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Australian Academy of Science awards four Sydney scientists with its highest honour

The Australian Academy of Science has awarded four academics from the University of Sydney with its highest honour, electing them as Fellows of Australia’s most prestigious scientific organisation.

On Tuesday, 21 scientists from across Australia were elected to the Academy for their outstanding contributions to science. Four come from the University of Sydney, a higher number this year than any other institution.

The four new Fellows from the University of Sydney are:

  • Professor Dacheng Tao, artificial intelligence
  • Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, human nutrition
  • Professor Christopher Dickman, ecology
  • Professor Geordie Williamson, mathematics

Professor Dacheng Tao from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies leads world-class research into artificial intelligence, computer vision, image processing and machine learning. He is the Director of the UBTECH Sydney Artificial Intelligence Centre and was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last year.

Professor Tao’s citation for his election to the Academy particularly notes that “he has made fundamental research contributions to learning succinct, robust and effective representations for data sampled from high dimensional or high order spaces.”

He said: “It is my great honour to be elected as a fellow of the Academy. Not only has it recognised my effort and contributions to artificial intelligence, but it will also strengthen my commitment to further research in artificial intelligence.”

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, said: “It is an enormous honour for us that four outstanding academics have been recognised by their election to the Academy of Science.

“This is a just reward for their hard work and brilliance, and it reflects the University’s investment in long-term, fundamental science that packs real impact. I’m tremendously proud of all four new Fellows and look forward to continuing to support their stellar scientific careers.”

Professor Geordie Williamson, elected the youngest living Fellow of the Royal Society London this month, now also becomes the youngest living Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor Williamson from the School of Mathematics and Statistics said: “I’m honoured and surprised to be elected to the Australian Academy. I have enormous respect for what the Academy does in terms of advocacy and outreach for the sciences and I’m looking forward to contributing to that in the future.”

Professor Williamson has been recognised for his contribution to representation theory in mathematics.

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Charles Perkins Centre has been elected a Fellow of the Academy of Science in recognition for championing understanding of the role of the glycemic index (GI) in health and disease. She has transformed the way carbohydrate foods are considered by scientists, physicians and consumers.

She said: “I feel absolutely over the moon about being elected to the Academy. I believe that it says that my peers acknowledge that what I’ve been doing in my research has been important, has made a step forward in science. It is, to me, a really crowning award.”

The pioneering research by Professor Christopher Dickman from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences shows that competition, predation and indirect interactions have more profound and pervasive effects on mammalian population dynamics than previously thought.

He said: “Without science it’s not going to be possible to make sustainable use of our environment as we continue to demand more and more from it. One of the great things about science, of course, is that it’s a joint enterprise, and there are a lot of people to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude.”

Academy of Science President, Professor Andrew Holmes, congratulated all the new Fellows for making significant and lasting impacts in their scientific disciplines.

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