Premier's Science Fellowship Program

The Premier’s Science Fellowship Program aims to attract Premier's Science Fellows (distinguished researchers and leaders of international prominence) and Premier's Early to Mid-Career Fellows (supporting early to mid-career researchers) to Western Australia.
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The Premier's Science Fellowship Program will not run in 2024.

The intention is that each round of the Fellowship Program will appoint one or more packages of a Premier's Science Fellow and a supporting Premier's Early to Mid-Career (EMC) Fellow per package, subject to the availability of funding.

Each package must address a specific area of need/opportunity (Specific Area of Research) of strategic importance to WA that falls within one or more of the following WA Government science and innovation priority areas:

  • energy
  • environment
  • food
  • health
  • mining
  • space
  • technology.

Each round will provide a number of options for the Specific Area of Research to be targeted by each application for a package.

Appointed Fellows will be expected to:

  • deliver a range of benefits for WA
  • build on existing capacities and opportunities within WA
  • strengthen WA's national and international research standing
  • increase research capability and capacity (people and facilities)
  • improve collaboration
  • enhance engagement with industry and other end-users
  • attract research funding
  • be ambassadors for science in WA, including for the general public.

The WA Government funding available to support an appointed package is $1 million over four years for the Premier's Science Fellowship and $0.5 million over four years for the Premier's EMC Fellowship, which must be matched by external committed cash co-investment for the package at a minimum 1:1 ratio.

No round will be run in 2024.

Contact us

Dr Ros Dilworth
Senior Program Officer

2023 Round

The 2023 Round of the Fellowship Program sought applications to address a nominated Specific Area of Research in WA, for which the options were one of the following five specific options (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) or a Specific Area of Research under the ‘Other’ option as stipulated:

  1. Future fuels, and/or next generation energy storage, for decarbonisation.
  2. Quantum computing; quantum communications; or quantum sensing and measurement.
  3. Sustainable exploration and discovery, or processing, of critical minerals.
  4. Advanced mechatronics, for example robotics, autonomous systems, intelligent systems or biomechatronics.
  5. Bioinformatics and/or computational biology for life science challenges.
  6. Other (in which case the Specific Area of Research nominated for the package must fall under one or more of the following priority areas: Energy, Environment, Food, Health, Mining, Space, Technology).

No appointments eventuated under this round.

2022 Round

The 2022 Round of the Fellowship Program sought applications to address a Specific Area of Research in WA, for which the options were one of the following four specific options (1, 2, 3 or 4) or the ‘Other’ option as stipulated:

1. New energy technologies.
2. Data analytics and tools, such as AI, deep learning, modelling, quantum computing.
3. Coastal science.
4. Remote sensing.
5. Other (in which case the Specific Area of Research nominated for the package must fall under one or more of the following priority areas: energy, environment, food, health, mining, space and technology).

The two packages of a Premier's Science Fellow and a Premier's EMC Fellow appointed under the 2022 Round are:

Premier’s Fellows in Coastal Science

  • Premier’s Science Fellow: Professor Graeme Cumming
  • Premier’s EMC Fellow: Dr Abbie Rogers.

Premier’s Fellows in Data Analytics and Tools (for Biosecurity)

  • Premier’s Science Fellow: Professor Ben Phillips
  • Premier’s EMC Fellow: Dr Brenton von Takach.

Professor Graeme Cumming

Professor Cumming has over 20 years of interdisciplinary expertise in landscape/seascape ecology, conservation biology, sociology, geographic analysis and spatial modelling, spanning marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems. He has been attracted to WA from James Cook University in Queensland, where he led the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies from 2020 to late 2022.

His Fellowship Project will use remote sensing products and develop other relevant data sets and tools that meet end-user needs, for example models, an economic framework and decision support tools.

This project will focus on understanding how the two-way interactions between people and nature (‘socioeconomic-ecological interactions’) shape and transform coastal environments in WA, with a particular focus on representative protected areas and their role in the dynamics of the broader landscape and seascape.

The findings will support coastal governance by contributing to the development of a rigorous, evidence-based foundation for coastal resilience via proactive adaptation to climate change and environmental degradation that maintains human wellbeing and economic growth while protecting the natural environment.

Dr Abbie Rogers

Dr Rogers, an environmental economist, is a mid-career researcher who has built her career in WA over the past decade. She has worked extensively in economic analyses of marine, coastal and other natural environments, and integrating economic, social and environmental values in decision support tools for natural resource managers.

She is currently Co-Director of the UWA Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy, and was formerly the Deputy Director of the UWA Oceans Institute.

