Talented, much? This year’s Eureka Prize winners are next level

The CSIRO's prize-winning Indigenous STEM Education Project operates in every state and territory in Australia, servicing the unique needs and learning environments of metropolitan, regional and remote schools. Image: Eureka Prize

The 2020 Australian Museum Eureka Prize winners have been announced in a live, virtual awards show broadcast from the Australian Museum. And yep, their ideas are total game changers

A milkshake to cure malaria, a program attracting Indigenous kids to STEM and technology to turn sewage plants from energy-consuming to energy-producing are just some of the ground-breaking research and innovation projects to come out of this year’s Eureka Prize awards. 

And what’s particularly cool is that some of the most impressive initiatives have been championed by school kids. 

Two future women in STEM! Scarlett P and Scarlett O from Oak Flats Primary School are Eureka prize winners. Image: Eureka Prize

Celebrating 30 years of Eureka Prizes and getting ready to reopen the museum to the public this weekend, Australian Museum (AM) Director and CEO, Kim McKay AO, congratulated the winners during the virtual awards night on joining some of Australia’s greatest scientists.

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“This year marks 30 years of the Eureka Prizes and a new phase for the museum as we prepare to share our world class spaces and facilities with the public,” Ms McKay said.

“Since the prizes began in 1990, more than four million dollars in prize money, and a total of 416 Eureka Prizes have been awarded. 

“When the AM reopens this weekend, the next generation of scientists will be inspired by the work of people like the Eureka Prize recipients, the rich history contained within these walls and the work being done right here, right now in the Australian Museum Research Institute.”

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So, who won?

The Australian Museum Eureka Prize – basically The Oscars for STEM professionals – awards 17 trophies and $170,000 in prize money across four categories to talented scientists with big ideas and project goals. We’re stoked to see loads of diverse, and culturally inclusive initiatives getting their fair share of kudos this year. Topics include: 

  • Research & Innovation
  • Science Engagement
  • Leadership
  • School Science

For the full list of winning projects head here, although we’ve rounded up a bunch of some of the coolest ideas to come out of each category.

Science engagement

Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion, CSIRO Indigenous STEM Education Project

CSIRO’s Indigenous STEM Education Project is an evidence-based, national initiative that improves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student aspiration, achievement and participation in STEM.

The project has reached beyond the walls of classrooms to increase the skills, capability and ambition of whole communities. Learning resources developed within each program are linked to the Australian Curriculum and the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.

Since the project commenced in 2015, more than 22,600 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students have been engaged.

Leadership

3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science, Associate Professor Asha Bowen, Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases; Telethon Kids Institute

Regarded as one of the brightest clinician-scientists of her generation, Associate Professor Asha Bowen is a world-class early career researcher and rising leader in infectious disease research. Her passion for ending skin disease has driven breakthrough knowledge and policy change that is reducing the burden of skin infections for Indigenous children living in remote communities.

School science

University of Sydney Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize – Primary School, Scarlett P. and Scarlett O, Oak Flats Primary School, NSW

Super Cooled Science is a video project that examines how hot water turns into ice and explains ‘supercooling’, the process of chilling a liquid below its freezing point, without it becoming solid. Using Claymation and dance, Scarlett and Scarlett illustrate the role energy plays in this transformation and describe one of the ways supercooled water us being used by scientists.

Research and innovation

NSW Environment, Energy and Science (DPIE) Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research, Rebuilding Australia’s Lost Shellfish Reefs, The Nature Conservancy; James Cook University; University of Adelaide; and University of Tasmania

Shellfish reefs, once common across southern Australia, have been exploited to near extinction. This research has documented the decline and provided the knowledge required to successfully start restoring them and their ecosystems – cleaner water, more fish and protected shorelines.

Pumped on next-gen science opportunities? To get inspired by more local STEM professionals take a look through our profile archives.

Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.

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