Physics and chemistry PhD students jointly awarded Royal Society of Victoria prize

16 October 2015

Since 1854, a heritage-listed building in Melbourne’s La Trobe St has housed the oldest learned society in Victoria, and become an integral part of the state’s academic history. The Royal Society of Victoria has been a stalwart of the scientific community for over 150 years and now, in 2015, two students from the University of Melbourne are among the newest beneficiaries of their commitment to acknowledging and advancing science and scientists in Australia.

Catherine de Burgh-Day and Edward Nagul were jointly awarded the Young Scientist Research Prize for Physical Sciences, on the basis of excellence in scientific research and the communication of this research. Catherine won for her work in the field of Astrophysics, while Edward was honoured for his study of Analytical & Environmental Chemistry. Both students are in the process of completing PhDs in their respective fields.

Edward expects to submit his thesis in 2016, and said this makes the award especially timely.

“As I approach the end of my PhD, I’ve made it a high priority to network as much as possible in order to keep as many scientific careers options open as possible”, he said.

“Doing so through an organisation such as the Royal Society of Victoria will assist with this goal considerably!”

Catherine said she was honoured to be in such company, and the experience had left her encouraged by the potential in her fellow young researchers.

“I am humbled and proud to have won in the face of such competition, and also inspired by the incredible people I was competing against”, she said.

In 2015, this competition consisted of 64 applicants who self-nominated from universities across Victoria. From this pool of young researchers, eight finalists were chosen to present their work at an evening event in September.

“All the talks given by the finalists during the final selection of winner were faultless, as far as I could tell”, said Catherine.

This breadth and calibre of competition is a promising sign of progression in one of the Royal Society of Victoria’s main goals – the bridging of the communication gap between the scientific disciplines, in an effort to improve cross-disciplinary collaboration and understanding. And young researchers, like Catherine, Edward and their fellow honourees, can be trusted to lead the way.