RMIT research leader Professor Calum Drummond has been awarded the 2015 Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation.
Drummond, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice-President, was last night awarded the prestigious prize in the Physical Sciences category.
The prize honours his outstanding contributions in advancing the understanding of key factors involved in molecular assembly and particle and surface interactions in liquids.
This fundamental research in chemistry has led to the development and commercialisation of advanced high-performance materials, for economic and societal benefit.
Drummond said he was humbled and delighted to receive the Victoria Prize.
“I have always been of the mindset that conducting excellent research is necessary but not sufficient,” he said.
“It is what you do with the excellent research to benefit others beyond the academic community that is most important.
“My research is driven by the desire to innovate and make an impact, through understanding and solving problems faced by industry and the community.
“It is a great honour for our work to be recognised. Scientific research is a team-based activity and this award also recognises my many research colleagues in CSIRO, RMIT and elsewhere.”
Drummond’s research has distinctly increased the number of known molecules capable of self-assembling in solvents to form materials with ordered 2D and 3D internal nanostructures. These molecules – known as amphiphiles – can be used to create advanced nanostructured materials.
His work primarily revolves around addressing three questions:
- what drives amphiphile self-assembly
- what governs the self-assembly structures that are formed,
- how can amphiphile self-assembly materials be used to enhance product formulations such as drug delivery vehicles, environmentally friendly off-shore oil well drilling fluids, waterproof recyclable paper coatings, household cleaning products, and specialty chemicals for the construction industry.
Drummond's scientific advances led to design rules that were used to invent two patented drug delivery technologies.
The technologies enable drugs to be encapsulated in the nanostructured material and diffused in a controlled manner to treat cancerous tumours.
Drummond is now using the same design rules to guide the development of next-generation theranostic agents – materials that can image specifically targeted diseased tissue while simultaneously treating it.
Vice-Chancellor and President, Martin Bean CBE, who also attended last night’s award ceremony in Melbourne, praised Drummond’s achievement and research.
“This is the future of nanomedicine and Calum is at the forefront,” Martin said.
“He has the ability to develop important new insights into a significant area of science and then apply them to a wide range of problems, from biology to materials science.
“Calum’s approach to conducting and managing research is founded on an uncompromising focus on research excellence, coupled with a passionate pursuit of research translation outcomes that benefit not just Victoria, but the wider world.”
This was further evidenced during his time as the inaugural Vice-President, Research, at CAP-XX, an Australian Intel Portfolio company that develops energy storage devices called supercapacitators.
CAP-XX has sold more than 11 million devices to date, and has been designated by the The World Economic Forum as a Global Technology Pioneer.
The prestigious Victoria Prize celebrates leadership, determination and creativity. It is awarded for scientific discoveries, technological innovations, or a series of such achievements that significantly advance knowledge.
At the ceremony last night, a Victoria Fellowship was also awarded to RMIT nanotechnology researcher Dr Madhu Bhaskaran for her work on smart materials.
Drummond joined RMIT in 2014 from CSIRO, where he was Group Executive for Manufacturing, Materials and Minerals.
As Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, he works closely with the three academic colleges and researchers at RMIT to coordinate, implement and enhance university-wide research and innovation plans.
He also leads a research team of 10 scientists in the School of Science, developing next generation advanced materials, including improving the understanding of liquid and soft matter structure.
Story: Chanel Bearder