UWA scientist, surgeon share Scientist of the Year title

Professor Harvey Millar and Rene Van Meeuwen - representing Professor Christobel Saunders - joint winners of the 2017 Scientist of the Year  - with Premier Mark McGowan.
Professor Harvey Millar and Rene Van Meeuwen - representing Professor Christobel Saunders - joint winners of the 2017 Scientist of the Year - with Premier Mark McGowan.

UWA researchers have shared the title of Scientist of the Year at the 16th Premier’s Science Awards.

Professor Harvey Millar, centre director for the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, and Christobel Saunders, a Professor of Surgical Oncology, were announced joint winners at a gala yesterday.

Professor Millar is an award-winning leader in plant science research.

His focus has been on the function of proteins that enhance the energy efficiency of plants in harsh environments.

Professor Saunders is a consultant surgeon at Royal Perth, St John of God and Fiona Stanley Hospitals, and Professor of Surgical Oncology at UWA.

She is a leader in surgical practice and cancer research in Australia and internationally.

Premier Mark McGowan said the pair, who hold national leadership roles in their fields, embodied the best of Western Australian aptitude and innovation.

“They are also working actively to educate the next generation of Western Australian scientific researchers and practitioners,” he said.

Also among the winners was Wembley resident Asha Bowen, who claimed the Early Career Scientist of the Year award.

Dr Bowen is an early career researcher at the Telethon Kids Institute and paediatric infectious diseases specialist at Princess Margaret Hospital.

PhD candidate David Gozzard was named Student Scientist of the Year.

The Wembley Downs resident is completing a PhD in experimental physics.

His research is described as “developing stabilised transmission systems to send atomic clock signals over long distances with improved precision”.

The Fogarty Foundation’s CoderDojo WA, an open source network free and social computer programming clubs for young people aged seven to 17, won the Science Engagement Initiative of the Year.

The awards were decided by a judging panel led by WA’s Chief Scientist, Professor Peter Klinken.