Prime Minister’s Prize for Science awarded to gravitational wave scientists

A research team from the Australian Research Council of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery has won this year’s Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

Emeritus Professor David Blair, Professor David McClelland, Professor Susan Scott and Professor Peter Veitch received the $250,000 prize for their contributions to the international effort that led to the world-first detection of gravitational waves in 2015.

The team was involved in a number of ways, from designing systems to ensure the stability of high-powered laser beams to developing mathematical models used to identify the source of the first signal detected.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the discovery embodied the very best of Australia’s scientific community.

“This year more than ever we have turned to our scientists in the face of one of our biggest challenges in recent memory, the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“Discoveries such as the detection of gravitational waves were led by Australian technology and insight, and practical applications of scientific breakthroughs will continue to play a vital role in ensuring that science, innovation and education are key components of Australia’s economic future.

“Australia’s scientific community is and will continue to be at the forefront of Australia’s recovery and the recipients are a testament to the incredible work undertaken by our nation’s scientists.”

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the immense value and importance of the work of Australian scientists has been highlighted in 2020.

“This year has really reminded us all just how crucial science is to our lives. In the midst of devastating bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, we have turned to our scientists to help shine a light on the unknown and map a path for the future,” she said.

“But the field of science is far broader than these issues alone. The prizes show how Australian scientists are coming up with innovative solutions to improve our lives, from new cancer treatments to global sustainability issues.”

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are Australia’s most prestigious awards for outstanding achievements in scientific research, research-based innovation and excellence in science teaching.