Emerging stars of science awarded

Three Flinders University researchers, Dr Yee Lian Chew, Dr Ash Hopkins and Dr Eddie Banks, have been recognised for their research excellence and enthusiasm for science communication, after being named in the Young Tall Poppy Science Awards for 2021.

Each are emerging leaders in their fields of neuroscience, precision medicine and hydrogeology respectively, alongside their commitment to increasing the understanding and passion of science in the broader community.

Flinders University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint congratulated the Tall Poppy recipients on being recognised for their achievements.

“It is wonderful to see our researchers being rewarded not only for their exceptional research but also for their strong commitment to communicating science to a larger audience and encouraging science participation,” says Professor Saint.

“As we have seen more than ever in the last 18 months, it is vital we support the broader community to understand science and share in the joys of research, and I know Doctors Chew, Hopkins and Banks will be outstanding advocates for their fields.”

Dr Yee Lian Chew

Dr Yee Lian Chew in the College of Medicine and Public Health, self-dubbed ‘the worm lady’, is studying the roundworm C. elegans to uncover new treatments for chronic pain.

“To develop new treatments, we need a better understanding of how pain is controlled. The roundworm is 80 percent genetically similar to humans, so I hope that my research will help to untangle how the human brain reacts to pain in order to find new areas for medicines to target,” says Dr Chew.

Currently the Mary Overton Senior Research Fellow in Neuroscience, funded by the Flinders Foundation, and a National Health and Medical Research Council Emerging Leadership Fellow, Dr Chew says she discovered her passion for science at a very young age.

“I have always wanted to know the reason for everything, and I mean everything, and I enjoy sharing that love of discovery with the community,” says Dr Chew.

“Science communication is something I do as my passion; I want to inspire people to think about the world in a way that’s outside of their own experience and to be recognised for that in this year’s Tall Poppy Awards is very lovely.”

Dr Ash Hopkins

Dr Ash Hopkins, Senior Research Fellow in the College of Medicine and Public Health and leader of the Clinical Cancer Epidemiology Lab at Flinders University, focuses on methods to predict who will benefit from specific cancer treatments.

“As a pharmacist and clinical epidemiologist, I am aiming to unleash the potential of big data and machine learning to empower patients and oncologists to better understand the pros and cons of specific cancer treatments,” says Dr Hopkins.

Dr Hopkins says being able to communicate his work to the wider community, especially to patients and industry, is vital to his work.

“A large part of my research is advocating to the pharmaceutical industry to be transparent with their data so that we can pool it from multiple sources and use it for the advantage of patients everywhere,” says Dr Hopkins.

“I’m very excited by the opportunity that the Tall Poppy Awards present.”

Dr Eddie Banks

Dr Eddie Banks is a Senior Research Fellow in the National Centre for Groundwater Research & Training.

A hydrogeologist, Dr Banks’ research seeks to investigate the availability and long-term sustainability of freshwater resources and figure out how they come to exist.

“The availability of freshwater around the world is finite and there’s an increasing proportion of the global population that are struggling to access safe and reliable sources of water. We need to understand these processes to create better water management outcomes,” says Dr Banks.

Dr Banks says he decided to find out more about water while working as a landscaper in his final year of school.

“I was particularly interested in the sustainable development of groundwater resources in less developed countries,” says Dr Banks.

“Now, I spend a lot of my time teaching people about water, including where it comes from and how we go about protecting it, and I appreciate the opportunity the Tall Poppy awards presents to me to continue inspiring the younger generations and get them interested in water.”

Presented by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science, the Young Tall Poppy Awards were created to celebrate achievement in the sciences and communicating the passion and purpose of Australia’s finest scientists to a wider audience.

For the next 12 months through a series of events, Drs Chew, Hopkins and Banks will now promote interest in science among school students, teachers, and their peers, and also provide understanding and an appreciation of science in the broader community.

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