The Australian Academy of Science recognised five individuals for their career achievements in 2013.
- The search for dark matter was kicked off by Ken Freeman’s discovery that there wasn’t enough matter to hold spiral galaxies like ours together.
- Medicines based on metals like copper, chromium and ruthenium could come out of chemist Peter Andrew Lay’s study of how they work on diabetes, cancer and inflammation.
- Big data can help solve problems in public health, biological systems and the natural environment using statistical computer algorithms developed by Matthew Paul Wand.
- Symmetries found by mathematician Cheryl Elisabeth Praeger lie at the heart of permutations and real-world systems, from large agricultural experiments to the patterns of weaving.
- Geologists use Roger Powell’s models and computer software to determine how metamorphic rocks were formed in the intense heat beneath the Earth’s crust.
A further eight researchers under the age of 40 received the Academy’s early-career awards.
- Microbes in soil may determine the development of plants that grow in them, and Ulrike Mathesius’s work understanding how they do this could open possibilities for improving crops.
- How blood cells form, how they develop into cancer and how both these processes are affected by cancer treatments are being illuminated by Benjamin Kile’s research.
- An improved understanding of the genetics of mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside our cells, is enabling Aleksandra Filipovska to create new drugs to treat diseases caused when they malfunction.
- Convincing evidence of the link between worsening heatwaves in Australia and greenhouse gas emissions has been provided by Lisa Alexander.
- A new understanding of the movement of tectonic plates and the formation of mountains, volcanoes and deep-sea trenches has come from Wouter Schellart’s theories of the dynamics of the solid Earth.
- Techniques developed by Aurore Delaigle for analysing data and finding the patterns and relations behind them are being applied to complex investigations in biology and physics, such as the search for gravitational waves.
- A map of galaxies created using Australian telescopes has enabled Christopher Adam Blake to determine the strength and smoothness of dark energy, the mysterious force that’s causing the accelerating expansion of the Universe.
- Polymers and nanomaterials assembled by chemist Sébastien Perrier with what he calls ‘molecular lego’ are being used for sustainable new materials for paint, personal care and health and medicine.
A full list of AAS awards is at www.science.org.au/awards