Hunter geotechnical engineer awarded top gong at inaugural Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering

7 Oct 2015

A Hunter-based engineer, whose cutting-edge research has led to the development of safer, cheaper transport and energy infrastructure worldwide, has been named New South Wales' Scientist of the Year.

Laureate Professor Scott Sloan from the University of Newcastle has taken out the top gong at the inaugural NSW Premier's Prizes for Science & Engineering held at Government House, Sydney, this evening (Wednesday 7 October 2015).

Professor Sloan, who leads the $14-million Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Geotechnical Science and Engineering, has pioneered new methods to predict the collapse states of geostructures such as roads and buildings – allowing engineers to design cheaper and safer civil infrastructure around the globe.

Premier Mike Baird congratulated Professor Sloan and said the benefits of his work would reverberate across the world.

"His research is being used widely in the construction of a range of infrastructure, including roads, railway lines, tunnels, building foundations, dams, port facilities, pipelines, mining operations, as well as offshore oil and gas facilities.

"Our State is in the midst of a multi-billion dollar infrastructure boom with a number of major projects currently underway – and Professor Sloan's research will result in those projects being completed more safely and more cost effectively," he said.

Professor Sloan's research has underpinned construction of the Pacific Highway on the state's north coast and big road projects in Boston and Chicago, and been used to predict tunnel stability in work to extend the London Underground and Italy's railway network.

He was presented a trophy and $55,000 cash prize at tonight's ceremony, which was attended by the Governor of New South Wales and Patron of the Prizes, His Excellency General David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd), as well as Senior Ministers, the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, academia, and members of the R&D community.

The Premier also announced the eight category award winners who each received a trophy and $5000 cash prize. The category prize winners were:

1. Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry and Physics
Winner: Professor Victor Flambaum, University of New South Wales

2. Excellence in Biological Sciences (Ecology, environmental, agricultural, organismal)
Winner: Emeritus Professor John Patrick, University of Newcastle

3. Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences (Cell and molecular, medical, veterinary and genetics):
Winner: Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO, University of New South Wales

4. Excellence in Engineering and Information and Communications Technologies:
Winner: Scientia Professor Mark Bradford, University of New South Wales

5. NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year:
Winner: Dr Michael Bowen, The University of Sydney

6. Leadership in Innovation in NSW:
Winner: Professor Christoph Arns, University of New South Wales

7. Innovation in NSW Public Sector Science and Engineering:
Winner: Dr Hutton Oddy, NSW Department of Primary Industries

8. Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education in NSW:
Joint Winner: Ms Sheila Pooviah, James Ruse Agricultural High School
Joint Winner: Mr Eddie Woo, Cherrybrook Technology High School

"I commend the researchers and educators who have been awarded Prizes tonight and all those who were nominated," Mr Baird said. "Your research efforts, clever ideas and unwavering dedication to your chosen field have contributed significantly to our great State."

Chief Scientist & Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, also paid tribute to the prize winners and nominees.

"The number of nominations grows higher every year, and the calibre of entries is nothing short of excellent – this makes the judging process both exciting and challenging," Professor O'Kane said.

"I congratulate the winners on this significant achievement, and thank them for their contribution to knowledge in NSW," she said.

The NSW Premier's Prizes for Science & Engineering, which replace the NSW Science & Engineering Awards, seek to recognise excellence in science and engineering, and reward leading researchers for cutting-edge work that has generated economic, environmental, health, social or technological benefits for New South Wales.

For more information about the individual category prize winners, go to

NSW Premier Mike Baird with the 2015 NSW Scientist of the Year, Laureate Professor Scott Sloan from the University of Newcastle, at Government House, Sydney.