VICTORIA dominated last night's ''science Oscars'', winning 10 of the 19 awards on offer - including the national awards' top prize.
Among the Australian Museum Eureka prizes won by Victorians at the ceremony in Sydney was the top gong, which went to molecular biologist Suzanne Cory.
A former director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and current president of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Cory is the first woman to win the Leadership in Science award.
It's not the ''first first'' for Professor Cory, who was also the academy's first elected female president.
Speaking to The Age from Britain, Professor Cory said that while her first love was science, being able to be a role model and leader was a key part of her work.
''I've always sought to lead by example, that's more powerful than words,'' she said. ''Science is my passion and showing that women can be interested in science as well as being loving parents shows women that they can do both.''
Her successor at Parkville's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, director Doug Hilton, was awarded the Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers.
One of the many researchers to benefit from his mentoring, breast-cancer researcher Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat, was named Outstanding Young Researcher.
Professor Hilton said mentoring was one of the more satisfying aspects of his work.
''It's a little bit like being a parent. You get to a point where you derive a much greater satisfaction from what people around you achieve than you would yourself,'' he said. ''It's so exciting seeing undergraduates, PhD students or young lab heads become passionate and successful.''
Among the programs Professor Hilton has introduced to the institute since he took over as director in 2009 has been the appointment of younger laboratory heads.
''Internationally we have become locked into a mindset where you can still be considered a young researcher at 52,'' he said. ''What I'm really excited about is by turning that around.''
Other Victorian winners hailed from Monash University, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and Swinburne University.
Collingwood-based natural history photographer Jason Edwards won the science photography category for the second consecutive year for his photograph of two humpback whales mating. Taken in waters off Tonga in 2010, it's the first time humpback whale mating has been documented - although Mr Edwards didn't realise it at the time. ''I turned around and one of the marine mammal scientists had tears in her eyes,'' he said.
In terrible conditions, battling wind, rain and seasickness, Mr Edwards said he went a week without a whale sighting. The mating pair were captured on the last day. ''We saw a pod of male humpbacks and then followed them for several hours before this happened,'' he said.
Winners list: www.australianmuseum.net.au/eureka
The story Victorian scientists have a whale of a time at 'science Oscars' first appeared on The Age.