Australian Laureate Fellow, Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace, has won the prestigious CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science.

Recognised for his work as an internationally renowned researcher at UOW’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), Professor Wallace was commended at the Eureka Prize gala dinner in Sydney, for his cultivation of a research vision in the area of intelligent polymers.

The Eureka Prizes are Australia’s most comprehensive national science awards, presented annually by the Australian Museum to reward outstanding achievements in Australian science.

Professor Wallace said his Eureka Prize acknowledged the pioneering work undertaken by his collaborative team, in the use of nanotechnology and additive fabrication in renewable energy and medical science.

“This award acknowledges the ability of ACES and its partners to take fundamental discovery to real applications,” Professor Wallace said. “It takes an integrated, cohesive and committed team to achieve this.”

“A great team can make most people look like a good captain.”

In his acceptance speech, Professor Wallace thanked the people he has worked with over his 30 years at UOW.

“Thank you to the hundreds of people I’ve worked with around this country, especially those at ACES and the Australian National Fabrication Facility,” Professor Wallace said.

“Thank you also to the community we work for. You can be assured that you have around this country, research scientists totally committed not only to discoveries in the lab, but to translating those discoveries to practical outcomes in the most effective and efficient way possible, so that we can all lead better lives.” 

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Reflections on my Eureka Prize: The importance of friendship and collaboration

I was honoured to receive the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science recently. Through various subsequent discussions with friends and colleagues I was caused to reflect on what has gotten us thus far on our journey of discovery.

Most important of all is the colleagues I have had the privilege to work with and the mentors I have been fortunate to learn from. Some small snippets of that are captured in a recent chapter in a book called "We Discover" edited by Marc Guttman. www.Wediscover.net
Some excerpts follow:

“Not all friendships result in collaborations but all collaborations require friendship: trust, integrity, respect. The title of this book is apt. This is not a story about personal discoveries but about the realisation that effective research teams bring about much, much, more than the sum of their parts.”

“The Cork gig in Ireland (very early in my career) gave me an amazing opportunity to pursue my research interests in new electromaterials, and I already knew that it was biological and medical applications that fascinated me. The famous frog’s legs experiments of Luigi Galvani (http://tinyurl.com/animalelectricity) intrigued me. I started to work on organic conducting polymers. While our initial discoveries were around metal ion detection, a natural follow on from my PhD studies, the thought of creating new versions of these materials for biological applications was always at the back of my mind.”

“Antibody-antigen interactions have been the basis of a number of electrical signal based biosensing approaches. The molecule to be detected couples to its molecular partner with exquisite selectivity. Approaches used prior to ours involved the development of elaborate chemical procedures to bind the hunter molecule to the sensor surface. Here we thought the trapping of the hunter in the unique mobile electronic environment offered by organic conducting polymers may offer some advantages. This discovery was the first step along the journey to develop organic bionics.”

“Dr Anthony Hodgson joined our group and in the early 90’s his skills enabled us to delve more into biological studies. We demonstrated cytocompatibility with organic conducting polymers and also discovered protocols that enabled living cells to be incorporated into these materials during synthesis. The cells were red blood cells.”

“An encounter with Prof Graeme Clark some 10 years later catalysed a resurrection of this whole area of our activity and the concept of Organic Bionics was born.”

“The materials discovery journey continually highlights the need for innovative approaches to fabrication. Numerous attempts to engage the more traditional manufacturing sector revealed that was not the way to go. We started to engage in the development of printing technologies.”

“We have gone on to create new printing technologies that cover the nano- micro- macroscopic. We have developed inks to deliver biopolymers as structural materials, proteins and living cells distributed with exquisite precision in 3D.  3D bioprinting has revolutionised our approach to both fundamental and implementation studies.”

“The value of friendship and collaboration building in scientific research is undervalued and under resourced. Research organisations need to structure things to better resource this activity and to acknowledge the importance of it.” 

The exciting journey continues with all of my colleagues at ACES and ANFF and others around Australia and indeed around the globe.