Dr Niraj Lal, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Research School of Electrical, Energy and Materials Engineering has won the 2013 ACT Young Tall Poppy Science Award and the Australian National University Medal for the Young Tall Poppy of the year ACT.
The annual Tall Poppy Science Award is part of the Tall Poppy Campaign, created in 1998 by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) to recognise Australian intellectual and scientific excellence and to encourage young Australians to follow in the footsteps of outstanding achievers.
Niraj’s research in nanophotonics, photovoltaics and renewable energy impressed the judges and won him first place from a group of ACT finalists. His research aims to increase the absorption and efficiency of next generation solar cells.
Currently a significant amount of sunlight hits a solar panel and bounces straight back off it. Niraj is working on tandem solar cells using thin layers of new materials in conjunction with silicon, to aim for efficiencies of 30% and beyond, double what is possible in current panels.
“It’s lovely to receive an award for research and science communication, and continue in the footsteps of my supervisor Dr Kylie Catchpole who was herself an ACT Young Tall Poppy in 2009! For me, the best bit isn’t the gong itself, but the support for doing science communication. I love it, and reckon it’s super important for academia to do.”
Along with his research Niraj has also been very busy presenting his public show ‘The Science of Electricity’ at ANU, Questacon and for the University of the Third Age, a virtual online university. He was awarded a 2013 National Science Week Grant to develop a show about the science of light for high school students, and was also invited be one of 100 Canberran scientists to speak at Questacon as part of its 100°C centenary celebrations.
As a ‘Tall Poppy’ Niraj will now take part in the Tall Poppies Reaching Students Program, a series of activities used to promote study and careers in science among school students and teachers, as well as promote an understanding and appreciation of science in the broader community and policy makers.
The Tall Poppy Campaign is funded nationally by universities and research institutes across Australia.
Visit AIPSfor more information on the Tall Poppy Campaign and awards.
Learn moreabout Niraj’s work.