Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Awards

The annual Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Awards are hosted by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) in partnership with the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist.

These awards recognise and celebrate researchers who demonstrate scientific excellence combined with a unique passion for science communication, which can inspire young people to enter STEM study and careers.

This event was held in August 2022 to announce the Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Award winners.

Congratulations to Dr Gary Chan from The University of Queensland who has been awarded the 2022 Queensland Young Tall Poppy of the Year.

Eleven other researchers were acknowledged with a Young Tall Poppy Science Award on the night.

All delivered a one minute pitch on the research and communication activities that led to them being short listed for the award.

Read more about this year’s award-winning scientists and their research below.

2022 Queensland Young Tall Poppy of the Year

Dr Gary Chan
The University of Queensland

Dr Chan’s research aims at finding the best policy mix to accelerate our transition into a tobacco-free society. He is doing this by taking lessons from other countries with different policies and quantifying the impact of various policies on smoking and vaping.

Despite decades of effort, there are still over 2 million daily smokers in Australia and billions around the world. Dr Chan has been actively engaging the public including school students on the harms of smoking and vaping.

2022 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Award winners

Dr Mark Adams

Lung cancer resistance to therapy is the primary reasons it is so deadly. To address this global challenge, Dr Adam’s research team is working to identify which tumours are likely to be therapy resistant and to develop strategies enabling appropriate treatment.

They are developing new drug-like therapeutics to switch off the molecules that are overactive in the disease. Dr Adam’s goal is to reverse therapy resistance and improve health outcomes and quality of life for all people living with lung cancer through optimal treatment.

  • Meet a 2022 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Award winner

    Meet a 2022 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Award winner

Dr Kate Helmstedt

With human populations growing so rapidly, species and ecosystems are under immense pressure. These systems and impacts need to be carefully managed to protect ecosystems into the future.

Dr Helmstedt uses mathematics to build models to understand complex ecological systems like the Great Barrier Reef and Antarctica. She uses these models to predict future outcomes and design the best management that maximises future sustainability.

  • Meet a 2022 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Award winner

    Meet a 2022 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Award winner

Dr Jingwei Hou
The University of Queensland

When we think about glass materials, they are inert, heavy, hard and brittle. Broken mobile phone screens are expensive to repair and also generate a considerable amount of e-waste. Dr Hou’s research may shatter your expectations of glass.

He has developed a new hybrid glass for more resilient screens that not only resist breakage but also produce high-quality images for phones, LEDs and computers. The new glass can be used in a number of fields and can be fabricated from lower grade mineral materials, offering value adding for the Australian mining sector.

Dr Saman Khalesi

Dr Khalesi’s research focuses on equipping consumers with tools to identify dietary myths and misinformation and make informed food choices.

He is working with consumers and communities, in collaboration with health professionals, to develop online coaching programs that provide evidence-based dietary information and misinformation-busting forums. One of his programs aims to help Australians reduce their salt intake and educate about food labelling.

Dr Larisa Labzin
The University of Queensland

Dr Labzin’s research is about understanding how the immune system detects an infection and what specific alarm signals it sends out to start preparing a targeted response. She has found that even if sentinel immune cells are directly infected by SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, they stop the virus from replicating and infecting other cells.

This is because they send out really powerful immune signals. Dr Labzin is now trying to understand whether this is protective or driving a lot of the severe illness caused by collateral damage from an overactive immune system.

Associate Professor Christian Moro
Bond University

Most people who seek pharmaceutical treatments for an ‘overactive bladder’ stop their regimens due to lower-than-expected benefits or adverse side effects. However, some success has been found with the use of combination therapies, where several alternative receptors are concurrently targeted.

This presents a clear need to assess which receptors may contribute to dysfunction. Associate Professor Moro’s research has provided insights into a range of novel alternative receptors systems, providing direction for future pharmaceutical treatments for bladder dysfunction.

Associate Professor Tracy O'Mara
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Incidence of endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining), the most common gynaecological cancer in Australia, is rapidly increasing with predictions of a 40-50% increase over the next decade.

Associate Professor O’Mara extensive genetic study of endometrial cancer includes data from over 12,000 endometrial cancer patients. She is now using the results from this study to inform four main research questions: what are risk factors for endometrial cancer, who is at greatest risk of developing the cancer, which genes are important for its development, and can we identify new avenues for effective therapies.

Associate Professor Robin Orr
Bond University

Fire fighters, police officers and soldiers, put their lives in harm’s way to serve and protect the community and can suffer rates of injury and illnesses above that of the general community.

Associate Professor Orr’s research aims to improve the working environment and outcomes of these professionals through profiling their injuries and illness, identifying their key tasks and fitness requirements, and working with industries such as those that provide clothing and gear to optimise their personal protective equipment.

Dr Benjamin Pope
The University of Queensland

Dr Pope wants to know whether we are alone in the universe, uncover the origins of life on our own planet, and find out how our Sun and other stars change and influence the planets around them.

To explore our Solar System’s origins, Dr Pope is looking at young stars to see how they form their own solar systems and taking high-resolution pictures of these systems at the moment of their birth using a special camera on the James Webb Space Telescope. He searches for spirals and rings in these images that betray the gravitational influence of hidden, newborn planets.

Dr Sonia Shah
The University of Queensland

Heart disease remains one of the biggest causes of death in Australia, creating not only immeasurable heartache for families but also a $5 billion cost to the economy every year.

As a genetics researcher, Dr Shah analyses genetic and health data from many thousands of individuals to understand which genes are important in heart disease development, with the aim to use this information to improve prevention and treatment of disease.

Dr Michael Sievers
Griffith University

With the ongoing destruction of marine environments, restoration is needed to reverse habitat loss, enhance biodiversity, and reinstate the benefits society derives from healthy coastal ecosystems. Many current restoration initiatives focus on vegetation and assume animals will colonise restored habitats, however this often does not happen.

Dr Sievers’ work focuses on the critical role animals play in healthy ecosystems and aims to better understand how manipulating and supporting animals can maximise restoration success and improve outcomes for society, the environment and the economy.

Past winners

Find out about the 20212020 and other Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Award winners.