Extraordinary scientists in the running for a Eureka moment

02 Sep 2021

The 2021 finalists for the "Oscars of Australian science" -- the Eureka Prizes -- have been revealed, with three scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) shortlisted.

Passionate science communicator Dr Niraj Lal is in the running for the Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science. 

He has appeared on popular TV programs, hosts an ABC podcast, and has even written his own children's book about gravity -- Henry the Flying Emu.

Dr Lal says he especially loves talking science to kids.  

"My aim is not only to spark curiosity in our world, but to help give kids the tools to figure things out for themselves, so they can make better decisions than the generations before them," Dr Lal said. 

"It's lovely to be in the company of the other finalists. Prizes like this help highlight some of the great work people are doing across Australia in helping promote science and evidence-based thinking." 

Professor Lindell Bromham and Dr Xia Hua, along with their colleagues at the University of Queensland and in the Northern Territory, are finalists for the 2021 Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research. 

Their team is unique, combing the skills of a linguist, an evolutionary biologist, a mathematician and an Indigenous community member. 

Together they're working to develop new ways of understanding the way languages change, and the factors that endanger language diversity.  

"Urgent intervention is needed to keep Indigenous languages strong," Professor Bromham said. 

"Many Indigenous languages are also undergoing rapid change as new generations re-shape their languages and make them their own. 

"Our work focuses on a new Indigenous language emerging from a mix of Gurindji, a traditional language of the Northern Territory, and Kriol (an English-based Creole language widely spoken in northern Australia).  

"This new language has emerged rapidly over three generations, making it an ideal test case for understanding language change."  

The winners of the 2021 Eureka Prizes will be announced in October. 

Visit the Australian Museum website for more information about this year's finalists.