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Curtin researcher the first Australian to receive Houtermans Award

Media release

Leading Curtin computational chemist Dr Raffaella Demichelis has been named the 2022 recipient of the prestigious F. G. Houtermans Award for her outstanding research contributions.

Named in honour of physicist Friedrich Georg “Fritz” Houtermans, the annual award is presented by the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG) to scientists in their early to mid-career for exceptional contributions to geochemistry.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne congratulated Dr Demichelis for winning this year’s award, adding it was the first time it had been an awarded to an Australian researcher.

“Dr Demichelis is a truly deserving recipient of this prestigious international award, having already made a significant contribution to the computational geochemistry field,” Professor Hayne said.

“A leading computational chemist, Dr Demichelis is the first Australian researcher to be presented the F.G. Houtermans Award and only the seventh woman to receive the honour since its inception in 1990.”

Dr Demichelis, from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, said she was honoured to receive recognition for her contributions to the fields of crystal growth and mineral structure, as well as for her research into computational geochemistry.

“I am very grateful that over the years, and especially while going through two major career interruptions, I have been able to rely on a fantastic team of post docs and students, and on an incredibly supportive network of colleagues, mentors and collaborators,” Dr Demichelis said.

“I am also pleased to see that more and more award schemes, including those from the EAG, are now adopting relative to opportunity policies to assess candidates with career interruptions.”

Dr Demichelis’ Nature Communications research published in 2011 became a landmark in the field of crystal growth and was ranked in the top one per cent of papers, leading to invitations to deliver national and international keynote, oral and seminar presentations.

“It is a real honour to be named alongside some of the world’s brightest early career scientists in the geochemistry field and I am so very humbled by this recognition,” Dr Demichelis said.

“I look forward to building on my team’s research, which has provided new perspectives on the description of mineral structures and quantitative evidence for a new non-classical nucleation theory that has changed the way we think about the formation of minerals in water.”

Dr Demichelis said her research into computational geochemistry included contributing to the development of software and simulation tools, now widely used in the fields of geochemistry and materials chemistry.

Dr. Demichelis’ research is supported by the ARC and Curtin University and makes use of Australia’s latest supercomputing facilities at the Pawsey Centre and the National Computational Infrastructure.

Aside from her research, Dr Demichelis is an active science communicator and advocate for sustainable research careers. She will serve as the 2022 Chair of the Early and Mid-Career Researcher Forum of the Australian Academy of Science.

For more information about the F.G. Houtermans Award, click here.