Her Fellowship Project (underpinned by her knowledge of stakeholder and end-user needs in WA) will focus on the economic component of Professor Cumming’s larger project, including the relationships between coastal change and risk.

This project will develop an integrated economic framework that considers the financial, environmental, social and cultural outcomes of investment options to protect coastal areas, with the goal of identifying measures that are resilient and will deliver the greatest benefits to multiple stakeholders relative to costs.

Professor Ben Phillips and Dr Brenton von Takach

Together, Professor Phillips’ and Dr von Takach’s Premier’s Fellowships aim to leverage genomics technologies and biological invasion theory to develop decision support tools to assist biosecurity, targeted at surveillance, spread, containment and eradication of invasive species. They are hosted by Curtin University.

Professor Ben Phillips

Professor Phillips works at the interface between ecology, evolution and modelling, particularly on understanding biological invasions. He has relocated to WA from the University of Melbourne, where he was Professor of Population Biology.

His work has shown a steady trajectory from the ideas space to a more applied portfolio, and has changed understanding of invasive populations, with implications for managing problems ranging from cane toads and other pests to threatened native species and cancer spread.

His Fellowship Project will design new tools for biosecurity in WA, and in particular to assist in safeguarding the State’s agricultural sector and unique biodiversity. The primary focus will be on rapid detection and response to newly arrived invasive pest species, while also working on well-established pests.

In addition to advancing genetic analyses for invasion, other objectives include: combining advances in genetic modification and invasion theory to design and test (by modelling) new containment and eradication methods; and a decision support tool (rooted in invasion theory) for estimating the feasibility and cost of eradication.

Dr Brenton von Takach

Dr von Takach has applied research strengths in landscape ecology and population genetics for native plant and animal species, and impacts of fire and invasive pests. His past work has focused on the environmental, geographic and genomic processes involved in the decline and extinction of native species and ecosystems, and using genomic and spatial datasets to improve biodiversity management and conservation.

He is an early-career researcher who has been based in WA since 2021 when he moved to Perth to take up a now concluded Prospect Fellowship, awarded by the Forrest Research Foundation to outstanding postdoctoral researchers.

His Fellowship Project will advance biosecurity surveillance, detection and diagnostics by developing the roles of genomic/spatial data analytics and tools towards minimising the spread of invasive species in WA.

The project will use DNA sequencing of native and established invasive species across geographic space to estimate gene flow and population connectivity across the landscape, plus identification of the influence of spatial factors (such as environmental factors and human activity), to predict dispersal. The species-level results will be used to train a broader predictive model that allows end-users to investigate the spatial spread of putative or real invasive species, and to which future genomic and spatial data can be added.

2019-20 Round

The 2019-20 Round of the Fellowship Program sought applications to address a Specific Area of Research in WA, for which the options were one of the following three specific options (1,2 or 3) or the 'Other' option as stipulated:

  1. Remote asset management.
  2. New energy technologies.
  3. Mine rehabilitation and closure.
  4. Other (in which case the Specific Area of Research must fall under one or more of the following priority areas: energy, environment, food, health, mining, space and technology).

Unfortunately, no appointments eventuated under this round as the recommended candidate and host organisation for the Premier's Science Fellow were unable to take up the offer of the Fellowship from the Minister for Science.

2018-19 Round

The 2018-19 Round of the Fellowship Program sought applications to address the following Area of Research in WA: 

  • automation;
  • robotics;
  • artificial intelligence; and/or
  • machine learning.

The Premier's Early to Mid-Career (EMC) Fellow appointed under this round is Dr Mengbin (Ben) Ye.

Dr Ye's research is assisting to advance artificial intelligence (AI) research in WA by growing a new interdisciplinary area of AI research which sits at the intersection of engineering, mathematics and social science.

His work focuses on the mathematical modelling of opinion formation and collective decision-making in complex social networks.

These models will be used to explore how interactions in social networks cause opinions to change over time and how new ideas and behaviours spread.

Dr Ye is undertaking his research at Curtin University. He was attracted to WA from the Netherlands where he moved after completing a PhD at The Australian National University in Canberra.

2017 Round

The 2017 Round of the Fellowship Program selected a package of a Premier's Science Fellow and a Premier's EMC Fellow to address the following Area of Research:

World-leading human phenomics research (using metabolic phenotyping) and data analytics with clinical applications targeted at precision medicine to deliver healthcare benefits and opportunities to WA, including economic and social benefits.

