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Q and A with 2016 Eureka Prize Winner Associate Professor Sharath Sriram

By: Cara Bevington, Category: Science, Date: 01 Mar 2017

Making yesterday’s science fiction today’s reality – Associate Professor Sharath Sriram talks about his Eureka Prizes experience.

Associate Professor Sharath Sriram, winner of the 2016 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science

Associate Professor Sharath Sriram, winner of the 2016 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
Photographer: Mark Metcalfe © Getty Images

Meet Associate Professor Sharath Sriram, winner of the 2016 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science and a finalist in the same category in 2015.

In less than 7 years since graduating from his PhD, Associate Professor Sriram has built a research group of 25 staff with a budget of $8 million and is now Deputy Director of the $30 million Micro Nano Research Facility at RMIT University. Along the way, he and his team have developed the world’s first artificial memory cell that mimics the way the brain stores long term memory.

We asked Associate Professor Sriram to share his Eureka Prizes story with us.

I entered the Eureka Prizes because... "I felt I had demonstrated leadership in science and for science. I am passionate about leading with vision, and being clear about the distinction between a 'leading researcher' and a 'research leader'. I hoped my story would resonate with the Eureka Prizes judging panel.”

The awards ceremony was... "exciting! Especially because the finalists do not know the winner beforehand. When announced as a winner, I felt very honoured. While an individual award, nothing in science now-a-days is ever achieved alone, I was extremely happy as the award validated the work of different teams I have led.”

Winning this prize has... "given my team and me a lot of motivation. As research scientists we are constantly opening ourselves to criticism, so receiving external validation of our research and overall vision helps heighten our focus.”

My advice for anyone thinking about entering the 2017 Eureka Prizes is... "you’ve got to be in it to win it! The Eureka Prizes application process requires a lot of introspection and self-evaluation, while also making you consider your research/career direction and networks. Going through the process is an excellent tool for identifying areas for development in one's research persona. My number one tip for applicants is – back all claims with evidence.”

What's on the horizon... “Since winning a Eureka Prize last August my team and I have been very busy. This year we aim to develop a roadmap for technology transfer and licencing. I also want to ensure the younger members of my team spend time with different international teams to develop their resilience and research skills.”

My message for people starting out in their science career is... "don’t play it safe with ideas. Science won’t thrive unless we’re rewarding risks and accepting failure as a normal part of work. For my part, my team and I are going to continue working towards our vision of making yesterday's science fiction today's reality, and to inspire tomorrow's science fiction.”

Watch this short film to learn more about Associate Professor Sriram's work and stay up to date by following him on Twitter @sharath_sriram.

Could you be one of Australia’s next science stars? As Sharath says, you've got to be in to win it!

In 2017 there are 15 Eureka Prizes to celebrate and reward excellence in Australian science across 4 categories: research & innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science.

Find out more at the Eureka Prizes website and remember, entries close 7pm AEST Friday 5 May 2017.