Royal Society of NSW Awards for 2021

The Council of the Royal Society of New South Wales is pleased to announce its Awards for 2021 at the 1300th Ordinary General Meeting, held online on the evening of 2 February 2022.

These include the Cook Medal, which is the Society’s highest honour, awards for research and scholarly excellence, and awards that recognise substantial service to the Society.

The award winners are listed below, together with links to information about the awards and their recipients. 

The Cook Medal
James Cook Medal — Scientia Professor Rose Amal AC FRSN

Awards for Research Excellence
Clarke Medal and Lecture (Zoology) — Distinguished Professor Emeritus Robert John Aitken FRSN
Edgeworth David Medal — Dr Arnold Lining Ju
History and Philosophy of Science Medal — Professor Dean Rickles
Poggendorff Lectureship — Professor Richard Trethowan
Pollock Memorial Lecture — Professor Geraint Lewis FRSN
Warren Prize (Medal and Lectureship) — Dr Noushin Nasiri
Jak Kelly Award — Mx Zain Mehdi
Royal Society of NSW Scholarships — Mr Sajad Abolpour Moshizi, Mr Harry Marquis, and Mr Kevin (The Huong) Chau

Awards for Service to the Society
Royal Society of NSW Citation — The Honourable John Dowd AO QC FRSN
Royal Society of NSW Citation — Mr Hubert Regtop MRSN
Royal Society of NSW Citation — Mr Richard Wilmott MRSN

James Cook Medal
Scientia Professor Rose Amal AC FRSN FAA FTSE

Rose Amal

The James Cook Medal is awarded periodically by the Royal Society of New South Wales for outstanding contributions to science and human welfare in and for the Southern Hemisphere.

Professor Amal AC FRSN FTSE FAA, Scientia Professor of Chemical Engineering at UNSW (Sydney), is an acknowledged international leader in the field of chemical engineering. Her research has changed the way in which the properties of catalysts are understood, with her scientific breakthroughs in catalysis leading to real-world applications for sustainable environment and energy applications. In particular, she is renowned for her photocatalysis breakthroughs for large-scale industrial water treatment, and the generation of ‘clean hydrogen’ i.e., the production of hydrogen from water using solar energy powered by an electrolyser, including the generation of hydrogen directly from seawater. Her contributions to science and human welfare in and for the Southern Hemisphere have been extensive.

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Awards For Research Excellence

Clarke Medal and Lecture (Zoology)
Distinguished Professor Emeritus Robert John Aitken FRSN FAA FAHMS FRSE

John AitkenThe Clarke Medal is awarded each year for distinguished research in the natural sciences, conducted in Australia and its territories, in the fields of botany, zoology, and geology (considered in rotation). For 2021, the medal has been awarded in zoology.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus John Aitken, of the College of Engineering, Science and Environment at the University of Newcastle, is a global leader in reproductive biology and the 2012 NSW Scientist of the Year. Based at the University of Newcastle, he is President of the International Society of Andrology, Director of the Priority Research Centre in Reproductive Science and Professor of Biological Sciences. Professor Aitken heads up a research team that is making significant inroads into human and animal reproductive issues. His research achievements include identifying a major cause of male infertility that has resulted in new methods of therapeutic intervention, and the development of a contraceptive that would prevent pregnancy and inhibit the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Professor Aitken currently has an active program of research to develop non-surgical methods of sterilisation for domestic and feral animals. Nationwide, the damage done by vertebrate pests to Australian biodiversity and agricultural productivity amounts to $1 billion per annum. In response to this need, Professor Aitken’s research group has developed a technology for the non-surgical sterilization of mammalian species that opens up a market worth billions of dollars per annum.

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Edgeworth David Medal
Dr Arnold Lining Ju

Lining Arnold JuThe Edgeworth David Medal is awarded annually for distinguished research by a young scientist under the age of 35 years for work undertaken mainly in Australia or contributing to the advancement of Australian science.

Dr Lining Arnold Ju, an ARC DECRA Fellow in the Faulty of Engineering at the University of Sydney, employs innovative and cutting-edge research in mechanical engineering and biomechanics to open new avenues for the diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of blood clotting diseases. In just 8 years since his PhD award and under 35 years of age, he has been an ARC DECRA Fellow and a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow and has won awards such as the MIT TR35 Innovator, the Australian Museum Eureka Prize and NSW Young Tall Poppy. His academic standing is on a steep upward trajectory nationally and internationally. He is now spearheading his own Cardiovascular Biomechanics Lab for organ-on-chip blood clot assessment and the development of future cardiovascular point-of-care tests and telehealth microdevices.

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History and Philosophy of Science Medal
Professor Dean Rickles

Dean RicklesThe Society’s History and Philosophy of Science Medal is awarded annually to recognise outstanding achievements in the History and Philosophy of Science, especially the study of ideas, institutions, and individuals of significance to the practice of the natural sciences in Australia.

