and nutritional value in globally important crops such as cassava: the ‘drought, war and famine crop’.

Professor David White, University of Western Australia
David has pioneered research into the behaviour of shallow seabed sediments and devising analysis techniques for the response of foundations and pipelines laid on soft and unstable seabed sediments. His results are being used to assess the stability of all the major pipelines currently being designed to tap Australia’s offshore gas resources.

A/Prof Andrew Whitehouse, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research / UWA
Autism is a debilitating developmental disorder affecting approximately one in every 100 Australians, but the exact causes of the condition remain unclear. Andrew’s research aims to discover the biological and environmental causes of autism, and to use this understanding to identify and treat affected children as early as possible.

2010 WA Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year A/Prof Kristen Nowak, WAIMR / UWA co-presented the awards after the announcement that she would be the WA Young Tall Poppy Campaign Ambassador. She was joined by Professor Lance Twomey AO, Chair of the WA judging panel and AIPS Board Director.

Professor Jo Ward, Dean of Science at Curtin, announced the 2011 WA Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year from amongst the winners – Professor David White. Professor White received a $5,000 cash prize.

The 2011 WA Young Tall Poppy Awards are supported by the Curtin University, Edith Cowan University and the University of Western Australia as well as federal government seed funding through the Department of Health and Ageing.