Flinders Science Awards finalists are changing the world through STEMM

Seven pioneering Flinders University researchers and educators have been named finalists for the 2024 South Australian Science awards.

From transforming the way science solves sleep problems, vision loss and even crimes, to innovative approaches to shark tourism, gut-health and teaching students medicine, this year’s finalists are revolutionising their fields of research and teaching.

Professor Jamie Craig in the College of Medicine & Public Health.

For the second consecutive year, Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor and Head of Ophthalmology Jamie Craig has been nominated for the prestigious SA Scientist of the Year.

Professor Craig is a glaucoma researcher who developed a first-of-its kind saliva test and is trialling laser treatment to prevent people at high genetic risk from developing vision loss from the disease, devoting years of research to deliver the first NATA-accredited clinical test in South Australia that helps people at high-risk avoid blindness by accessing early treatment.

This genetic risk score is now in clinical use throughout Australia to identify individuals at highest risk of developing glaucoma, ensuring they get effective sight saving treatment before irreversible vision loss can take hold.

Together with Dr Craig’s Myocilin cascade screening program, these new approaches have tested more than 4,500 people in eight countries and have prevented blindness in many people. This research is now the focus of a recently announced $2.9 million MRFF Genomics Health Futures Grant to improve the triage and monitoring processes for early stage glaucoma patients within the health system.

Professor Craig says it’s an honour to be recognised for his research endeavour amongst a group of talented scientists contributing towards life-changing research.

“Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness and is influenced by family genetics, affecting an estimated 80 million people globally, including 300,000 Australians over the age of 40. Our research team at Flinders is ensuring thousands of treatable cases don’t go undetected and people are treated before damage and vision loss are irreversible,” says Professor Craig.

“It’s a privilege to be a finalist again in the SA Scientist of the Year category. This nomination is an acknowledgement of the tireless work our research team is undertaking to improve people’s lives and provides inspiration to continue our pursuit of effectively detecting and treating causes of blindness.”

Associate Professor Voula Gagani in the College of Medicine & Public Health.

Associate Professor Voula Gaganis is named as a finalist for the 2024 STEMM Educator of the Year Award for her work in transforming medical science education at Flinders.

The Teaching Program Director of Medical Bioscience courses at the College of Medicine and Public Health, Associate Professor Gaganis is driven by a passion to support students in learning complex concepts in medical science and engaging with industry to co-create courses that address dynamic workforce needs.

“I am honoured to be named as a finalist for the SA STEMM Educator of the Year award. The transformative changes that I have seen in students’ learning journeys and their career successes have been the most rewarding part of my experience”.

Three Flinders research groups have been nominated for Excellence in Science and Industry Collaboration.

The research teams led by Professor Danny Eckert (Sleep Revolution), Professor Charlie Huveneers (Sustainable Shark Tourism) and Professor Adrian Linacre (Forensic Science) have been acknowledged for their outstanding achievements with the University sweeping this category.

Professor Danny Eckert, Professor Adrian Linacre and Professor Charlie Huveneers are leading research teams nominated for Excellence in Science and Industry Collaboration.

Lucas Hearn and alum Lauren Jones and are nominated in PhD Research Excellence for their work on gut health and the evolution of bee sociality.

Lucas Hearn and alum Lauren Jones.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Timothy Cavagnaro says the finalists demonstrate the quality of medicine and environment research being undertaken at Flinders that benefits all of society.

“We congratulate all the finalists for receiving this honour, which is an acknowledgement of leadership in their respective fields, and look forward to acknowledging their hard work at the formal ceremony later this year.”

This longstanding awards program is South Australia’s leading celebration of STEMM excellence, elevating the work of each finalist from laboratories, lecture theatres and boardrooms to be celebrated in the public realm. The full list of finalists is available here.

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