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Prime Minister's prizes for science and science teaching.

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It gives me great pleasure to announce that Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller AC, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, is the winner of the $300,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

Professor Miller is a pre-eminent research scientist whose immense contribution to our understanding of immunology has had a far reaching impact on international medical research and treatment.

The ground-breaking nature of Professor Miller’s discoveries, underpin much of modern medicine’s understanding of how the immune system operates. His discoveries paved the way for the further pioneering work of many other research scientists including Nobel Prize winning researcher Professor Peter Doherty.

In a career spanning five decades, Professor Miller made two vital discoveries. His research showed how the thymus - an organ others had assumed to be obsolete - was crucial to the immune system. Professor Miller’s discovery made him one of the few scientists in history to ever determine the function of an entire organ.

He also discovered that mammals had two distinct types of white blood cells - those created in the thymus (T cells) and those derived from bone marrow (B cells). Together, these cell populations protect human beings from the vast array of agents detrimental to our health, from viruses and bacteria to cancer cells.

Professor Miller’s vital discoveries demonstrate the importance of basic research. His commitment to research beneficial to mankind has allowed modern medicine to develop new strategies for developing better vaccines, preventing organ graft rejection and for better targeting cancer treatment.

His work has also shed light on the ways in which the immune system might fail, leading to allergic diseases such as asthma and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and insulin dependent diabetes.


Throughout his distinguished career, Professor Miller has also received recognition from international bodies, societies and associations based in the United States, Canada, Europe and Israel.

In addition to announcing Professor Miller’s award, I am delighted to recognise two of Australia’s most promising young researchers along with two exceptional science teachers who play an essential role in nurturing a new generation of enquiring minds.

The $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year (awarded to a scientist who is 35 years or under), has been won by Dr Howard Wiseman of Griffith University for his instrumental work in developing a new theory for controlling quantum devices.

The winner of the $50,000 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (awarded to a scientist who is 35 years or under) is Dr Christopher Helliwell of the CSIRO for his major discoveries which have led to considerable advances in our understanding of the role of hormones in plants and will have important benefits for the agricultural industry.

The winner of this year’s Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools is Ms Sarah Tennant, from Sydney Grammar School, New South Wales.

The Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools has been won by Dr Pam Garnett from St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls, Western Australia. The prizes for science teaching are each worth $50,000.

I congratulate all the prize winners for what they have achieved and for their ongoing contribution to Australia’s future and to international advances in the fields of science research and science teaching.

9 September 2003