The Jak Kelly Award

The Jak Kelly Award was created in honour of Professor Jak Kelly (1928 - 2012), who was Head of Physics at University of NSW from 1985 to 1989, was made an Honorary Professor of University of Sydney in 2004, and was President of the Royal Society of NSW in 2005 and 2006.  

Its purpose is to encourage excellence in postgraduate research in physics.  It is supported by the Royal Society of NSW and the Australian Institute of Physics, NSW branch.  The winner is selected from a short list of candidates who made presentations at the most recent Australian Institute of Physics, NSW Branch Postgraduate Awards.

In his research, Jak Kelly specialised in ion beam deposition, patenting several improvements. During his PhD studies on thin-film at the University of Reading he invented Electron Bombardment Deposition which became the standard method of high temperature metal evaporation. While at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, he focussed on radiation damage in crystals, grown using his own single drop method. Other research, in collaboration with others, involved thermoluminescent dating, using ion implantation to improve the attachment of bone cells to prosthetic surfaces, the modelling and deposition of thin-film solar energy absorbers, irradiation of wool using ion beams to improve wool properties, studying low energy nuclear reactions, and proposing laser fusion improvements. More details of Professor Kelly's life can be found here.

Jak Kelly Award 2022

Shankar Dutt The Jak Kelly Award for 2022 has been awarded to Mr Shankar Dutt, a PhD Candidate in the Research School of Physics at the Australian National University. Mr Dutt investigates a nanopore-based sensing platform for the detection of different biomolecules in complex solutions including DNA, proteins and antibodies. This allows tailoring of the biomolecules' translocation kinetics and, combined with artificial intelligence, aims at early diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Jak Kelly Award 2021

Zain Mehdi The Jak Kelly Award for 2021 has been awarded to Zain Mehdi, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Quantum Science and Technology at the Australian National University.  Zain investigates quantum physics in the mesoscopic regime — the intermediate scale between the microscopic world of individual atoms and the macroscopic world of classical objects. Their work focuses on theoretical investigations of exotic phenomena, such as superfluidity and turbulence, in cold atom systems, and has led to four publications in high-impact journals.  

Jak Kelly Award 2020

Matthew DonnellyThe winner of the Jak Kelly Award for 2020 is  Matthew Donnelly, a PhD candidate at the University of NSW.  Mr Donnelly is researching monolithic donor structures in silicon and their application in spin-based quantum computing, with a focus on using 3D fabrication techniques to precisely control tunnel rates and other parameters critical to the operation of spin qubits.

Jak Kelly Award 2019

The winner of the Jak Kelly Award for 2019 is Gayathri Bharathan from Macquarie University. Her research investigates the all-integrated mid-infrared laser sources and their potential application in medicine.

Jak Kelly Award 2018

The winner of the Jak Kelly Award for 2018 was Anita Petzler from Macquarie University. Her research investigates the interstellar medium of gas beween the stars of a galaxy—the raw material from which new stars are formed, with a particular focus on the implementation of an automated analysis pipeline that allows for the rapid and accurate extraction of parameters that determine the formation of stars in galaxies.

Recent winners of the Jak Kelly Award

2010: Julian King (UNSW)
2011: Martin Fuechsle (UNSW)
2012: Andrew Ong (UNSW)
2013: Xavier Zambrana-Puylato (Macquarie University)
2014: Linh Tran (University of Wollongong)
2015: James Colless (University of Sydney)
2016: Matthew Barr (University of Newcastle)
2017: Moritz Merklein (University of Sydney)
2018: Anita Petzler (Macquarie University)
2019: Gayathri Bharathan (Macquarie University)
2020: Matthew Donnelly (UNSW (Sydney))
2021: Zain Mehdi (Australian National University)
2022: Shankar Dutt (Australian National University)



These prestigious awards for excellence in science, technology, philosophy, and the arts, awarded by Australia's oldest learned society, recognise outstanding achievements. The Society's portfolio of awards has been entirely revamped in 2023 to provide greater breadth, to recognise recent and evolving disciplines, and emerging as well as established research stars.  Information about the new structure and portfolio of awards is provided on the main awards page

Winners of the 2023 awards will be announced at the 1318th Ordinary General Meeting of the Society to be held on 29 November 2023 and will be publish on the website shortly thereafter.

Winners of awards in previous years, and information about the awards program prior to 2023, may be found on the Past Awards page of this website.

Nominations for the 2024 Awards will open on 1 July 2024, with information about the new awards and how to apply available from the Awards menu on this website.

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