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Curtin electrochemistry researcher wins prestigious Rennie Memorial Medal

Media release

A Curtin University electrochemistry researcher who made a fast start to her career has been awarded the prestigious Rennie Memorial Medal by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) for excellence in research in chemical science.

Rennie Memorial Medal winner Associate Professor Debbie Silvester from Curtin University's School of Molecular and Life Sciences.

The national award recognised Associate Professor Debbie Silvester, an ARC Future Fellow from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, for having made an impact in less than eight years of professional experience.

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran congratulated Associate Professor Silvester on being named by RACI as this year’s sole recipient of the Rennie Memorial Medal.

“In less than eight years, Associate Professor Silvester has made a positive contribution through her research by developing electrochemical sensors that help make people safer,” Professor Moran said.

“Electrochemical sensors are widely used for detecting carbon monoxide and monitoring blood sugar levels and through her understanding of the chemistry that occurs on the electrode surface, Associate Professor Silvester is improving sensor design and thereby enhancing safety.

“A talented and hard-working academic, Associate Professor Silvester’s recognition with the prestigious Rennie Memorial Medal is well-deserved and I look forward to watching her continued success throughout her career.”

Associate Professor Silvester said she was humbled to receive the Rennie Memorial Medal for research, which she believed offered many important real-world benefits.

“My low-cost, miniaturised design could allow the sensors to be used more widely in everyday situations, such as for monitoring oxygen levels in confined spaces and detecting ammonia leaks in refrigeration systems,” Associate Professor Silvester said.

“A challenge with this type of electrochemical sensor is interference from water in humid environments and in response, we created a hydrophobic gelled material that not only blocks the interference but makes the sensor design more robust. The design also improves the sensor’s response speed, which could be crucial for health and safety applications.”

Associate Professor Silvester, who is the Secretary of the RACI Electrochemistry Division, was presented the medal at the 2019 RACI Awards dinner in Brisbane on November 22.

Associate Professor Silvester was among nine of the State’s outstanding researchers recently recognised with 2019 WA Young Tall Poppy Science Awards for exceptional research and passionate commitment to communicating science.

For more information about the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, visit here.