Award: Eureka Prize for outstanding science mentor

Scientia Professor Justin Gooding
Thursday, 31 August, 2017
Deborah Smith

For his commitment to training and developing innovative, entrepreneurial and passionate research leaders, UNSW scientist Scientia Professor Justin Gooding has been awarded an Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor to Young Researchers.

The prize was presented to Professor Gooding, who is Deputy Head of the School of Chemistry, at a gala dinner in the Sydney Town Hall last night, dubbed the Oscars of Science.

His program of individualised mentorship is credited with creating a “buzz” in the laboratory, and a creative and supportive atmosphere which inspires scientists to “think big”.

Professor Gooding has been a champion of multi-disciplinary research at UNSW as founding co-director of the Australian Centre for Nanomedicine, which draws on the university’s strengths in the Faculties of Science, Engineering and Medicine as well as the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia.

His research team is pioneering the development of cutting-edge chemical sensors and biosensors that will have major practical implications for environmental monitoring, personalised medicine, drug testing defence and security. This includes work on a new type of diagnostic device that can measure single molecules or single cells.

“I love working with students and researchers,” says Professor Gooding. “When research students come into the lab they are still full of hopes and dreams. They still feel positive they can change the world in a good way. “All my job really is, in relation to their training, is to keep their hopes and dreams alive as long as possible,” he says.

Overall, 12 UNSW and affiliated teams were recognised on the night for excellence as finalists for the prestigious awards.

Also winning the Prize for Infectious Diseases Research were Dr Lucia Romani, Associate Professor Handan Wand and Professor John Kaldor from the Kirby Institute, and Dr Margot Whitfield from St Vincent’s Hospital.

They are members of the Scabies Research Team, led by Associate Professor Andrew Steer from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, which won for two world-first trials involving mass administration of the drug ivermectin, which reduced the prevalence of scabies from 33% of the population to less than 2%.

Professor Gooding is also co-director of the NSW Smart Sensing Network, which is bringing together experts in chemistry, physics, nanotechnology and ICT to work on smart sensors to solve some of the state’s big challenges in health, the environment, transport and industry.

He is an Australian Laureate Fellow, a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and has won numerous awards, including a NSW Science and Engineering Award for Emerging Science in 2013, and two awards from the Royal Society of NSW in December 2016 – the Walter Burfitt Prize for research in pure and applied science that is of the highest scientific merit, and the Archibald Liversidge Medal for research in Chemistry.