Dr Muireann Irish honored at the New South Wales Young Tall Poppy Science Awards overnight

Congratulations to Dr Muireann Irish who was honored with an award last night at the New South Wales ‘Young Tall Poppy Science Awards.’

The awards honour up-and-coming scientists who combine world-class research with a passionate commitment to communicating science.

NeuRA’s Dr Irish is a cognitive neuroscientist interested in how we remember the past and imagine the future.

Her ultimate goal is to contribute towards reversing memory difficulties in dementia to improve the quality of life for patients and families.

The awards are run by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS). Ten emerging NSW scientists were chosen from disciplines spanning mental health research, Biomedical engineering, Geochemistry and Astrophysics.

AIPS General Manager Camille Thomson said the awards, which are held stateby-state, celebrate the country’s best and brightest young achievers across the sciences.

“Many Young Tall Poppies go on to achieve even greater things and to become inspiring leaders in their field,” she said. “They also become role models by working with the education and community sectors to encourage greater engagement in science.”

As part of the Young Tall Poppy campaign, award winners will spend a year sharing their knowledge with school students, teachers and the broader community through workshops, seminars and public lectures.

Young Tall Poppies are nominated by their peers and are early career researchers aged 35 or under. Selection is based on research achievement and leadership potential.

More than 300 young scientists have been honoured nationally since the award was established in 2000.


Dr Heather Handley – Macquarie University
Dr Heather Handley uses the chemistry of rocks, soils and sediments to unravel the timescales of a wide range of geological processes. Heather is also currently working on new methodologies for dating sediments to deliver a novel approach to understanding climate-led landscape changes.

Assoc Prof Simon Ho – University of Sydney
Evolutionary Biology
Dr Simon Ho studies evolution at a genetic level. By studying DNA from a variety of organisms he is able to estimate the timescale of their evolutionary history.

Dr Muireann Irish – Neuroscience Research Australia
Cognitive Neuroscience
Dr Muireann Irish is cognitive neuroscientist interested in how we remember the past and imagine the future. Her ultimate goal is to contribute towards remediation of memory difficulties in dementia to improve the quality of life of patients.

Dr Lawrence Lee – Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
Synthetic Biology, Biophysics
Dr Lawrence Lee leads a world-first initiative to artificially build nature’s most impressive biological machines. These include the bacterial flagellar motor, the most sophisticated rotary motor known to science.

Dr Megan Lord – University of NSW
Biomedical Engineering
Dr Megan Lord is focused on molecular interactions to better understand how implantable medical devices integrate with the body. Her work has applications
in the development of materials for regenerative medicine, cancer cell targeted drug delivery and molecular diagnosis of arthritis.

Dr Angela Nickerson – University of NSW
Refugee and post conflict mental health
Angela’s research employs experimental methods to uncover mechanisms underlying the relationship between refugee trauma and mental health outcomes. She was the first to develop a comprehensive theory of these psychological processes.

Dr Nicola Newton – University of NSW
Adolescent substance use prevention
Dr Nicola Newton developed the first ever internet-based intervention program for the prevention of alcohol and cannabis use. Recently her research has moved
towards combining this intervention program with selective personality-targeted measures for students who are considered ‘high-risk’.

Dr Lee Spitler – Macquarie University
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Dr Lee Spitler’s research focuses on pushing current telescope technology to its limit in order to understand an early period of the universe that has never been accessed before. His work has been driven by the practical application and development of cutting-edge optics and telescope detector technologies.

Dr Alastair Stewart – Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
Biological Energy Conversion
Dr Alastair Stewart’s research focuses on the molecular motor that converts nutrients into biologically useful energy with cells. Alastair was the first in the world to establish the precise molecular architecture of the part of the motor known as the peripheral stalk.

Dr Thomas Whitford – University of NSW
Schizophrenia and neuroimaging
Dr Thomas Whitford is world-leading scientist in the area of schizophrenia research. Specifically his research aims to understand why healthy patients are able to suppress self-produced sensations – for example, being unable to tickle oneself – while schizophrenia patients are unable to suppress these sensations.