Professor Dean Rickles, who is Professor of History and Philosophy of Modern Physics at the University of Sydney, has made seminal contributions to both the history and the philosophy of modern physics, creating two-way traffic from conceptual and philosophical issues to historical ones. His work has been used and praised by philosophers, historians, and physicists alike. In particular, he has been a central figure in the emerging field of history and philosophy of quantum gravity (the as yet unknown theory that would treat our two great fundamental theories of physics, general relativity and quantum theory, in a single framework), and has driven much of the current research landscape. He has been responsible for many firsts, including the first detailed histories of string theory, praised by its chief architect (John Schwarz), and of quantum gravity, and the first philosophical papers on dualities and loop quantum gravity.

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Poggendorff Lectureship
Professor Richard Trethowan

Richard TrethowanThe Poggendorff Lecture is awarded periodically for research in plant biology and more broadly agriculture.

Professor Richard Trethowan, Director of the IA Watson Research Centre, Narrabri Plant Breeding Institute and a member of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, is a world-leading plant breeder. His work has improved our understanding of the genetic control of heat resistance in wheat, an important trait globally, and he contributed significantly to the development of new technologies including hybrid wheat systems and the application of genomic selection to plants. His work led to the development of unique genetic wheat strains that have impacted the productivity of agricultural systems in many countries. These impacts include the release of wheat cultivars to farmers from his experimental materials, either directly, through their use as parents, or the application of knowledge generated from his research.

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Pollock Memorial Lectureship
Professor Geraint Lewis FRSN FLSW

Geraint Lewis

The Pollock Memorial Lectureship has been awarded approximately every four years since 1949 and is sponsored by the University of Sydney and the Society in memory of Professor J.A. Pollock, Professor of Physics at the University of Sydney (1899-1922) and a member of the Society for 35 years.

As an outstanding researcher, Professor Geraint Lewis, Professor of Astrophysics in the Sydney Institute for Astrophysics in the School of Physics of the University of Sydney, focuses on cosmological mysteries. Through exquisite and extensive observations with the world’s largest telescopes coupled with synthetic universes generated on immense supercomputers, he hunts for the dark side — the dark matter and dark energy that shape the cosmos. With significant discoveries that confront our ideas on the formation and evolution of galaxies, he has published extensively in international journals. His passion for cosmology and physics is reflected in his teaching and student supervision, as well as an extensive outreach program that brings the mysteries of the universe to diverse international audiences.

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Warren Prize (Medal and Lectureship)
Dr Noushin Nasiri

Noushin Nasiri

The Warren Prize consists of a medal and lectureship in recognition of research by engineers and technologists in their early to mid-career.  Early-career researchers will have established a publication record in top-tier journals and wish to reach a broader audience, while mid-career researchers will have completed a larger body of work relevant to society.

Dr Noushin Nasiri is a Senior Lecturer in the Macquarie University School of Engineering and is Head of the Macquarie Nanotech Laboratory. She is a dynamic early career researcher whose work, which is highly regarded and recognised, combines multidisciplinary techniques in the field of nanomaterials, nanoelectronics, and chemistry to develop innovative nanomaterials that transform nanosensing technologies. Her work has already resulted in practical, beneficial outcomes, such as the world’s first wearable sensor, capable of differentiating between UVA and UVB rays, that alerts users in real-time to over-exposure to UV radiation. The technology is tailored for individuals, taking into account different skin types when calculating sun-safe limits.

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Jak Kelly Award
Mx Zain Mehdi

Zain Mehdi The Jak Kelly Award was created in honour of Professor Jak Kelly (1928–2012), who was Head of Physics at the University of NSW from 1985 to 1989, was made an Honorary Professor of the University of Sydney in 2004, and was President of the Royal Society of NSW in 2005 and 2006. Its purpose is to encourage excellence in postgraduate research in physics. The award is supported by the Royal Society of NSW and the Australian Institute of Physics, NSW branch. The winner is selected from a shortlist of candidates who made presentations at the most recent Australian Institute of Physics (NSW Branch) postgraduate awards meeting.  

Zain Mehdi, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Quantum Science and Technology at the Australian National University, investigates quantum physics in the mesoscopic regime — the intermediate scale between the microscopic world of individual atoms and the macroscopic world of classical objects. Their work focuses on theoretical investigations of exotic phenomena, such as superfluidity and turbulence, in cold atom systems, and has led to four publications in high-impact journals.  

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Royal Society of New South Wales Scholarships

The Royal Society Scholarships are awarded annually in order to acknowledge outstanding achievements by young researchers in any field of science. Applicants must be enrolled as research students in a university in either NSW or the ACT on 1 January in their year of nomination.

