Academy of Science awards Sydney scientists with highest honour

Professors Dacheng Tao, Geordie Williamson, Jennie Brand-Miller and Chris Dickman recognised for outstanding contributions to Australian science.

The Australian Academy of Science has awarded four academics from the University of Sydney with its highest honour, electing them as Fellows of Australia’s most prestigious scientific organisation.

On Tuesday, 21 scientists from across Australia were elected to the Academy for their outstanding contributions to science. Four come from the University of Sydney, a higher number this year than any other institution.

The four new Fellows from the University of Sydney are:

  • Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, human nutrition
  • Professor Christopher Dickman, ecology
  • Professor Dacheng Tao, artificial intelligence
  • Professor Geordie Williamson, mathematics

Professor Tao’s citation for his election to the Academy particularly notes that "he has made fundamental research contributions to learning succinct, robust and effective representations for data sampled from high dimensional or high order spaces."

He said: "It is my great honour to be elected as a fellow of the Academy. Not only has it recognised my effort and contributions to artificial intelligence, but it will also strengthen my commitment to further research in artificial intelligence."

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, said: "It is an enormous honour for us that four outstanding academics have been recognised by their election to the Academy of Science.

"This is a just reward for their hard work and brilliance, and it reflects the University’s investment in long-term, fundamental science that packs real impact. I’m tremendously proud of all four new Fellows and look forward to continuing to support their stellar scientific careers."

Professor Geordie Williamson, elected the youngest living Fellow of the Royal Society in London this month, now also becomes the youngest living Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor Williamson from the School of Mathematics and Statistics said: "I’m honoured and surprised to be elected to the Australian Academy. I have enormous respect for what the Academy does in terms of advocacy and outreach for the sciences and I’m looking forward to contributing to that in the future."

Professor Williamson has been recognised for his contribution to representation theory in mathematics.

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Charles Perkins Centre has been elected a Fellow of the Academy of Science in recognition for championing understanding of the role of the glycemic index (GI) in health and disease.

She has transformed the way carbohydrate foods are considered by scientists, physicians and consumers.

Professor Brand-Miller said: "I feel absolutely over the moon about being elected to the Academy. I believe that it says that my peers acknowledge that what I’ve been doing in my research has been important, has made a step forward in science. It is, to me, a really crowning award."

The pioneering research by Professor Christopher Dickman from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences shows that competition, predation and indirect interactions have more profound and pervasive effects on mammalian population dynamics than previously thought.

He said: "Without science it’s not going to be possible to make sustainable use of our environment as we continue to demand more and more from it. One of the great things about science, of course, is that it’s a joint enterprise, and there are a lot of people to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude."

Academy of Science President, Professor Andrew Holmes , congratulated all the new Fellows for making significant and lasting impacts in their scientific disciplines.

Just 10 years after completing his doctorate, Professor Geordie Williamson has been recognised for his fundamental contribution to representation theory in mathematics.

Emily Maguire has been awarded the 2018 Charles Perkins Centre Writer in Residence Fellowship, receiving $100,000 and other benefits to support her work on a novel addressing the complex relationship between social identity and health.

University of Sydney Professor of Computer Science Dacheng Tao has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the highest honours in the field.