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Curtin University
Note to staff

19 August 2016


Curtin research recognised at Premier’s Science Awards

At last night’s presentation of the Premier’s Science Awards, Professor Kingsley Dixon was named WA Scientist of the Year and Fireballs in the Sky, a citizen science project led by Professor Phil Bland, was named Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year.

These richly deserved awards build on the announcement earlier this week that Curtin has significantly improved its position in the highly-regarded Academic Ranking of World Universities to an estimated 211th in the world and tenth in Australia.

Professor Dixon of the Department of Environment and Agriculture and a visiting professor at Kings Park and Botanic Garden, was recognised for his work in conservation science, restoration ecology and plant science which has been fundamental to conserving threatened species and transforming ecological restoration practice in Australia.

His discovery of the specific chemical in smoke that is responsible for germination in Australian species has had widespread application, being valued at $100 million per annum in terms of potential global benefits to agriculture, mining restoration and horticulture. As Foundation Director of Science at the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority for 32 years, he is acknowledged as the driving force behind the creation of its world-recognised research laboratories.

Fireballs in the Sky is the outreach arm of the Desert Fireball Network project, which aims to understand the early workings of the solar system by studying meteorites, fireballs and their pre-Earth orbits by capturing the paths of fireballs in the sky from multiple viewpoints.

With this data, the fireball’s pre-Earth orbit and eventual landing position are tracked. More than 89,000 West Australians have engaged with the program through hands-on activities, talks and events, and it has received international media coverage.  The citizen science smartphone app has had 23,000 downloads world-wide and in 2015 the app was awarded the National iAward for Innovation in Education.

I am sure all staff will join me in congratulating Professor Dixon and the Fireballs in the Sky team. These awards reflect Curtin’s strong focus on research, both in environmental and planetary science, and our commitment to engaging with the community as we strive to understand more about our own world and the wider universe.

I would also like to acknowledge the other Curtin staff who were finalists in the awards: Professor Zheng-Xiang Li, Co-Director of the Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Tectonics and Earth Resources at the Curtin WA School of Mines, who was also in contention for Scientist of the Year; and lecturers Dr Kaiming Bi and Dr Jun Li, both of the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, who were shortlisted for Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year.

I applaud all our finalists, whose work reflects the broad diversity of research fields at Curtin, and the depth of talent that exists amongst our researchers.

The appointment of Dr Simon Cook as the inaugural Premier’s Fellow in Agricultural Research was also announced at the Premier’s Science Awards event.  As the Premier’s Fellow, Dr Cook will build and lead a research team to develop the State’s capabilities in big data and agriculture, and his appointment will see Curtin collaborating with the State Government and Murdoch University in the delivery of a cutting edge agricultural research program.  The Fellowship program is supported by Royalties for Regions funding.

  1. Paul Nicholls August 19, 2016 10:31am

    Having hosted the inaugural Premier’s Science Awards in 2002 back in my days at Scitech, it is fantastic to see Curtin win its first WA Scientist of the Year award (Congratulations Kingsley!). With the announcement of FITS winning a long overdue Premier’s award, the awarding of a WA Premier’s Fellow in Big Data Agriculture on top of the recent ARWU rankings, it makes me proud to be part of Team Curtin. A great way to finish the week!

  2. Valerie Raubenheimer August 19, 2016 5:05pm

    What a great week for Curtin. Congratulations to our researchers whose amazing work has received well-deserved recognition, but also to all staff who have contributed to our rise in rankings and enhanced global reputation. It is a fantastic feeling to be part of an innovative, winning university and all staff must be leaving for the weekend feeling proud of their association with Curtin.

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