For 2021, three RSNSW Scholarships have been awarded:

  • Mr Sajad Abolpour Moshizi — PhD Candidate, Macquarie University
  • Mr Harry Marquis — PhD Candidate, University of Sydney
  • Mr Kevin (The Huong) Chau — Master of Research candidate, Macquarie University


Sajad Moshizi

Sajad Abolpour Moshizi is conducting research on the the development of hair-cell sensors for use inside the semicircular canals in the inner ear to treat patients suffering from balance problems and gaze instability. He is a recipient of the Biomolecular Discovery Research Centre (BDRC) Postgraduate Prize and winner of the best internationally peer-reviewed paper by a postgraduate student as a first author accepted for publication (“Development of an ultrasensitive, and flexible piezoresistive flow sensor using vertical graphene nanosheets”) in  Nano-Micro Letters. He is a recipient of a Macquarie University Postgraduate Research Fund (PGRF) scheme of up to $3000 and has more than 30 peer-reviewed journal articles.

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Harry Marquis

Harry Marquis is a PhD candidate in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney. His research is primarily conducted at the Department of Nuclear Medicine, Royal North Shore Hospital, under the supervision of Professor Dale Bailey. His project is titled “Development of a Dosimetry Platform for Theranostic Agents” and his key research interests are in quantitative PET and SPECT imaging, diagnostic medical imaging and image processing, theranostics and radionuclide therapy dosimetry, radiobiology and radiation safety. Harry’s research has already gained international recognition, receiving the Arthur Weis Award in 2020 for outstanding original work in radiation safety and dosimetry from the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI). In 2021, his work was featured in the SNMMI plenary lecture highlights “Basic Science Instrumentation & Data analysis: Image Generation” session and was also shortlisted for the best poster award in the physics track.

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Kevin Chau Kevin Chau joined the Analytical Glycoimmunology team at Macquarie University (MQ) in April 2018 as an undergraduate volunteer to study the removal of synapses by microglial receptors in the brain during sleep. After completing his course work to near-perfection, he decided to undertake a Master of Research (MRes) degree focusing on platelet glycobiology.  During the past 3–4 years he has shown great potential and talent, demonstrated, for example, by the award of multiple prestigious scholarships and prizes during his coursework progress. His research focuses on mapping the glycoproteome of human platelets.

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Awards for Service to the Society

Royal Society of NSW Citations

The Royal Society of NSW Citations are awarded to Members or Fellows of the Society who have made significant contributions to the Society, but who have not been recognised in any other way. A maximum of three Citations may be awarded in any one year.

The Honourable John Dowd AO QC FRSN

John Dowd Having previously served in prominent roles in the NSW Parliament and NSW Government, in 2002, The Honourable John Dowd AO QC FRSN was elected as Chancellor of Southern Cross University, serving until his retirement in 2014. In 2005, he was appointed Protection Ambassador for ActionAid Australia (previously AUSTCARE) and became a Director of the organisation in 2008 and President in 2009. In May 2011, Dowd launched The Justice Campaign in a show of support for human rights and justice with a focus on alleged abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere with a particular focus on David Hicks.

John Dowd provided the Royal Society of NSW with outstanding service in 2020 when he provided extensive pro bono legal advice over an extended period of time on the revision of the Society’s Rules which had not been comprehensively reviewed since 1968. This exercise was complex and extensive and involved liaison with a wide range of members of the Society. It resulted in a modernised set of Rules which will stand the Society in good stead for many years to come. This outcome could not have been achieved without his input.

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Mr Hubert Regtop MRSN

Hubert RegtopHubert Regtop MRSN is a biochemist and microbiologist with a Master of Science from the University of NSW (1973). He has a long and esteemed career as a university lecturer, research fellow, and research director of publicly listed companies, receiving multi-million dollar grants, and responsible for hospital funded projects and partnerships with universities in the US and UK. In the mid-nineties, he was responsible for introducing standardised herbs in Australia. As a director of Trilogie Pty Ltd, established in 1994, he currently consults and lectures to major health food companies, doctors, and pharmacists in Australia, on the role of nutrition in medicine. He has authored twenty-two publications and has had twenty-three patents approved. He has been a long-standing Chair of the Society’s Southern Highlands Branch to which he has made a significant contribution over ten years maintaining an active branch with a strong events program.

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Mr Richard Wilmott MRSN

Richard Wilmott Richard Wilmott MRSN was the Principal of the accounting firm RJ Wilmott & Co. In 2013 he was approached by Council to undertake the audit of the Society’s financial records from 2011 onwards. Richard completed the audit on a pro bono basis and then was persuaded to become the Society’s Honorary Treasurer and member of the Executive, positions which he held until March 2021. In 2014, the Society moved all its administration to a specialist organisation and Richard worked closely with that organisation to update and improve all aspects of the Society’s financial record keeping and reporting.

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