Prof Small received the prestigious award last week and said he would like to use the $50,000 prize money to help scientists at the start of their careers attend conferences and collaborate with other experts.
‘I know how tough it is at the beginning to get noticed and be able to develop your own ideas,’ he said.
‘I was supported early on by some great mentors and I’d like to do the same for the next generation.’
Prof Small’s work as the chief investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Energy Biology. UWA has built global understanding of how plants capture, store and release energy and has attracted more than $57 million of Australian Research Council funding to the centre.
Premier and Science Minister Colin Barnett said Prof Small was this year listed by Thomson-Reuters as one of the world’s most influential minds. ‘The work these scientists are doing are great examples of the excellent scientific research that will lead to practical applications with a real benefit for the future of WA as a whole,’ Mr Barnett said.
Prof Small said last week was a ‘fist pump’ moment for him, after he was named WA Scientist of the Year and the next day received a prestigious Australian Research Laureate Fellowship.
‘Last week was special, being awarded the WA Scientist of the Year prize and then the very next day an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship, which will fund my research for the next five years,’ he said.
He added that the future of scientific research in WA was bright, with a strong economy, an influx of well-educated people, strong connections to Asia and a strong agricultural sector.
‘What’s still largely missing, especially in WA, is the entrepreneurial interface between research and industry that you can find in some other parts of the world ” California, for example.’