The University of Western Australia's strength in science was recognised last night when its staff won two major categories in the 2014 Premier's Science Awards and a former UWA Vice-Chancellor was inducted into the Western Australian Science Hall of Fame.
Professor Ian Small was named the WA Scientist of the Year, the University's Centre for Integrative Bee Research (CIBER) won the Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year, and Emeritus Professor Alan Robson AO was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Professor Small's win last night was followed today by a Federal Government announcement that he had been awarded a 2014 Australian Laureate Fellowship for his ongoing work at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Plant Energy Biology, where he is a Chief Investigator.
Professor Small's discoveries have provided the basis for efficiencies in food production. He investigates how genes are controlled - and how plants capture, store and release energy - to optimise the use of plants in agricultural and environmental applications. This year, he was recognised by Thomson-Reuters as one of the world's most influential minds in 2014. Since coming to WA as a Premier's Fellow in 2006, he has established the ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Energy Biology and attracted more than $57 million of ARC funding to the Centre.
CIBER's Science Engagement Initiative aims to increase community awareness about honeybees. It showcases the links from bees to pollination, food and honey and the industries and people that depend on them. CIBER uses a variety of ways to engage audiences, including the Academy Award-nominated documentary More than Honey, an annual Honey Festival in the Swan Valley, a permanent honeybee display at Scitech and a dedicated social media page.
Emeritus Professor Robson is one of Australia's leading science education figures, having held many distinguished positions including UWA Vice-Chancellor. An agricultural scientist, his early research on the mineral nutrition of plants and soil fertility contributed to the prosperity of farming communities and the continued success of the State's lucrative grains industry. He counts his impact of graduate students and their contributions to science and agriculture as one of his greatest achievements. He has received many accolades, including the Australian Medal of Agricultural Science, the Fiona Stanley Medal and Officer of the Order of Australia.
UWA's current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Johnson, said he was proud to be able to congratulate his predecessor, as well as Professor Small and the team at CIBER.
"Our University's international standing in science is very high, and this enables us to make useful contributions to society in ways that really matter," he said.
David Stacey (UWA Media) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716