Dr John Young

Australian Defence Force Academy, UNSW
Research Field: Bio-mimicry and Aerodynamics
2012 ACT Young Tall Poppy of the Year

Dr Young is studying the complex aerodynamics of insects such as dragonflies, bees and locusts, to learn how we might replicate their abilities. Flapping wings, as an alternative to fixed or rotary wings, are at the cutting edge of Micro Air Vehicle development as designers seek to create vehicles from as small as 10 grams down to even 100 milligrams for flight in enclosed spaces. The same aerodynamic techniques might also lead to more efficient wind and water turbines based on flapping rather than rotating wings.

John’s most unique outreach work has been with the QL2 Centre for Youth Dance in Canberra. Since 2011 John has collaborated with the Artistic Director on incorporating bird and insect wing motions into dance choreography – communicating his area of scientific expertise to the general public in an innovative way. His research has also been the subject of in-depth interviews for TV news, radio, and newspaper articles including the New York Times and Sydney Morning Herald.

  • Micro Air Vehicles
  • Biomimicry
  • Aerodynamics
  • Engineering

Dr Elizabeth Williams

The Australian National University
Research Field: Nuclear physics

Dr Williams attempts to understand this subatomic world, by ‘smashing’ atoms together to see if they “fuse”, to form new nuclei, or break apart. Studying the difference between these two outcomes may reveal the best way to make new superheavy elements that we think should exist but are still struggling to create.

Dr Williams and her colleagues contribute to the search for these new elements by studying the delicate quantum physics that governs this fusion process.

Elizabeth has worked as a freelance science journalist for publications like Australian Geographic and Plenty Magazine, and understands the importance of writing about science with a specific audience in mind. She is only new to the ACT but is hoping to use her work with the Yale Physics Olympics and CSIRO’s Scientist’s in Schools program, to help the public understand how nuclear science affects our daily lives, through her writing and also messy experiments.

  • Nuclear Structure
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Data Science
  • Physics

Dr Tom Bridge

Biodiversity, Ecology and Conservation Biology
Queensland Museum Network

We typically think of coral reefs as shallow, sun-drenched habitats with crystal clear waters, but this view represents only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Dr Bridge’s research focuses on the coral reef ‘twilight zone’ – the deep waters below the depths accessible to conventional SCUBA divers. Using cutting-edge robotics to document the twilight zone reefs, he has shown that they are widespread in the Great Barrier Reef, and that the total extent of deep reefs is similar to shallow reefs. These deeper reefs support diverse ecological communities, including species new to science and many other species not previously recorded from Australia. Twilight zone reefs are less exposed to many of these processes threatening shallower reefs such as pollution or global warming, and could represent important refuges for coral reef biodiversity.

Tom has received national and international newspaper, radio and television coverage, and conducted national radio interviews with the ABC and commercial radio stations. He recently appeared in an episode of the television series Coasts Australia and was featured in Australian Geographic. At the 2017 World Science Festival, he presented at two events: Cool Jobs, which aims to inspire schoolchildren about careers in science, and ‘Let’s Talk’, a seminar where he was able share his research with the broader public.

  • Coral Reefs
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate Change
  • Ecology
  • Conservation
  • Environmental Science

Dr Jaquelyne Hughes

Menzies School of Health Research
Obesity and Preventable Chronic Disease; Indigenous Health

Dr Hughes recognized the lack of detailed body composition studies of Indigenous Australians and sought to correct this in her research. She found distinct differences in both body build and composition. Her research showed that in many traits such as a short trunk and higher lean mass for overall size, the body composition for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people meant they were more at risk of abdominal obesity (due to intra-abdominal fat deposition) and therefore at a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. The pattern of predominant abdominal obesity was also shown by Dr Hughes’ research to link with albuminuria (a key marker of kidney damage).

Jacquelyne has used her unique role as an Indigenous Australian and a specialist health clinician and researcher based in the Territory to promote the health status of Indigenous Australians with obesity-related chronic disease among health academics and policy spheres. She also engages with the community through succinct and culturally appropriate health messages to help them better understand how overweight and obesity contributes to chronic disease risk.

  • Obesity
  • Kidney Disease
  • Chronic Disease
  • Indigenous Health
  • Public Health