Awards:UNSW Science shines in NSW prizes

A waratah, the NSW floral emblem
Monday, 4 November, 2013

Scientia Professor Justin Gooding, of the School of Chemistry, and Professor John Webb, of the School of Physics, have won 2013 NSW Science and Engineering Awards.

Professor Gooding, who is a co-director of the Australian Centre for Nanomedicine and head of the biosensors and biointerface research group, won the award for Emerging Research.

Professor Webb, who is one of the world’s most high profile researchers on the physics of the early universe, won the award for Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry and Physics.

They received their trophies and $5000 prizes at a NSW Science and Engineering Awards ceremony at Government House attended by the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir, and the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane.

“It is truly wonderful to see the high standard of work being undertaken across the sciences,” Professor O’Kane said.

A specialist in surface chemistry, Professor Gooding has pioneered the development of cutting-edge chemical sensors and biosensors. His research has major implications for medicine, environmental science, defence and security, and can be applied to improve environmental monitoring, drug testing, personalised medicine and detection of water contamination.

He won the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research in 2009 and was recently named one of the top 100 most influential analytical scientists on the planet by The Analytical Scientist magazine.

Professor Webb’s team has made the extraordinary finding that the laws of physics may vary across the cosmos. By studying distant quasars, they have shown that the strength of the electromagnetic force –the fine-structure constant, alpha – changes gradually from one side of the universe to the other.

This research, which suggests the laws of physics are just local by-laws, could explain why it was possible for life as we know it to develop in this particular region of the universe rather than elsewhere. Professor Webb’s team won the Eureka Prize for Scientific Research in 2012.

Two other UNSW researchers were honoured. Professor Katharina Gaus, of the Faculty of Medicine, won the award for Excellence in Biological Sciences, and Professor Martina Stenzel, of the Faculty of Engineering, won the award for Excellence in Engineering and Information and Communication Technologies.

It was noted at the ceremony that for the first time in the Awards’ six year history a husband and wife – Professor Gooding and Professor Gaus – had both won prizes.

Laureate Professor Graeme Jameson, of the University of Newcastle, was named NSW Scientists of the Year and received a $55,000 prize for his pioneering work in mineral processing technology.

UNSW Science Media: Deborah Smith, 9385 7307, 0478 492 060,

The NSW Governor, Professor Marie Bashir, with Scientia Professor Justin Gooding (above) and Professor John Webb (below)