2018's national finalists

Anisa Rowhani-Farid - Queensland University of Technology

Anisa Rowhani-Farid

Queensland University of Technology

Towards a culture of open science and data sharing in health and medical research

Data is the foundation of health and medical research. Data sharing promotes the verification of research findings. Transparency is central to strengthening the scientific method, and data provides the key to scientific truth. So, how can we improve research practices to free hidden data? Anisa looks at the role journals play through their data sharing policies and incentives for researchers to share data.


Ben McAllister - ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems

Ben McAllister

ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems / University of Western Australia

The ORGAN Experiment: Shining a light on dark matter

What is the nature of dark matter that surrounds us? How might we detect it? We are surrounded by mysterious “dark” matter of unknown composition, which composes 5/6 of all matter in the universe. Consider what humanity has accomplished with the fraction of matter we understand: the impacts of discovering new matter that is 5X as abundant as regular matter are staggering, and difficult to overstate. Ben's work aims to answer these questions.


James Wong - University of Western Australia

James Wong

The University of Western Australia

Breathing while you hop: How do kangaroos do it?

James aims to understand how the lungs and airways work in kangaroos. Whether their large body mass will adversely affect their breathing. He is taking on a comparative physiology approach that has been successful in understanding the mechanisms in different systems. His project will combine real breathing data measured while kangaroo hopping and MRI 3D modelling data to image the airway tree to tie the respiratory structure and function together.

Curtin University / Autism CRC

Mortaza Rezae

Curtin University/Autism CRC

Empowering beautiful minds

Transportation is a major obstacle for individuals with autism spectrum. It is common for them to be trapped at home, unable to participate in meaningful activities including employment and education, due to limited transport accessibility. In Mortaza's work, they develop and pilot a mobile app that empowers autistic individuals to travel independently using public transport. The goal is to make the world a friendlier place for people living with autism spectrum.

Muthu Vignesh Vellayappan - Monash University

Muthu Vignesh Vellayappan

Monash University

Groovy Patches

Heart diseases are killing 1 Australian every12min. Heart transplantation remains the only definitive treatment but donors are limited and most patients die while waiting for a suitable heart. Heart patches can be used to treat heart patients but the heart muscle cells don’t efficiently align on the patch, leading to poor healing. Muthu’s research attempts to fill this void by using 3D printing and post-processing techniques to produce an effective grooved cardiac patch material. 

Pegah Maasoumi - ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science

Pegah Maasoumi

ARC Centre of Excellence for Exciton Science

Solar Windows

Solar energy is one version of cheap energy. It is easy to install couple of solar cells on the roof, however, in large cities, most people live in tall towers with no individual roof.  My work will help everyone even in tiny apartments to get access to cheap energy. Every window or sound barriers in highways would act as solar cell by harvesting the sun light. My research not only will provide cheap energy even to city folks.  but also, will be beneficial toward global warming.

Richard Charlesworth - University of New England

Richard Charlesworth

University of New England

Coeliac disease diagnosis can be a pain in the posterior

Richard's focus is to improve the diagnosis of coeliac disease (CD). Currently the most conclusive form of testing for CD is based on examining tissue through a microscope, where subtle changes can be missed. The work involves the development of a novel test for CD, a gene array that can look at the expression of different genes simultaneously. Mathematical modelling of the data and predictive equations can diagnose CD with 96% accuracy. 

Taryn Laubenstein - James Cook University

Taryn Laubenstein

ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies / James Cook University

A Tail of Two Fishes: How Damsels and Kings cope with Climate Change

The world's oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic due to the burning of fossil fuels. This creates an environment that is harmful to fish, affecting their behavior and physical condition. But the effects of climate change can vary depending on the fish and its habitat. How do these differences affect fish's ability to adapt to future conditions? Taryn's work seeks to answer these questions and more.

Toby Hendy - Australian National University

Toby Hendy

Australian National University

Poking Plants

Toby pokes plants with needles to understand how plants defend themselves from disease. There is potential in her research to create resistant crops and decrease world food shortages. Toby's needles mimic the way a pathogen would pierce through a plant cell to spread disease. So far she has found a new minimum pressure that can trigger a defence response in the plant; stiffening of the cell wall. She works on the coffee crop which is one of the species at risk of disease infection.

Vanessa Pirotta – Macquarie University

Vanessa Pirotta

Macquarie University


Using drones to collect whale snot

Vanessa's research project investigates use of drones to collect health information from free swimming whales. Collection of whale blow/snot is done via a custom-built drone. Previous methods to collect health information from whales came from those that stranded or from those that were deliberately killed. Current methods involve close boat approaches using a pole. Vanessa research is revolutionizing the way scientists collect health information from whales.