Flinders University scientists stand tall

dr-rachel-popelka-filcoff-and-mark-brownley-etsa-utilitiesFlinders University scientists have capped a stellar week with Dr Rachel Popelka-Filcoff being honoured as South Australia’s Tall Poppy of the Year for 2012.

The Tall Poppy Awards recognise the achievements of early career researchers and Dr Popelka-Filcoff’s work analysing ochre to gain insights into Indigenous Australian culture has attracted attention both in Australia and overseas.

Dr Popelka-Filcoff (pictured with Mark Brownley from ETSA Utilities) was presented with her award as Tall Poppy of the Year at the SA Science Excellence Awards. Another Flinders’ researcher, Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen, who has developed a mobile phone network that does not require conventional mobile phone tower infrastructure and will have wide application in disaster zones and remote areas, was also recognised as a Tall Poppy of Science at a ceremony at Government House on Wednesday.

Dr Popelka-Filcoff is using highly sophisticated analytical equipment at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to obtain a “geochemical fingerprint” of various ochre types which will help identify historical ochre-exchange routes used by Indigenous Australians, as well as characterise the material through a variety of techniques.

“It is truly an honour to be awarded the Tall Poppy of the Year and reflects the Tall Poppy program’s support for science in South Australia and my work at Flinders University,” Dr Popelka-Filcoff said.

“I describe my research as archaeological chemistry and it is now attracting attention internationally. As well as the collaboration with ANSTO, I am collaborating with scientists in the United States – where I will also be giving an invited presentation on my research at a conference later this year – and several overseas researchers have expressed interest in internships and collaborations with my laboratory,” she said.

Dr Popelka-Filcoff’s award closely followed biomedical engineer Professor Karen Reynolds recognition as South Australian Scientist of the Year for 2012.

The Director of the Medical Device Partnering Program at Flinders, Professor Reynolds has been a leading force behind the design and development of a range of innovative medical technologies, including surgery simulators and other assistive devices, in collaboration with clinicians, industry and government.

“Biomedical engineering is a niche field of engineering but it’s a very important area for South Australia, particularly for the future growth of the medical device industry. Whatever recognition we get, whether it is through me winning an award or whatever it might be, it is always going to raise the profile of this work,” Professor Reynolds said.

Professor Reynolds was presented with the prestigious award, an initiative of the State Government, by Lieutenant Governor Mr Hieu Van Le at a gala dinner last week. Receiving South Australia’s premier award for science capped a very successful night for Flinders University’s scientists with Dr Cameron Shearer receiving the award for PhD Research Excellence in Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering for his work in the field of nanotechnology.

Flinders Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Barber, applauded the success of all of the Flinders’ finalists in the Science Excellence Awards which also included Professor John Miners (SA Scientist of the Year category), Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen (Early Career Professional category, and Tall Poppy Award finalist) and Mr David Hobbs and Dr Simon Williams (Early Career Educator category).

“The SA Science Excellence Awards recognize the highest achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). At a time when expertise in these fields is required more than ever for the future success of our economy and society, it is hoped these awards inspire students to enroll in STEM subjects and go on to find the same excitement and reward in their careers as our successful finalists,” Professor Barber said.

Posted in
College of Science and Engineering Engage Engineering at Flinders Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century News Research Uncategorized