Game-changing geologist named SA Scientist of the Year

An innovative geologist who has contributed to significant advances in the search for safer, more successful and cost-efficient ways to drill, analyse and target deep mineral deposits has been named South Australia’s Scientist of the Year.


Professor Richard Hillis, former Chief Executive of Australia’s Deep Exploration Technologies (DET) Cooperative Research Centre in Adelaide, was awarded the top honour last night by Minister for Industry and Skills David Pisoni at the SA Science Excellence Awards gala dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

“Professor Richard Hillis has made an enormous contribution to his field and, in particular, his work at the DET CRC has led to the commercialisation of technologies with projected future licensing income of around $3 million per year,’’ Minister Pisoni said.

“For example, the RoXplorer, a coiled tubing rig developed by the Centre, is a revolutionary game-changer for the mining sector and has recently been licensed to global mining equipment, services and technology giant IMDEX.

“This rig will drill low-cost bores and produce a suite of real-time geological data at a drilling cost of $50 per metre, around one sixth of the typical cost.

“The value of potential new discoveries to the sector using technologies developed by the DET CRC is estimated at US$200 million in extra value each year to Australia. It highlights the value and importance of the Centre’s program in aligning researchers, industry participants and government support to foster an environment that promotes innovation.

“The SA Science Excellence Awards recognise the enormous and often under-stated contribution that scientists make to South Australia’s health and wellbeing, economy, environment, as well as inspiring the next generation.

“This year we had 85 applications – the highest number of submissions in awards history – which is testament to the high levels of activity and achievement across the STEM disciplines in our state.

“Congratulations to our new Scientist of the Year Professor Hillis, and to all the winners.”

The winners of the 2018 South Australian Science Awards are:

  • South Australian Scientist of the Year: Professor Richard Hillis, former Chief Executive Officer, Deep Exploration Technologies CRC
  • Tall Poppy of the Year: Dr Benjamin Sparkes, Lecturer in Photonics, The University of Adelaide
  • Excellence in Research Collaboration sponsored by University of South Australia: The Aboriginal Heritage Project - local members of the Aboriginal community, SA Museum, The University of Adelaide, University of New South Wales
  • STEM Professional: Professor Zbigniew Michalewicz, Chief Scientist and Co-founder of Complexica
  • STEM Educator of the Year – Tertiary Teaching sponsored by Finders University:

Dr Justin Chalker Senior Lecturer, School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Flinders University

  • STEM Educator of the Year – School Teaching sponsored by Department for Education: Ms Sue O’Malley, Head of Digital Technologies, Robotics and Multimedia, Trinity College Senior
  • PhD Research Excellence sponsored by University of Adelaide: Dr Katharina Richter, The University of Adelaide
  • Unsung Hero of SA – Science Communication: Dr Liz Reed, Vertebrate Palaeontologist, The University of Adelaide
  • Unsung Hero of SA – Science: Ms Jan Bell Australian Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance Ecology, The University of Adelaide

For more information about each winner, visit the SA Science Excellence Awards webpage.

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