Tall Poppies are the pick of the crop

Dr Donna Green
Friday, 30 October, 2009
Dan Gaffney

Three Science Faculty scholars have been honoured at the 2009 Young Tall Poppy Awards hosted by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science. Dr Marcus Cole, (Chemistry), Dr Donna Green (Climate Change) and Dr David Warton (Mathematics and Statistics) were among seven Tall Poppies from UNSW to celebrate their win last night at a gala event held at the NSW Powerhouse.

The Tall Poppies recognise young scientists who excel at research, leadership and communication. The program aims to inspire young people and the broader community about the possibilities of science and to encourage a culture of innovation alongside the promotion of scientific literacy.

UNSW's other Tall Poppy winners were Dr Michael Valenzuela (Medicine), Dr Mary Kavurma (Medicine), Dr Penny Martens (Biomedical Engineering), and Dr Matthew McCabe (Civil and Environmental Engineering). This year's crop of winners from universities across NSW and the ACT will spend 12 months travelling and talking to teachers, school students, parents and the broader community to help sustain science awareness and communication.

Dr Cole's main research interests concern methods for storing and using hydrogen for energy, and novel applications of heavy metals such as uranium for biological imaging, medicine and radiotherapy. A University Medal winner educated at Cardiff University in the UK, he has won $1m in independent competitive research funding. Asked why he pursues science as a career, Dr Cole said he loves the challenge: "Science makes the difference! How could you fail to be inspired by working on some of the biggest problems of our time?"

Dr Donna Green is researching climate change-impacts on remote Indigenous communities living in northern Australia. She says there has been little research about the likely effects of climate change impacts such as storm surges and sea-level rise upon Indigenous people in the Top End region. "My research is crucial to inform anticipatory adaptation strategies to reduce some of the most severe impacts of climate change for communities living in these regions," she says. Dr Green and journalist Liz Minchin are co-authors of a forthcoming book titled Screw Light Bulbs: smarter solutions to Australia's climate change challenge.

Dr David Warton develops novel data analysis methods for understanding aspects of the biological world, including primate evolution and plant physiology. He is currently developing new ways for predicting how ecological communities will respond to climate change, which he describes as "an important and relatively new problem which cannot be addressed using current data analysis methods in ecology." Dr Warton has been awarded $1.32m in research funding in the last five years. He speaks regularly to the media about applied science and career opportunities in mathematics and statistics.

The Tall Poppy Campaign is funded nationally by the Department of Health and Ageing.

Media contacts, Dan Gaffney, 0411 156 015, Bob Beale, 0411 705 435