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Four finalists from Curtin announced in Premier’s Science Awards

Media release

Four Curtin University researchers and a website documenting the travels of geologists, have been shortlisted in the 2017 Premier’s Science Awards, which celebrates Western Australia’s best scientific research and science engagement.

Professor Zheng-Xiang Li
Professor Zheng-Xiang Li

Among the finalists for Scientist of the Year is John Curtin Distinguished Professor Zheng-Xiang Li, a geoscientist researching the evolution of the Earth over the past two billion years. He has made significant contributions to the field of tectonics, delivering new understandings about how continents have drifted throughout Earth’s history. Professor Li is Co-Director of the Australia–China Joint Research Centre for Tectonics and Earth Resources, at the Curtin University WA School of Mines.

Other Curtin finalists include:

Woodside Early Career Scientist of the Year

Dr Wensu Chen, an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award Fellow in the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering. He has developed innovations to improve structural protection against natural and man-made hazards. These innovations include a new generation of lightweight composite structures against accidental and terrorist blasts, impact loads and structural strengthening.

Dr Jun Li, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering. He is developing next-generation technologies for monitoring and managing ageing infrastructure. Dr Li uses smart sensing, emerging artificial intelligence techniques and big data analytics to develop these technologies.

ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year

Ryan Urquhart, a PhD candidate from the School of Science. His research focusses on how black holes consume matter. By combining observations from across the electromagnetic spectrum, he has achieved insights into the Universe’s most rapidly feeding black holes.

Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year

TravelingGeologist, an integrated social media platform allowing Earth scientists to connect directly with the public, developed by Dr Christopher Spencer and his colleagues from Curtin WA School of Mines. Using this platform Earth science is communicated through short written personal narratives, travelogues, and videos about the adventures Earth scientists have during fieldwork around the world.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Chris Moran, said the achievements of the finalists reflect the growing impact Curtin’s research is making, and its ability to engage with the community.

“The research fields represented by this year’s Curtin finalists reflect the University’s strong research record, leadership and innovation in the areas of geoscience, astrophysics and engineering, and the level of talent amongst our researchers,” Professor Moran said.

“I congratulate all finalists on their selection, it is a fantastic achievement to be recognised amongst the State’s best scientists.”

Dr Ravinder Anand, a Chief Research Scientist at CSIRO and a Curtin University Adjunct Professor has also been shortlisted for the Scientist of the Year. He has led many industry-funded multi-disciplinary projects on the development of geochemical methods and technologies for finding mineral deposits under regolith (ancient weathered rocks, soils and sediments).

The Premier’s Science Award winners and WA Science Hall of Fame inductee will be announced at an awards ceremony on 14 August, during National Science Week, Australia’s biggest annual celebration of science.

For more information on the awards and the finalists, see Premier Mark McGowan’s media statement here: