Brightest young researchers picked for Tall Poppy Awards

Published Thursday, 18 August, 2016 at 09:27 AM

Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business
The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

An anthropologist studying why we make an opinion about a face in less than a second and a scientist waging war on superbugs were jointly named Queensland Young Tall Poppy of the Year at a ceremony last night.

The pair were among twelve Queensland researchers recognised for excellence in science and communicating science at an event at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane to coincide with National Science Week.

Dr Barnaby Dixson was selected as a Young Tall Poppy of the Year for his work defining what makes us attractive to some people and less appealing to others, confirming our brains are very visually developed.

Co-winner, Dr Makrina Totsika, received her award for research into bacteria and novel ways to block infection.

On congratulating the winners, Science Minister Leeanne Enoch said the awards were great recognition for up-and-coming researchers and helped raise the profile of science.

“Dr Dixson and Dr Totsika are ideal recipients of Young Tall Poppy Awards, both being high achievers and role models inspiring others about the possibilities of science,” Ms Enoch said. 

“They’re at the start of their careers but have already made important contributions in their fields and are sharing their passion for science with the broader community.

“They are making their science accessible and appealing, which is essential to attracting more young Queenslanders to follow in their footsteps into STEM careers.”

Dr Dixson and Dr Totsika were both awarded $7500 to support and promote their research.

Ms Enoch said the Tall Poppy program aligned with the Palaszczuk Government’s $405 million whole-of-government Advance Queensland innovation initiative.

Advance Queensland offers many programs to develop and retain world-class researchers in Queensland and increase the number of young people studying science, technology, engineering and maths in schools and universities.

The twelve Queensland Young Tall Poppy Award Winners were all acknowledged as exceptional researchers who are making great headway in areas including foot health, brain research, health services, insect-borne diseases, precision farming, and climate science.

The annual Young Tall Poppy Awards are run in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Policy and Science.

Queensland Chief Scientist Dr Geoff Garrett commended the winners for their significant research and for helping to extend the reach of science to Queenslanders.

"We all need to be communicating better around the great science happenings all across our state, and where science is leading us. The new Engaging Science Grants announced by Minister Enoch are aimed at helping our enthusiastic scientists, researchers, teachers, science communicators and community groups – as well as our brilliant Tall Poppy winners ­– to lead this charge," Dr Garrett said.

2016 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Award Winners

  • Dr Barnaby Dixson (University of Queensland) - Psychology and anthropology: researching physical attractiveness, why our bodies are shaped the way they are, and how quickly we judge appearance
  • Dr Makrina Totsika (Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, QUT) - Microbiology: studying how bacteria cause infection to fight drug-resistant superbugs that cause 700,000 deaths each year
  • Dr Anna Hatton (University of Queensland) - Physiotherapy: making footwear to help stop falls
  • Dr Ali Zaid (Institute of Glycomics, Griffith University) - Immunity: tackling mosquito-borne viruses by helping the skin’s immune cells to recognise and stop a virus
  • Dr Jennifer Donelson (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University) - Environmental challenges: studies how fish adjust to changes in water temperature
  • Dr John Bennett (University of Southern Queensland) - Soil science: protecting our soils to keep crops growing; otherwise, by 2050 we could all be hungry and naked
  • Dr Malcolm (Gillies University of Southern Queensland) - Hydraulic engineering and irrigation: develops software so farmers know the right amount of water for their crops
  • Dr Paul Giacomin (Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University) - Helping coeliac sufferers: Unravelling what parasitic worms release in the body to balance our immune system
  • A/Prof Raymond Chan (Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and QUT) - Nursing services: reducing pain for cancer patients
  • Dr Sally Staton (Centre for Child Health Research, QUT) - Child health: studies sleep patterns in early childhood and the benefits of daytime naps
  • Dr Shyuan Ngo (University of Queensland) - Brain research: studies the brain’s nerve cells to find treatments to slow or reverse the effects of diseases like Motor Neurone Disease
  • Dr Luke Knibbs (University of Queensland) - Public health: researching what’s in the air we breathe that could make us sick  

Media contact: Daniel Lato 0438 830 201