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Clever research to spare people the dentist’s drill by extending the lifespan of tooth fillings has won a University of Queensland researcher the top prize in a major research communications competition.

The Universities Australia’s annual Pitch It Clever competition, which challenges early career researchers to communicate their research to non-experts via video, was awarded tonight.

UQ PhD candidate and dentist Dr Arosha Weerakoon won the UA Pitch It Clever Vice-Chancellors’ Award for her work to better match fillings and bonding materials with people’s teeth.

“In some instances, our fillings are literally peeling away from our teeth because of failure with the bond that holds the filling in your tooth,” Dr Weerakoon said.

“My goal is to help your dentist choose the correct filling material to suit you – so you can spend a lot less time in the dentist’s chair, and a lot more time doing the things you love.”

Most tooth fillings are replaced every five years. That means some people could have 14 filling changes in the one tooth between childhood and their retirement years.

As part of her prize, Dr Weerakoon has won $3,000 and will also spend time with editors and journalists at media outlet The Conversation.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson congratulated all of this year’s winners.

“University research boosts the economy and society in so many ways,” Ms Jackson said.

“Seeing ideas turn into new products or processes or attitudes is so exciting.” 

“We want to help our brilliant emerging researchers share their research with the public in ways that engage people.”

“The winners of this year’s Pitch It Clever competition are innovative and inspiring. They’re excellent examples of how university research changes lives, and why it is so valuable.”

“I congratulate all our winners for their research and their great pitches – and we look forward to seeing how they continue to improve people’s lives through research.”

The winners of the 2019 Pitch It Clever competition were announced at Universities Australia’s 2019 Higher Education Conference dinner in Canberra tonight.

The Universities Australia Award went to Dr Sam Elliott from Flinders University for his work on how parents can play a positive role in their children’s enjoyment of and motivation to play sport.

The People’s Choice Award went to Edith Cowan University PhD candidate Carolina Burnay for research to prevent babies drowning by investigating how young children assess water risks.

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