Young Scientist Research Prizes 2021

Every year, final year PhD candidates present their doctoral studies to the Royal Society of Victoria, competing for prizes recognising excellence in Victoria’s young researchers. Eight finalists present under the four categories: Biological Sciences, Biomedical & Health Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Physical Sciences. In our second year of COVID lockdowns, our participants rose to the challenge to deliver compelling presentations for National Science Week.

Surviving the Journey: Protecting Astronauts from Space Radiation

NASA’s Artemis program is preparing to send the first woman and next man to the South Pole of the Moon as soon as 2024. With the return of humans to space, we must think about how our astronauts will be protected from the constant bombardment of cosmic and solar radiation, without the protection of Earth’s magnetic field. Experimental physicist Dr Gail Iles delved into the current methods in use and under development.

Inspired by Nature: Engineering Multifunctional Materials

What does DNA, snowflakes and the hydrophobic effect have in common? They are all example of molecular self-assembly! Inspired by this process of nature, Dr Nisa Salim used attractive and repulsive forces to influence molecules to interact, and in doing so created an array of nanostructures capable of becoming solar cells, drug delivery systems, and in her newest venture – manipulating carbon fibre to be stronger than steel, lighter than aluminium and even electrically conductive! For her work in carbon manufacturing, Dr Nisa Salim was awarded the 2020 Phillip Law Postdoctoral Award for the Physical Sciences and explains how a nature-inspired approach to manufacturing can be the key to many issues facing our time – from climate control, water management and even high speed travel.

Structural Energy Storage – The 2020 Phillip Law Postdoctoral Award

With electric vehicles predicted to represent 90% of all cars and light commercial vehicles on Australian roads by 2050, structural supercapacitors have the potential to revolutionise our transport by providing ‘mass-less’ energy storage, storing electrical energy in lightweight structural components of a vehicle’s body instead of in heavy, sole-purpose batteries. Dr Nisa Salim and her research team are working with multinational companies and Australian SMEs to demonstrate the exciting potential of these new supercapacitors, leveraging her collaborative relationships with a global academic and industrial network to take this cutting-edge research from the lab to the market place.

Industry 4.0 in the Frame – the Royal Society of Victoria’s 2020 Research Medallist

According to Dr Anita Hill, CSIRO’s Chief Research Scientist, “There are several impressive factors about Professor Fox. Her ability to communicate, inspire, and advocate for science is evident not only from the ecosystem that she has been able to create and fund but also from her presentations, several of which are available on YouTube as TEDx talks or interviews. She provides audiences of any background a vision of the future and one where Australia is designing and manufacturing the lightweight materials of future mobility (flying cars, hyperloops). She is a role model for STEM and for supporting high tech companies in Australia. She is recognised internationally, and uses her networks to Australia’s advantage.”