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PhD student wins national award

ATSE Awards Gala Dinner

A QUT PhD student, described as one of the most promising young polymer scientists in Australia, has been awarded a prestigious national scholarship.

Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) awarded Bailey Richardson, from QUT’s School of Chemistry and Physics, the scholarship that recognizes outstanding achievements in the field of polymer science or engineering.

Mr Richardson was awarded the 2023 ATSE Ezio Rizzardo Polymer Scholarship, giving him $10,000 a year for two years plus a $5000 travel fund to support research goals.

He accepted the honour at a gala dinner in Canberra last night.

Mr Richardson said he was inspired by the relationship between light energy and biology, such as the light received from the sun, and aimed to disrupt traditional polymer chemistry.

He investigated how the relationship between biology and light energy can be applied to man-made molecules and how the molecules adapt.

His fundamental research has potential to impact biological and medical research in the future including the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, a deeper understanding of disease mechanisms and potentially new targets for drug discovery.

“In nature, particularly in Australia, we have a natural abundance of light which interacts with the world around us affording chemically driven processes such as photosynthesis and even vision,’’ Mr Richardson said.

“These interactions are foundational for life to exist.’’

The ATSE awards celebrate Australia’s top technologists, excellent engineers, and leading innovators.

QUT Faculty of Science Associate Professor Hendrik Frisch said Mr Richardson’s research sought to fundamentally change the way photochemical ligations were developed.

“Bailey is one of the most promising young polymer scientists in Australia and I am grateful for the chance to guide him through a part of his undoubtedly successful career,’’ he said.

Mr Richardson grew up in the New South Wales border town of Tweed Heads and attended Tweed River High School. He said he was “quite lost’’ with the direction he wanted to take upon enrolling at university but found “a passion for pursuing chemistry’’.

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Faculty of Science Executive Dean Professor Troy Farrell nominated Mr Richardson for the ATSE scholarship. He said Bailey’s academic record was exceptional with five Dean’s List Awards during his undergraduate studies and a recipient of the Frank Oliver Prize for achieving the highest GPA among all QUT honours chemistry students.

Mr Richardson had also authored and co-authored two Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) articles, and presented his honours work at the 17th Pacific Polymer Conference together with more than 150 PhD students where he won the first poster prize.

He co-organised the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) Queensland Annual Chemistry Symposium and co-founded the QUT Chemistry Club where he is treasurer.

“Bailey has demonstrated “outstanding capacity for innovative research,’’ Professor Farrell said.

“He has proposed an innovative research project that draws inspiration from nature to change the way polymers react chemically.

“It’s hard to imagine a more deserving candidate than Bailey.’’

Mr Richardson said he was “extremely honoured’’ to be recipient of the award.

“This award not only gives me confidence as a scientist but will allow me to present and expand the work of myself and my colleagues at QUT on a national and international level,’’ he said.

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