Ground-breaking health research earns young scientist Tall Poppy of the Year Award

Published Tuesday, 30 August, 2022 at 05:30 PM

Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs
The Honourable Meaghan Scanlon

Ground-breaking health research earns young scientist Tall Poppy of the Year Award

A University of Queensland epidemiologist and biostatistician has taken out the state’s top award for young scientists for his ground-breaking research into the impacts of alcohol, tobacco and substance use on health and the economy, which will now be used to drive better services in Queensland and across the globe.

Science Minister Meaghan Scanlon last night announced Dr Gary Chan as the winner of the 2022 Queensland Young Tall Poppy awards along with 11 of his colleagues whose work is helping to create good jobs, better services and great lifestyle.

“Queensland is no stranger when it comes to scientific excellence,” Minister Scanlon said.

“The breakthroughs of Dr Chan and his fellow winners just prove why it’s so important for governments, universities and industry to support this vital sector.

Dr Chan received his award for applying state-of-art statistical methods to break down data from multiple sources to monitor trends of different substance use in the population and understand the causes for substance use among young people.

His research included calculating the trends of different substance use in the population, using survey data collected by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare from more than 20,000 households, and identifying subgroups in the population that might be disproportionally affected by substance use.

“Sadly, the World Health Organisation estimates that alcohol, tobacco and substance use cause more than 10 million deaths annually.

“This is vital research that can help inform how we address substance use issues, provide better health services and ultimately improve people’s lifestyles.

Minister Scanlon congratulated Dr Chan, his fellow recipients and those nominated.

“Their research and innovation is exactly the type of work the Palaszczuk Government wants to support with our $17 million investment to commercialise scientific research for Queensland businesses, exports and good jobs.

“Because we know that for every dollar invested in university research, $5 is returned back into the economy.

“Their efforts are not only going to change the world, they’re going to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders in Queensland.”

Other 2022 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Award winners were:

  1. Dr Jingwei Hou, The University of Queensland, a specialist in membrane science and technology, who has developed a new “hybrid” glass for mobile devices and computer screens that is flexible, resists breakage, and produces brighter, high-quality images. 
  2. Associate Professor Robin Orr, Bond University, for research into injuries to “front line” personnel including fire fighters, police officers, and soldiers, that involves job and injury profiling and training needs analysis.  
  3. Associate Professor Tracy O'Mara, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, for research into the prevention, prediction and treatment of endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining), the most commonly diagnosed, and rapidly increasing gynaecological cancer in developed countries, including Australia.
  4. Dr Sonia Shah, The University of Queensland, for research with the human genome and how differences in DNA sequences may make some people more likely to develop disease.
  5. Dr Mark Adams, Queensland University of Technology, for diagnostic work in relation to lung cancer and its resistance to some treatments and developing therapeutics to “switch off” molecules that are overactive in therapy resistant disease.
  6. Dr Kate Helmstedt, Queensland University of Technology, for research into threatened ecosystems and the way humans interact with them and developing better strategies for their protection.
  7. Dr Larisa Labzin, The University of Queensland, for research into the human immune system, particularly how it is switched on and off and how faults in these responses can result in infections not being cleared or autoimmune disorders developing.
  8. Dr Saman Khalesi, CQUniversity, for research into diets and dietary misinformation, and developing an online coaching program to provide evidence-based dietary information and the tools to detect misinformation. 
  9. Associate Professor Christian Moro, Bond University, for research and education into treatment regimens for bladder disorders, including patient expectations and their willingness to access treatment or continue with ongoing treatment.
  10. Dr Benjamin Pope, The University of Queensland, for research into the origins of life on Earth, planetary mechanics, star formation, and developing tools for determining a planet’s suitability for life. 
  11. Dr Michael Sievers, Griffith University, for research into how animals respond to environmental change, how evaluation of animal habitat can be improved, and how animals can be better included in environmental restoration projects. 

Queensland Chief Scientist Professor Hugh Possingham said the Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Awards recognised and celebrated scientists and researchers who demonstrated scientific excellence and a passion for science communication and contributing to a better society.

“I am delighted that we have been able to recognise these twelve scientists, who have developed expertise in such a wide range of scientific disciplines, leading to outcomes that will ultimately benefit us all,” Professor Possingham said.

“We know that STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – jobs are essential for a growing and competitive economy, but demand for STEM graduates outstrips supply.

“The work of our award winners will help inspire other young people to consider STEM studies and careers.”

Held annually all around Australia, the Young Tall Poppy Science Awards for Queensland are hosted by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) in partnership with the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist.

More information on the awards and award winners is available here.


Media contact: Francis Dela Cruz – 0420 592 078