The science of success

UWA professors Ian Small and Paul Stanwix. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d423424
UWA professors Ian Small and Paul Stanwix. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d423424

Thirteen finalists were announced this week for the Premier’s Science Awards, including Wattle Grove’s Professor Ian Small and Darlington’s Associate Professor Paul Stanwix, who both work at the University of Western Australia.

Professor Small, who has been nominated as one of four finalists for WA Scientist of the Year, has spent his adult life researching and understanding how plants capture, store and release energy to help develop crops that perform more efficiently and in adverse conditions.

‘I started researching this at the beginning of my career. I did my PhD in Edinburgh then worked on this research,’ he said.

‘In about 2005, I was contacted by a group of bright Aussie scientists to help set up a research centre called Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence of Plant Energy Biology.

‘I was very interested; I thought it was a great idea.’

Prof Small said there was no end in sight for his research.

‘There are always new discoveries to be made, which takes the research in different directions,’ he said.

‘It could lead to the treatment of diseases.’

Prof Small said it was an honour to be a finalist.

‘I think it is a good advert for WA science,’ he said.

‘I think it encourages us to think about things scientifically about our problems.’

Associate Professor Stanwix, who is in the running for the Early Career Scientist of the Year award, focuses on precise meas- urement techniques with applications in fundamental and applied science.

His contributions range from testing Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity with world-record precision to demonstrating alternative, low-cost methods for water monitoring.

Winners and the 2014 inductee into the Science Hall of Fame will be announced on August 21 during National Science Week.