ANU scientists honoured in Tall Poppy Awards

1 November 2017

Three researchers from ANU have been honoured for their contributions to science and health in the ACT Tall Poppy Awards for 2017.

Dr Julie Banfield from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Dr Dave Pasalich from the Research School of Psychology, and Dr Kai Xun Chan from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at the Research School of Biology, have been named as winners of the Young Tall Poppy science awards for the ACT.

Each year one of the winners is named as ACT Tall Poppy of the Year. However, this year the top award was given jointly to Dr Banfield and Dr Pasalich.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brain Schmidt congratulated the winners.

"Julie, Dave and Kai are excellent young scientists who are conducting research which will have a real impact on Australia and the world," Professor Schmidt said.

"On behalf of the University, I congratulate them on their awards."

Dr Banfield's research focusses on understanding super-massive black holes and the life cycles of galaxies and stars, and role of massive black holes in the creation and destruction of galaxies and stars.

"A tall poppy award means a lot to me," Dr Banfield said.

"It tells me that I am doing great scientific research and making an impact through science communication activities. I want to inspire the next generation to get involved in science and to keep asking questions.

"I have taken time off and have two wonderful daughters. This award recognises that I can have major career breaks and still be productive with my research."

Dr Pasalich's research aims to provide new understanding into how parents can strengthen their relationships with their children to reduce risk for child behavioural problems and promote resilience.

"The award highlights the need for researchers to adopt a community-focused mindset and disseminate and embed research in the community," Dr Pasalich said.

"I'm particularly encouraged by the award's recognition of my activities outside the academic sphere, as I believe that community benefit should be the end goal of my research."

Dr Chan has discovered a protein within plant cells that can sense drought and help plants preserve water. He is working on a spray that can activate the protein and help plants survive longer through drought.

"I'm absolutely honoured, a little terrified but also very excited," Dr Chan said.

"I look at the list of past winners and I can see that I am joining the ranks of an elite group of early-middle career scientists so I have some pretty big shoes to fill. But at the same time the stories and experiences of the past winners are so inspiring that I can't wait to get going and do my bit as a Young Tall Poppy Science Ambassador. "

The Tall Poppy Campaign was created in 1998 by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) to recognise and celebrate Australian scientific excellence and to encourage younger Australians to follow in the footsteps of our outstanding achievers.

AIPS General Manager Camile Thomson said the winners would spend a year sharing their knowledge with school students, teachers and the broader community through workshops, seminars and public lectures.

"These Tall Poppies are excellent examples of the cutting-edge research being undertaken here in the ACT," Ms Thomson said.