Tall Poppies thrive in Monash research climate

Tall Poppies

Professor Pauline Nestor, A/Prof Nick Birbilis, Dr Kate Hoy, Dr Norman Do, Dr Jose Polo and Professor Ian Smith Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Research Infrastructure).

In recognition of their scientific and intellectual excellence, Monash researchers have taken out four of the eight Victorian Tall Poppy Awards for 2013.

Associate Professor Nick Birbilis of the Department of Materials Engineering, Dr Norman Do of the School of Mathematics, Dr Kate Hoy of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre and Dr Jose Polo of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute and the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology were awarded the prestigious prizes at a ceremony in Melbourne last week.

The awards, administered by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS), aim to engage the public in celebrating scientific excellence and achievement in Australia. Recipients must be aged 35 or under and not only produce world class research, but have a passion for science communication and leadership potential.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Pauline Nestor, congratulated the winners on behalf of the University.

"In a state such as Victoria, which is producing a range of high-quality research, it is truly an exceptional achievement for four researchers from one institution to be recognised with Tall Poppy Awards," Professor Nestor said.

"The diversity of winners - a neuroscientist, a mathematician, a materials engineer and a leader in cellular programming - is an indication of the breadth of research disciplines that are flourishing at Monash."

Associate Professor Birbilis is working to produce the next generation of corrosion resistant light metals for use in transport and high-end electronics. He recently had a breakthrough in reducing the corrosion rate of lightweight wonder metal, magnesium - by adding arsenic.

Dr Do utilises pure mathematics to broaden our understanding of the fundamental laws of nature. He applies techniques from geometry and topology to identify patterns and facilitate advances.

Dr Hoy is working to improve the quality of life and capacity to live independently for the 80 per cent of people with schizophrenia who experience cognitive impairments. She is developing new ways to improve attention, working memory and executive function for people with the illness, which is usually characterised by psychotic symptoms.

Dr Polo is discovering ways to inhibit the abnormal cell development that leads to cancer and is close to bringing some breakthroughs to clinical trial. He has also mapped the process by which mature cells are re-programmed to become induced pluripotent stem cells, paving the way for future treatments.

The Tall Poppy prizes carry an obligation to promote science through school visits, lectures, media, work experience programs and community seminars, which the recipients will undertake over the next year.

Monash University has produced several Tall Poppies since the awards were established in 2000, including most recently Dr Peter Enticott in 2012, and Dr David Turner in 2011.