Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers
Professor Douglas Hilton, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Leader has mentoring down to a science
It is a mark of the generous spirit of Douglas Hilton that he not only asks young scientists to walk in his footsteps, he actively encourages them to overtake him.
One of Australia's leading biomedical researchers, Professor Hilton has spent the past two decades mentoring young researchers, imbuing them with his sense of the excitement of discovery.
Professor Hilton, Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) and Head of the Department of Medical Biology at the University of Melbourne, has an enviable scientific record. He has mentored and devised programs that have nurtured the next generation of Australian scientists to leadership positions.
For his unfailing commitment to furthering the careers of young scientists, Professor Hilton has won the 2012 University of Technology, Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers.
The prize is part of the most comprehensive and prestigious national science awards, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes. Last night at this supernova of science awards, in a room of distinguished and illustrious guests, the winners were announced and science's brightest new stars blazed their names into Eureka history.
This is Australian science at its best. For more than 20 years, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes have recognised the role of science in our community and rewarded the excellence of scientists, educators and communicators who continue to shape our society. Being awarded an Australian Museum Eureka Prize is a life-changing moment for the winner.
"Leadership makes a difference," says Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum. "Professor Hilton is an outstanding leader of his own generation, who also has his sights firmly focused on developing and supporting excellence in the future."
At a micro level, Professor Hilton has always invested in the science of the young researchers he mentors. He seeks ways to nominate young people for awards and prizes, and ensures their names are on papers submitted to high-impact journals. It is no surprise that many of his students are now laboratory leaders themselves.
Protégé Dr Benjamin Kile, the 2010 Life Scientist of the Year, says he is one of "countless" researchers who owe a debt to Professor Hilton. "Doug is happy to weave around bureaucratic obstacles, create new positions, merge programs, break up old ones - anything that will give someone a chance to flourish," he says.
It is at the macro level, however, that Professor Hilton's approach is having a national impact. He was the pioneer of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program that began in 1998 with a single student in his laboratory. This initiative continues to inspire undergraduates into science through an early taste of the excitement of research.
Today, acting on his long-held concern about the under-representation of women at the highest levels of science, Professor Hilton is making waves again. Since taking over the reins of WEHI in July 2009, he has implemented a range of initiatives to support female scientists to progress their careers. These include paid childcare and financial help for women to attend conferences with their families and family-friendly meeting times. He has also established a Women in Science lecture series and a $1.25 million fellowship for new women laboratory heads. According to WEHI gender equity committee co-chair Associate Professor Lynn Corcoran other Institutes are planning to emulate his lead, thereby ensuring Professor Hilton's "influence in this area is spreading nationally".
As Professor Hilton notes: "If we are to maximise our chances of making discoveries that change the way scientists think about the world and improve the treatment of patients, we must use our entire talent pool." He is leading the charge to ensure Australia does just that.
The $10,000 University of Technology, Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers is awarded to an individual who has helped develop the next generation of Australia's scientific researchers.
More information can be found at www.australianmuseum.net.au/eureka
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Professor Douglas Hilton
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, VIC