A world expert in pile foundation design, whose work has underpinned many of the world’s tallest buildings, has received Australia’s most prestigious engineering prize.
Professor Harry Poulos AM was awarded the 2020 Peter Nicol Russell Career Achievement Memorial Medal at the Engineers Australia Pinnacles Awards Ceremony last night.
An academic and consultant, Poulos has applied his research to projects including Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, as well as freeways, bridges, tunnels and mines.
Presenting Poulos with his award during the virtual event, Engineers Australia National President Chris Champion recognised his distinguished career, which spans almost six decades.
“Harry has transformed the geotechnical understanding of how structures interact with the ground and developed more reliable design approaches that have superseded previous procedures based on empirical experience,” Champion said.
Named in memory of a Sydney industrialist from the latter half of the 19th century, the Peter Nicol Russell Medal recognises a person who has made a notable contribution to the science and/or practice of engineering within Australia.
Poulos described the honour as a “pinnacle” of his career.
“I have made a number of decisions in my lifetime that have proved to be beneficial, and doing engineering as a profession was one of the first and foremost,” he said.
“But an award like this is not a solo award. It is based on interactions with many other people … One of my great decisions was to marry my wife Maria. She and my four children have been remarkably supportive.”
Engineers of the Year
Among the other engineers recognised at the annual awards was Rear Admiral Colin Lawrence AM FIEAust CPEng, who was named Professional Engineer of the Year.
Lawrence is Head of Navy Engineering within the Australian Navy, and has driven significant reforms in navy engineering policy. He has also contributed to a safer and more effective aviation capability through his service to aerospace engineering.
Accepting the award, Lawrence said he would like to inspire young people, who are the future of the profession.
“Technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that it can be daunting for some of us,” he said.
“But I deal with the young folk, and they’re ready to go … They’ll make the world a better place through their engineering efforts.”
The Young Professional Engineer of the Year award went to Jacinta Kelly MIEAust CPEng. With degrees in science and civil engineering under her belt, Kelly has worked as a structural design engineer, a program manager and university lecturer in the Northern Territory.
She said working in a regional area had been a big advantage.
“You get the opportunity to really connect with stakeholders from the beginning of a project to the very end and see where your creativity and technical skills can really contribute to the community around you,” she said.
“I want to keep serving the community through engineering.”
Fellow Northern Territory resident Sinead Redmond TIEAust was named Engineering Technologist of the Year. An accomplished leader, project manager and engineer, Redmond has a proven track record in delivering infrastructure projects across various sectors.
The Engineering Associate of the Year award went to Ian Fiztpatrick AMIEAust. With 35 years experience in the energy sector, Fitzpatrick has been a passionate advocate for helping industry address the risk posed by power lines.
This year’s President’s Prize, which is awarded at the discretion of Engineers Australia’s National President each year, went to the authors of the organisation’s centenary books: Owen Peake HonFIEAust CPEng, Neil Hogg MIEAust CPEng, Bruce Cole FIEAust CPEng(Ret) and Keith Baker FIEAust CPEng(Ret).
The prize recognises conspicuous service to the engineering profession or the community that contributes significantly to Engineers Australia, and Champion said the work of the four recipients exemplified both aspects.
The books — Wonders Never Cease, which describes 100 Australian engineering feats and Anything is Possible, telling the story of 100 engineering leaders — were labours of love, requiring thousands of hours to pull together.
“Unsurprisingly, they were managed like an engineering project, as potential subjects were selected, research conducted and the work of the numerous authors coordinated,” Champion said.
“The [books] do more than just mark our centenary. They celebrate our profession’s vital contribution to Australia’s progress and prosperity, both past and present.
“They are a tribute to the engineers who have gone before us, and on whose shoulders we stand today.”
Sir William Hudson Award
Australia’s best engineering projects were also recognised, with the presentation of the Sir William Hudson Award — the highest accolade an engineering project can receive from Engineers Australia.
Every two years, finalists from the pool of Australian Engineering Excellence Award winners are selected to compete at the national level.
This year’s award went to the Hyperparallel OCT (HP-OCT), an all-in-one diagnostic device for ophthalmologists and optometrists.
Designed by a multidisciplinary team including optical, mechanical, electrical and software engineers from Australian medical technology manufacturer Cylite, HP-OCT uses thousands of light waves to create an accurate and almost instantaneous 3D image of the eye.
Cylite Chief Technology Officer Grant Frisken said he was blown away to have won.
“There is such amazing engineering talent on display tonight, and to have been awarded this is mind blowing,” he said.
“We’re combining state-of-the-art optics, electronics, mechanical engineering and software to realise a novel form of imaging technology that didn’t exist prior to this. It enables accurate 3D imaging of the whole eye and … overcomes a lot of limitations within the existing technology.”
Congratulating the Cylite team, Engineers Australia CEO Dr Brownyn Evans said the device was a deserving winner.
“It is such a beautiful example of the engineering excellence that is going to change people’s lives,” she said.
To watch a replay of the Pinnacles Awards Ceremony, click here.