Honorific Awards recognise 22 scientists making outstanding contributions to science

From forecasting volcanic eruptions, to the ocean’s role in climate, the tiny neurotransmitters in our brains, and the genetics of sex – 22 scientists have been recognised for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of science today.

The “Honorific Awards” are presented annually by the Australian Academy of Science, to the country’s leading early-career recipients and those who have made career-long advances in their fields. 

More information on the awardees, including descriptions of their research and interview videos, can be found here or via the hyperlink of each person’s name.

Premier Honorific Awards

Professor Jennifer Graves AC FAA, La Trobe University

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Professor Jennifer Graves AC FAA. Credit: Australian Academy of Science

Professor Graves is an international leader in comparative genomics of vertebrates, who has shown that Australian animals, as “independent experiments in evolution”,  are a particularly valuable source for investigating the evolution and mechanisms of sex chromosomes.

Studying kangaroos, dragons, devils and more, she has made fundamental discoveries about how the X chromosome is genetically silenced in female mammals, and that the Y chromosome is decaying and could “self-destruct” in a few million years.

By exploiting the biology of Australian marsupials, monotremes and reptiles to dissect conserved genetic structures and processes, Graves has pioneered a comparative approach that has led to many fundamental discoveries in her field.

Professor Lidia Morawska FAA, Queensland University of Technology

Career Honorific Awards

Scientia Professor Matthew England FAA, University of New South Wales

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Scientia Professor Matthew England FAA. Credit: Australian Academy of Science

Professor England is one of the world’s foremost experts on the ocean’s role in climate, specifically what controls ocean currents and how these currents affect climate and climate variability on time-scales of seasons to millennia.

Specifically, his work has provided profound insights into the circulation of the Pacific, Indian, and Southern oceans and their role in global and regional climate.

His field of research spans physical oceanography to climate dynamics, where he has written papers on global water-mass formation, ocean-atmosphere-ice interactions, modes of climate variability, and ocean overturning processes. 

Professor David Craik FAA FRS, The University of Queensland

Professor Catherine Lovelock FAA, The University of Queensland

Professor Terence Hughes FAA, James Cook University

Professor Susan Scott FAA, Australian National University

Professor Nick Wormald FAA, Monash University

Professor Richard Hartley FAA, The Australian National University

Mid-Career Honorific Awards (8—15 years post-PhD)

A woman with short red hair, wearing a colourful scarfe, smiles at the camera.
7814_1_Women_in_STEAMM_Frankie. Photographed on Level 3 CPC Hub. Leane Togher; Shumi Ruan; Jacqueline Thomas; Elly Williams; Renae Ryan; Darmica Mistry; Clara Chow. RENAE RYAN

Professor Renae Ryan, The University of Sydney

Professor Ryan is internationally recognised for her research into neurotransmitter transporters. These are the nanoscale proteins that suck neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers responsible for cellular communication in the brain – back into cells after they have sent their message.

In diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and stroke these transporters can break down, leading to confusion in cellular communication and, ultimately, cell death. 

Ryan’s research has revealed the mechanisms of this transport and how drugs interact with these proteins, allowing scientists to start to understand why they stop working in disease states and provide the basis for the development of new medications to treat brain disease. 

Professor Di Yu, The University of Queensland

Early-career Honorifics (up to 10 years post-PhD)

Dr Teresa Ubide, The University of Queensland

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Dr Teresa Ubide. Credit: Australian Academy of Science

Dr Ubide is working to determine what triggers volcanic eruptions by studying the chemistry of tiny crystals in previously erupted volcanic rocks. The aim of the research is to ultimately forecast future eruptions, which is of utmost importance to the millions of people living close to, or visiting, active volcanoes around the world.

Her research also explores the link between volcanoes and critical metals that are essential for the development of renewable energy technology, such as wind and solar energy. 

Ubide was part of the Superstars of STEM program and has given national and international talks about her work on volcanoes.

Dr Valentina Wheeler, University of Wollongong

Dr Raffaella Demichelis, Curtin University

Dr Emily Wong, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

Professor Si Ming Man, The Australian National University

Dr Amelia Liu, Monash University

Associate Professor Rona Chandrawati, University of New South Wales

Professor Tianyi Ma, RMIT University

Associate Professor David Frazier, Monash University

Dr Rachel Wang, The University of Sydney

Professor Yuerui Lu, The Australian National University

Nominations are now open for the Academy’s 2024 honorific awards. Nominations close 1 May 2023. Find out more.

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