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The Aussie women scientists at the top of their game

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Enterprising Girls Team
Academy for Enterprising Girls

It is like the Oscars of the science-world, the annual Prime Ministers Prizes for Science is the country’s most prestigious awards for all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

And this year, a record number of women were honoured for their groundbreaking research and inspiring teaching in fields like mathematics, immunology and science. 

For the first time, five out of the 10 Prime Ministers Prizes for Science award recipients - yes, that means HALF - were women, including an incredible mathematician who took out the night’s top prize worth $250,000. So, who said concentrating in maths class doesn’t pay off? 

Here are five remarkable STEM pioneers and seriously smart Australian women you should know about:

Women in STEM, Prime Ministers Prizes for Science recipients

Emeritus Professor Cheryl Praeger

Bio Image of Professor Cheryl PraegerCheryl Praeger - UOW, is an Emeritus Professor from the University of Western Australia and is recognised around the world for her research in mathematics. She works on complex areas of maths - with mind-boggling names like “group theory” and “combinatorics” - that have serious real-life applications, such as helping search engines pull useful information from the internet. 

Emeritus Professor Praeger, won the top award of the night, the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, and has published a staggering 410 articles and books. She is also very good at mentoring younger students, including Akshay Venkatesh, who won the 2018 Fields Medalist (which is like the Nobel Prize of math) 

Associate Professor Laura Mackay

Bio Image of Laura MackayLaura Mackay, an Associate Professor from the University of Melbourne, is quite literally working to cure cancer. Her research into tissue-resident memory T cells (called TRMs) has changed the way the science world treats infectious disease and cancer. 

Associate Professor Mackay is now one of the most in-demand speakers for science research in the world and is the youngest and first-ever female President of the Immunological Societies of Asia-Oceania.

Associate Professor Elizabeth New

Bio Image of Elizabeth NewElizabeth New, is an Associate Professor from the University of Sydney, who has been busy developing new ways for doctors to work out which cells in the body are diseased and which are healthy.

Associate Professor New developed molecules that act as fluorescent light sensors, highlighting cell reactions within the body, which is something traditional ultrasounds or MRIs can’t do. Her work will help treat serious health problems, like heart-disease, cancer and diabetes. 

Sarah Finney, Teacher

Bio Pict of Sarah Finney STEMSarah Finney is a primary school teacher at Stirling East Primary School in South Australia and was recognised for fostering a love of STEM among her students through her science inquiry unit. 

Ms Finney encourages her students to choose topics they are interested in, and provides opportunities to engage with real-life scientists at the school like astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker and Dr Karl.

Samantha Moyle, Teacher

Bio Pict of Samantha Moyle, STEM TeacherSamantha Moyle, from Brighton Secondary School in South Australia, was awarded the prize for excellence in high school science teaching. As well as being a teacher, Dr Moyle has a doctorate in neuroscience and is always looking for ways to make science fun. 

Some of her incredible cutting-edge lessons include; comparing Iron Man suits with real-life exosuits that help paraplegic people walk again and making fizzy bath bombs for Mother’s Day to develop an understanding of acid-base reactions. 

Ah-mazing! All five prize winners are proving women are making some of the most remarkable contributions in Australian science today. 

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