Find out more about our finalists.

Anu Rajendran, Swinburne University of Technology

Autonomous Life support Systems for Astronauts

Anu is a Human factors Engineer who started her career in Industry developing concepts for Augmented reality technology before moving onto conversational user interfaces and machine learning. As a specialist in developing emerging technology applications Anu is completing her PhD in applying her unique skill set to filling a knowledge gap in developing symbiotic life support systems for Astronauts.

Cody Frear, The University of Queensland Faculty of Medicine

Queensland winner
Out with the old, in with the Noo-Noo

Mr. Frear is a fifth-year MD-PhD candidate at the University of Queensland. He originally hails from Arizona, USA, where he studied anthropology and completed an honours thesis in the field of virology. While volunteering at an HIV/AIDS clinic in The Gambia, he developed an interest in clinical science, which propelled him to pursue research at the Centre for Children's Burns & Trauma Research. 

Dr Darja Kragt, The University of Western Australia

Western Australia wildcard
No more bad leaders!

Darja Kragt is a Lecturer in Work Psychology at the University of Western Australia. Darja's research is focused on leadership training and development. She is particularly interested how one's self-perception as a leader (or leader identity) shapes leadership behaviours and effectiveness. Darja is passionate about teaching others how to become better leaders. 

Dr Laura McCaughey, University of Technology Sydney

New South Wales runner up

Tackling the Antibiotic Resistance Crisis with antibiotic discovery

Laura McCaughey is a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Research Fellow working at the University of Technology Sydney. Laura's research focusses on finding new antibiotics and understanding how they work, to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance.

Dr Madeleine Ferrari, The University of Sydney

New South Wales winner
The Most Important Relationship is the One with Ourselves: Self-compassion and Adolescence

Dr Madeleine Ferrari is a registered psychologist with clinical endorsement and a clinical psychology lecturer at Australian Catholic University (Strathfield campus). She is passionate about self-care and promoting wellbeing and is completing a PhD at the University of Sydney investigating the potential benefits of oneself-compassion for adolescents.

Emily Brogan, Edith Cowan University

Western Australia runner up

Improving treatment for people with aphasia

Dr Emily Brogan is a clinician scientist and research romantic in the field of speech pathology. She holds a post-doctoral research fellowship investigating treatment for aphasia, an acquired communication difficulty after stroke. She continues to work clinically in Perth and is a passionate committee member for Aphasia WA - a support group for people with aphasia.

Lynn Nazareth, Menzies Health Research Institute, Griffith University

Queensland runner up
Topic: Discovering ways to protect your brain

Lynn is a Neuroscience PhD candidate at Griffith University. She studies how cells in your nose eat stuff like bacteria. Lynn loves her research and LOVES talking about it! She other passion is also encouraging the next generation of scientists, especially women to explore the wonderful world of science and making a difference in the world through a career in STEM. 

Nisharnthi Duggan, The University of Sydney

New South Wales wildcard
A surprising treatment for stroke

Nisha is a PhD candidate at The University of Sydney working in the field of organic chemistry and chemical biology. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science Advanced with Honours degree from Monash University in 2016. In 2017, Nisha undertook research at the ANU and CSIRO before beginning her PhD in 2018. As well as her research, Nisha has a passion for science communication and science writing.

Samuel Hinton, The University of Queensland

Queensland wildcard
Topic: Can you hear the Big Bang?

Samuel Hinton is a PhD candidate studying Dark Energy and Dark Matter, two mysterious components of the Universe. Samuel is a passionate speaker not just about space and his research, but about critical thinking and seeing through pseudoscience. Appearing on Australian Survivor, ThinkInc, numerous radio stations and in his own podcast, Samuel is always keen to talk about science! 


Sarah Belet, Monash University

Monash University
Victorian winner
Maths, Medicine and Mosquito Sex

Sarah is an applied mathematician and MPhil student at Monash University. Her research uses mathematical tools to stop the spread of dengue fever by predicting mosquito behaviour. Sarah is passionate about making mathematics accessible, and has appeared on The Conversation, ABC Drive Radio and Today Tonight to discuss how mathematics comes up in everyday life, sometimes in surprising ways.