Sydney researchers win NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering

Three researchers from the University of Sydney have received NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering, recognising their impactful work on the local and global stage across science, health and engineering.
Professor Michael Biercuk (left), Professor Catherine Sherrington and Dr Chang Xu.

Professor Michael Biercuk (left), Professor Catherine Sherrington and Dr Chang Xu.

In a testament to excellence in research and contributions to industry, three distinguished researchers from the University of Sydney have received NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering.

Professor Catherine Sherrington, whose work centres on fall prevention and enhanced mobility, received the Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences (Cell and molecular, medical, veterinary and genetics) award. Dr Chang Xu, an internationally recognised expert in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, received the NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year (Physical Sciences). Professor Michael J. Biercuk, quantum physicist and innovator, received the Leadership in Innovation in NSW award.

Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences

Professor Catherine Sherrington.

Professor Catherine Sherrington.

Every year, more than 135,000 Australians aged 65 and above are admitted to hospitals due to fall-related injuries. Professor Catherine Sherrington, internationally acclaimed for her pioneering work in developing methods to prevent falls and enhance mobility, is addressing this pressing yet overlooked public health challenge associated with an ageing population.

Professor Sherrington’s work integrates physiotherapy, exercise prescription and digital technology to improve outcomes for both patients and the broader community. With falls costing $2.3 billion in Australia each year, her programs have proven to be an important cost-effective solution.

Professor Emma Johnston, the University of Sydney’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), congratulated Professor Sherrington on her award.

“Catherine’s research around the promotion of physical activity in older people and the prevention of falls has been profoundly impactful. Her work has influenced global practice, including recommendations from the World Health Organisation in over 127 clinical and population health guidelines from 26 countries,” she said.

Professor Sherrington’s remarkable contributions position her as the fourth-ranked researcher globally in the independent living/falls field (Scopus), boasting an impressive publication record.

Professor Sherrington is a Professor and Senior Principal Research Fellow at the University of Sydney and is a member of the Charles Perkins Centre.

NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year (Physical Sciences)

Dr Chang Xu.

Dr Chang Xu.

Artificial intelligence sits at the forefront of innovation. However, the environmental impact of AI is large, and obtaining state-of-the-art AI models produces the equivalent of an average car’s five-year emissions.

Dr Chang Xu is committed to reducing the environmental footprint of AI by developing new ways to build next-generation systems that are efficient and accessible. He does this by engaging in Green AI, a model that involves designing algorithms and systems that are efficient and environmentally friendly.

Dr Xu’s work has achieved global commercial success. Notably, Huawei used his work in their earphones, FreeBuds, to reduce energy costs while improving battery life and audio quality.

“Chang’s expertise in AI and deep learning is internationally recognised as transformative, tackling complex problems and fast-tracking solutions to benefit end-users in real-world applications. His work has been hugely beneficial to SMEs, increasing efficiency and providing them with a competitive edge,” Professor Johnston said.

Dr Xu’s contributions were previously recognised by the University when he received the University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Early Career Research in 2022. His impressive collection of publications and citations places his work in the top three per cent in his field.

Dr Xu is a Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning and Computer Vision at the School of Computer Science. He has secured funding as an ARC Future Fellowship, a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellowship and Discovery Project as the sole Chief Investigator.

Leadership in Innovation in NSW

Professor Michael Biercuk.

Professor Michael Biercuk.

Quantum technologies have the potential to make a huge impact on the way we live, but hardware instability and error are holding back scale-up of the technology.

To address this, Professor Michael Biercuk, renowned quantum physicist and innovator, has pioneered the development of a new research field – ‘quantum controlled engineering’.

With a focus on commercialisation, Professor Biercuk’s work has led to the formation his company Q-CTRL in 2017, allowing researchers, developers and end-users to meaningfully benefit from quantum technology.

“Michael has made exceptional contributions to the field of quantum control engineering and is great example of being at the forefront of innovation in research. He has achieved enormous success in commercialising his work to found Q-CTRL, with its software being picked up by IBM for their quantum computers,” Professor Johnston said.

On the local level, Professor Biercuk has helped uplift Sydney as a quantum tech hub. He has advised the tertiary, commercial and government sectors, and Q-CTRL’s advances have resulted in defence contracts for sovereign capability development in Australia.

Professor Biercuk is the Director of the Quantum Control Laboratory, and Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems. He has served as the technical lead for the development of the $150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub – one of the world’s most advanced physical science research facilities.

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