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Premier Mark McGowan and Science Minister Dave Kelly today announced the finalists in the 2019 Premier’s Science Awards.

This year’s awards finalists include a scientist who has discovered new ways to treat and diagnose cancer; a scientist who is improving the ways our marine ecosystems are monitored, and a scientist who has found self-sustaining plant communities that can thrive in previously sterile, mined landscapes.

Among them, nominated in the category of ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year, is ICRAR PhD candidate Sam McSweeney from Curtin University. In the Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year, Astronomy WA’s Astrofest has also been nominated.

Sam McSweeney

Sam’s research yields important insights on the physical mechanism responsible for producing radio emission pulses from super-dense neutron stars that cannot be studied in Earth-based experiments. Aside from tackling one of the outstanding problems in astrophysics, known as the ‘radio pulsar emission mechanism’, this work has broader implications for developing high powered telescopes used in gravitational-wave science.

Sam’s work has received formal recognition, most notably the 2018 Ken and Julie Michael Prize for the most outstanding piece of research in the field of radio astronomy science, and the prize for best research presentation at the 2018 International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research Student Day conference.

His work currently informs and directs future research on pulsars proposed for the Square Kilometre Array, an international project to build the world’s largest radio telescope.



Astrofest has grown to become one of the biggest science events in Perth and the largest astronomy festival in Australia. ICRAR coordinates the event for Astronomy WA, and is one of the event’s sponsors.

About 4,000 people attend each year to view the night sky through giant telescopes and hear local researchers and science communicators talk about astronomy. Every astronomy organisation in Perth takes part in the festival, providing a showcase of Western Australia’s expertise and capacity in space sciences to the public. The event has a lasting impact on visitors’ awareness of and participation in WA astronomy.

“These finalists are helping our community in a myriad of ways and inspiring the next generation to study STEM and pursue careers in the jobs of the future.” said WA’s Premier, the Hon Mark McGowan MLA.

“I commend this year’s finalists on their outstanding achievements and the contributions they’re making to building a strong STEM culture in Western Australia.”

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on August 13, 2019, during National Science Week, Australia’s biggest annual celebration of science. For more information, visit the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation website.