Institute’s science leaders awarded at 2012 Eureka Prizes
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers have won four categories in this year’s Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, announced tonight in Sydney.
Awards were presented to:
- Institute director Professor Doug Hilton, winner of the ‘Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers’ award for the support and encouragement he has offered young scientists over the past two decades.
- Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat, winner of the ‘Outstanding Young Researcher’ award for her role in discovering breast stem cells and unravelling how breast stem cells contribute to the development of breast cancer, including the link between female hormones and breast stem cells.
- Dr Marc Pellegrini, Mr Simon Preston and Mr Jesse Toe, winners of the ‘Infectious Diseases Research’ award for their work towards finding ways of boosting immunity to help the body clear chronic infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and tuberculosis.
- Honorary research associate Professor Suzanne Cory, winner of the ‘Leadership in Science’ award for her 40-year research career, directorship of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute from 1996-2009 and her role as president as the Australian Academy of Science.
In 1998 Professor Hilton piloted and established the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, Australia’s most successful program to provide tertiary science students with a taste of life as researcher. Since its inception, when the first student worked in Professor Hilton’s lab, the program has expanded into five states, involves all of Australia’s leading medical research institutions, and has provided initial research experiences to hundreds of students, most of whom have gone on to PhDs.
Dr Ben Kile, who began his research career in 1998 as a PhD student of Professor Hilton described him as an extraordinary mentor and a worthy winner of the award.
“One of Doug’s defining qualities is the genuine enjoyment he derives from seeing young people make a success of things,” Dr Kile said. “To work with or around Doug is to constantly be given the chance to rise to a challenge. How far you take it is up to you, generally the further the better as far as Doug is concerned.”
Professor Hilton said he was humbled to receive the award but was quick to turn attention to fellow award winners Professor Cory, Dr Asselin-Labat, Dr Pellegrini, Mr Toe and Mr Preston.
“Marie-Liesse has made an outstanding contribution to the field of stem cell science and cancer,” Professor Hilton said. “I have no doubt that she will be one of Australia’s scientific leaders of the next generation. Meanwhile, Marc and his team have changed the conventional notion of infectious diseases management and treatment. The future they envision, where therapies boost the body’s own immune response against a range of resistant viruses and bacteria, is very exciting. And Suzanne, who has had a stellar research career, has devoted so much time to advancing science education and has shown extraordinary leadership over decades is a most deserving winner.”
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