Advance Awards 2021: Introducing the Emerging Leaders Award Finalists

Dr Tristan Clemons

​​Dr Tristan Clemons is a prominent emerging leader in polymer science and a role model to young sports and science enthusiasts everywhere. As an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, one of only a handful of specialised polymer research departments in the U.S., Dr Clemons is pursuing cutting edge research in the way polymer materials can interface with medicine and biology. Dr Clemons and his team are working to enhance bioactivity and the 3D-printing capabilities of the hydrogel of neuronal cells. Ultimately, these techniques will lead the way in regenerative medicine applications for ailments such as spinal cord injury, cancer treatment, wound healing and cardiovascular injury. Prior to moving to the U.S., Dr Clemons was a prominent early career researcher as a National Health and Medical Research Council fellow investigating nanomaterials for the treatment of burns at world renowned The University of Western Australia. The recent career move to the U.S. has provided him greater opportunity to collaborate and seek out new ideas.

Dr Clemons believes in the importance of cross-pollinating different fields of endeavour. Alongside his wife, they have set up the entrepreneurial business ‘Funky Flap Hats’ which are tested with the Australian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Agency for their ultraviolet protection against Australia’s harmful sun. Dr Clemons has also served simultaneously as a goalkeeper for the Australian national field hockey team. He says life as an elite athlete taught him a lot about resilience, leadership and teamwork — skills he now brings to the academic setting. Teaching and mentoring the next generation is central to Dr Clemons’ philosophy. He has been an active volunteer and advocate for science outreach, inspiring thousands of students about the possibilities of a career in science as an ambassador for the Rotary Foundation’s Microscope in Schools project. Professionally, Dr Clemons has supported his peers by organising conferences, reviewing grants, and serving as a research integrity advisor. He has been recognised with several awards including the WA Premier’s Exxon Mobil Student Scientist of the Year award, a WA Tall Poppy award from the Australian Institute of Policy and Science, a number of WA Business News 40-under-40 Awards, and recently recognised internationally as an emerging leader in chemistry with a SciFinder Future Leader in Chemistry award.

“I truly love the process of discovery and finding solutions to problems the world needs.”

Si Chen

​​Si Chen is a robotics technology and AI instigator. As Head of Strategy at Tencent AI Lab & Robotics X, she is responsible for the advancement of fundamental research in the areas of Computer Vision, Speech Recognition, Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning, as well as the application of AI across Gaming, Content, Agriculture, Energy, and other key industry sectors. Ms Chen believes technology, in particular Artificial Intelligence, will be a key transformative force creating a future world that is beyond the possibilities of our imagination.

In her role, Ms Chen is instrumental in enabling the operational science behind such a future. She oversees fundamental research including computer vision, speech recognition, NLP, machine learning as well as robotics motion, control, sensing, and intelligence. Ms Chen is at the forefront of the application and scaling of industry solutions and smart cities. Ms Chen encourages start-ups to work with technology companies like Tencent in order to seize the opportunity to engage with industry key players and take advantage of the AI revolution.

Ms Chen has also been a keynote, speaker and panelist in events such as top AI conference CVPR, top gaming conference GDC, Ladies Who Tech, Sydney AI & Machine Learning Summit and various Australia-China technology and innovation events. She is an alumnus of the Asialink Business Leaders program (2016) and Australia China Youth Dialogue (2017).

Ms Chen is an Australian born Chinese and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of New South Wales, also completing exchange semesters at Hong Kong University and the New York University Stern School of Business. She was raised in Australia and is bilingual in English and Mandarin. She is often the face of Tencent introducing their world-class technologies to overseas stakeholders. Ms Chen has become a leading voice articulating how China’s giant technology companies are harnessing artificial intelligence. Ms Chen identifies her focus as three key drivers for AI technology developments: technology to support Tencent’s own businesses; technology that will transform traditional industry to solve issues in the public sphere, such as healthcare; and technologies that add to the global contribution of research and academia working on AI and new technology development.

“We are heading towards a more integrated physical and digital world (or so called Metaverse) with Artificial Intelligence as a core enabler.”

Andrea Boyd

Andrea Boyd is a moonshot believer. She grew up in country South Australia, watching Star Trek avidly, and worked hard to become the first Australian flight controller, talking to the astronauts who lived in the space station as it orbits Earth. Ms Boyd studied mechatronic engineering at the University of Adelaide. Today she is the Deputy Lead of Astronaut Operations at the European Space Agency; the first time an Australian has been appointed to a senior management role in the agency. Ms Boyd is the only Australian in the world working in the International Space Station Flight Control Team. She is often the only Australian that space professionals and astronauts have ever met and represents our country with pride, showcasing our engineering talent and high quality of education.

As a powerful communicator, Ms Boyd is adept at briefing non-technical audiences about space, ground stations and Australia’s daily need for satellites, she is frequently invited to parliamentary meetings and briefings. Ms Boyd sits on multiple technical committees around the world, organises international conferences, and is featured frequently by the European Space Agency. Ms Boyd is a passionate advocate of engineering and space exploration. She invests much of her time as a volunteer to help other Australians achieve ambitious careers, inspires students, and promotes STEM through workshops, conferences and media appearances. In 2010, she co-founded Aerospace Futures, which encourages university students to forge careers in the field. Ms Boyd also created a space internship at the European Space Policy Institute in Austria, which is still running. She worked tirelessly to secure the largest space conference in the world, the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) that was hosted in Adelaide in 2017. Additionally, Ms Boyd was instrumental in bringing space exploration to Australia. She convinced the country’s leading academics, businesspeople, and the government to open the Australian Space Agency.

“I strive to understand the universe, bring microgravity research back to benefit us on Earth and make our lives more like Star Trek.”