The winner of this year’s medal, which is administered by the Academy of Technology and Engineering, is Monash University engineer Professor Nick Birbilis.
Professor Birbilis has had an impressive career to date. At 39 years old, he is a professor, the Head of Materials Science and Engineering and is the Woodside Innovation Chair at Monash University.
Any celebration of achievements in STEM are extremely important, perhaps now more than ever, Professor Birbilis says
Such awards not only elevate the profession, but also serve as platforms to notify and inspire young students or those looking towards a career in engineering. This award also highlights the role of ATSE as a voice for Australia’s technology and innovation capability.
As an internationally recognised expert in corrosion, durability management and the behaviour of metallic elements, Professor Birbilis solves problems both locally and globally across this broad range of engineering fields.
He began his engineering career working in materials consulting with Maunsell (now AECOM). Before he transitioned into academia, he was already renowned across Australia for expertly tackling corrosion.
His signature contribution in these last five years was his breakthrough in developing light-weight “stainless” magnesium and aluminium alloys.
In contrast, stainless steels are heavy and rely on large amounts of chromium alloying. It’s Professor Birbilis’ goal, however, to create corrosion-resistant ultra-lightweight versions of aluminium and magnesium alloys – for everything from portable electronics to structural materials. Lightweight vehicles, for example, would reduce energy, fuel and carbon emissions.
Corrosion of metals is the result of nature wanting to return the metal atoms back to their preferred raw form and the suppression of this, involves innovation in corrosion control, he says.
The award recipient must be an engineering graduate of an Australian university, under 40 on 1 January in the year of the award and will:
Have demonstrated excellence, innovation and impact in a field of engineering;
have clearly demonstrated a significant contribution to engineering in the five years prior to their nomination; and
have advanced the standing of the engineering profession.