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World-leading Curtin evolution expert named 2022 Scientist of the Year

Media release

Curtin University congratulates John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice on being named Scientist of the Year at the 2022 Premier’s Science Awards.

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice

Professor Grice is an ARC Laureate Fellow, founding Director of the Curtin-based Western Australian Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre, internationally renowned organic geochemist, and a mass extinction and evolution expert who has conducted world-leading research on Earth’s early life.

A leading Australian scientist and pioneering female in STEM, Professor Grice is an exceptional researcher whose work at Curtin has helped answer longstanding questions on the formation of life on Earth, the evolution of species, how some dinosaurs became extinct, and the extent of microplastic pollution in our remote oceans.

Kathryn Ross, from the Curtin Institute for Radio Astronomy (CIRA) and the Curtin node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has been named joint ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year, and Tahlia Prior, from Curtin’s School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, has been named joint Shell Aboriginal STEM Student of the Year.

Curtin’s Autism Academy, led by John Curtin Distinguished Professor Tele Tan, has been named a joint winner in the Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year category.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran congratulated all the Curtin winners for being recognised for their commitment to science.

“Professor Grice is a champion in her field and is the first Curtin female researcher to win Scientist of the Year. Along with being a world-leading researcher, Professor Grice is a dedicated educator and mentor for future evolutionary scientists who are committed to a career in science,” Professor Moran said.

“Professor Grice has dedicated her career to unlocking the secrets of Earth’s early life through important research, keynote speaking events and playing a leading role in international conferences. She is an extremely worthy recipient of this prestigious award.”

Professor Moran said Curtin people and programs won in four of the six categories at the awards, which is a tremendous achievement that reflects the significant research and work being undertaken at Curtin.

“Postgraduate student Kathryn Ross has been recognised for her research investigating supermassive blackholes in the centres of galaxies, and Civil Engineering student Tahlia Prior, a proud Ballardong-Whadjuk Nyungar-Wajarri Yamatji woman, has been recognised as a STEM leader in her field,” Professor Moran said.

“Curtin’s Autism Academy has also been recognised for its commitment to harnessing the talents of people with autism through industry and the community. I would like to congratulate all the Curtin winners and finalists who were acknowledged by the Western Australian science community.”

The 2022 Premier’s Science Award winners from Curtin University are:

Professor Kliti Grice, an internationally renowned organic geochemist who is demonstrably creating an enduring legacy in her research field. Her research has provided insights into the mass extinction events that have shaped life on Earth and developed the tools to allow further exploration of the Earth’s record of environmental change including species evolution/adaption to the role of microbes in exceptional fossil preservation. From her early research looking at compound specific isotope analysis, Professor Grice has progressively developed a platform from which others can expand their research horizons and is one of Australia’s leading scientists and a pioneering female in STEM. Her exceptional research output is reflected by her 215 peer-reviewed publications and training of more than 30 PhD scholars.

Kathryn Ross, a postgraduate research student based at the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy (CIRA) and the Curtin node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), studies supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies, focusing on baby back holes that are smaller than typical galaxies. Using telescopes around Australia, Kathryn discovered these black holes are not as young as previously thought, but frustrated teens being restricted by a surrounding cloud of gas. She is a science communicator promoting STEM to audiences nationally and internationally. Kathryn is also an activist leading a national campaign, IncludeHer, working to diversity the representation of scientists in schools.

Tahlia Prior, a proud Ballardong-Whadjuk Nyungar-Wajarri Yamatji woman, is an outstanding final year Civil Engineering student at Curtin University. She has excelled academically in Elder and Traditional Owner community representation, and in connecting with industry partners and opportunities. Tahlia is a bright, emerging female civil engineering and STEM leader. She has been recognised by significant organisations in her field for her technical engineering capabilities at this early stage of her career. Her focus on contributing to a wide range and at a depth and breadth of community initiatives throughout Western Australia, is recognised by wider Aboriginal and Engineering professional communities.

Curtin’s’ Autism Academy, a social innovation initiative harnessing the talents of people with autism for the collective benefit of individuals, industry, and the community, provides a suite of programs, starting in the first years of high school, to build interest in STEM learning and to provide pathways towards training and development. Through a mix of formal training courses, hackathons, bootcamps and paid internships, the Autism Academy transforms individual lives and workplace cultures. By the end of 2021, 45 people have transitioned into tertiary education, 75 people participated in high-value internships and the Autism Academy has trained 400 young people.

The full list of winners from the awards can be found online here.