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Meet the 2023 Student Water Prize finalists

Seven innovative student researchers chosen as finalists in the 2023 Student Water Prize showcase the breadth of talent among those pushing the boundaries of water research.

The Student Water Prize, to be announced at the Gala Dinner on Day Two of Ozwater’23, recognises and rewards excellence in water-related studies and research at a tertiary level.

Sponsored by Guidera O’Connor, the prize is open to students and recent graduates of any Australian university or tertiary institute focused on water-related topics, and is one of many presented as part of the Australian Water Awards at Ozwater’23.

Following a selection process at a state and territory level, seven finalists from across Australia were chosen to present their research projects on Day One of Ozwater'23.

Here are the seven talented finalists and a brief description of their respective projects.

Zhigang Yu, the University of Queensland

Novel disinfection to combat antibiotic resistance

Zhigang Yu aims to unveil the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance emergence and spread in both environmental and clinical settings, and develop novel efficient disinfection technologies for drinking water and wastewater treatment. 

Vanessa Solano, Charles Darwin University

Carbon cycling through wetlands and streams in the wet-dry tropics

Vanessa Solano’s research explores the carbon fluxes in a small tropical savanna catchment in the wet-dry tropics.

Her project aims to inform the decision-making processes and long-term planning of the different sub-sectors of the water industry, and help with the monitoring processes for the sustainability of plants and reservoirs.

Irina Sankoff, Murdoch University

Catching Collie's future

As the world’s population increases, rainfall is projected to decline and high-intensity rain events are projected to increase in frequency, an increasingly massive strain is placed on our water infrastructure and water supply services.

Irina Sankoff’s research aims to explore how we can improve existing neighbourhoods and transition into becoming water sensitive cities.

Minh Duc Nguyen, Deakin University

Turning waste into a resource: Developing novel end-use pathways for water treatment sludge

Minh Duc Nguyen, a recipient of the 2020 Nancy Millis Memorial PhD Award, completed his PhD on a collaborative research project between Water Research Australia, Deakin University and Barwon Water to develop innovative technologies to reuse and manage water treatment sludge.

Sarah Aucote, SA Water and the University of Queensland

Quantification of greenhouse gas emissions from sludge-drying lagoons and strategies for methane emission mitigation

Sarah Aucote’s Honours research on the microbial risk assessment of source water prompted her interest in the microbiology of water science and led to her industry-based PhD at SA Water with the University of Queensland on wastewater greenhouse gas emissions.

Ana Maria Londono Botero, the Australian National University 

Natural recreational swimming sites along the Murrumbidgee River

Ana Maria Londono Botero’s research reveals how the wellbeing benefits the Canberra community derive from the recreational sites on the Murrumbidgee River, and highlights the impact of poor water quality on recreational use of the Murrumbidgee River.

She hopes her research will inform future management of the Murrumbidgee River.

Rebecca Carlier, the University of Newcastle

Integration of ecological response feedback for optimisation of water resource management

Rebecca’s research aims to provide environmental water managers with a tool to compare trade-offs between water management decisions and ecological outcomes by integrating ecological response feedback into a decision support framework.

Using the Macquarie Marshes as a case study, she is exploring ecological resilience and the sustainability of strategic decisions.

The winner of the Student Water Prize will be announced at the Ozwater’23 Gala Dinner alongside other prizes in the Australian Water Awards, supported by ANZ.