Metabolic phenotyping (profiling) in biological systems involves the measurement and analysis of metabolites in biological materials such as blood and urine. Metabolites can help explain what is happening at a phenotypic level (observable physical and biochemical characteristics) as a result of the interactions between our genes and environmental factors, including lifestyle, diet, drug treatment and microbiomes (the microbial communities that live in and on our bodies).

Large-scale human metabolic phenotyping in human health and disease, and correlation with clinical data, aims to increase understanding to enable faster diagnosis and more effective treatments, including precision medicine.

Precision medicine is an emerging approach to disease prevention, detection and treatment tailored to the individual patient, subpopulation or population.

The potential contribution of metabolic phenotyping to precision medicine holds considerable promise, including for the development of indicators (biomarkers) for diagnosis and prognosis to aid clinical decision-making, analysis of drug suitability (effectiveness and safety), and monitoring patient journeys in hospital environments to improve patient care and reduce time in hospital.

Appointed Fellows

The following Fellows were appointed under the 2017 Round of the Fellowship Program:

  • Premier’s Science Fellow: Professor Elaine Holmes
  • Premier’s EMC Fellow: Dr Ruey Leng Loo.

Professor Holmes and Dr Loo relocated from the United Kingdom in early 2019 to commence their Fellowships. They are based in the Australian National Phenome Centre (ANPC), which is led by Murdoch University and located in the Perkins South building on the Fiona Stanley Hospital Campus.

  • Professor Holmes and Dr Loo are assisting WA to play a significant role in human phenomics research (using metabolic phenotyping) targeted at precision medicine by building on the State's strengths in metabolic phenotyping.

In addition to advancing precision medicine, metabolic phenotyping also offers WA opportunities to:

  • build on the WA's strengths associated with clinical trials and internationally recognised population health cohorts, such as the Busselton Health Study and the WA Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study
  • not only link metabolic phenotyping data with health, lifestyle and clinical data, but also with genomics and proteomics data, and potentially imaging data.

Professor Holmes

Professor Holmes has over 20 years' experience in metabolic phenotyping technology and its applications, underpinned by analysis and integration of complex data. She is one of the pioneers and leading researchers in this field. Before taking up her Premier’s Science Fellowship, Professor Holmes was Head of the Division of Computational and Systems Medicine at Imperial College London.

Her Premier's Fellowship Project has two complementary parts:

  1. Development of the technology platform and increasing the capability and reputation of WA in metabolic profiling.
  2. Application of the technology platform to address unmet needs in four exemplar clinical fields:
    • the impact of early life environment (in utero and newborn) on childhood and adult health – to identify early indicators of downstream adverse health events and potential interventions
    • phenomic characterisation of the liver and gastrointestinal diseases – for improved diagnosis, patient classification and new potential therapies
    • host-gut microbiome interactions in metabolic disease – to increase understanding and provide opportunities for new interventions
    • early metabolic predictors of dementia.

A key objective of this project is to create a framework for delivering high-quality metabolic phenotyping data to academics, clinicians and industry to serve the emerging area of precision medicine and to bridge the translational medicine gap between research and clinical implementation.

Professor Holmes resigned as a Premier’s Science Fellow on 31 January 2021 to take up a prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowship from the Australian Research Council (ARC). She remains in WA to deepen understanding through her new ARC Fellowship of age-related changes in our gut microbes (which affect health and wellbeing, including in the ageing process).

Premier's EMC Fellow Dr Loo is now leading the above project previously led by Professor Holmes through her Premier’s Science Fellowship as part of an expanded EMC Fellowship Project. However, one of the four exemplar clinical fields above (phenomic characterisation of the liver and gastrointenstinal diseases) has been replaced with phenomic characterisation of infectious disease, specifically of COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccination. This change reflects a shifted focus by the ANPC in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr Loo

Dr Loo has expertise and experience in epidemiological studies and data analytics for metabolic phenotyping (particularly data modelling and visualisation), and specific phenomics research interests in nutrition and health.

Before commencing her Premier’s EMC Fellowship, she was a Senior Lecturer at the Medway School of Pharmacy, Universities of Greenwich and Kent. She and Professor Holmes have been research collaborators since Professor Holmes was one of her PhD supervisors.

From 1 February 2021, Dr Loo’s EMC Fellowship Project comprises the project previously led by Professor Holmes as well as Dr Loo’s original project related to precision nutrition. The latter project involves research aimed at delivering new knowledge of dietary influence on human metabolism and the microbiome in health/disease and providing a translational bridge to the food science industry.  

Dr Loo’s work is also helping to build critical mass in phenomics data analytics in WA.