Science leaders honoured by Royal Society of NSW

Monday, 12 April, 2010
Bob Beale

Seven eminent senior scientists - including three former leaders of the UNSW Faculty of Science - have been appointed as inaugural Fellows of one of Australia's oldest scientific societies, the Royal Society of NSW.

As well, one the Faculty's rising stars in materials research - Associate Professor Nagarajan Valanoor - has been awarded the Society's prestigious Edgeworth David Medal for 2009, recognising outstanding achievement by a scientist under the age of 35.

The Inaugural Fellows were presented to Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and Chief Patron of the Society, at a recent function at Admiralty House, in Sydney.  Five of them have strong UNSW links. They were:

  • Professor Michael Archer, AM FAA, who was Dean of the Faculty from 2004 to 2009 and has been an academic member of the Faculty since 1978. A former Director of the Australian Museum, Professor Archer is a distinguished biologist and palaeontologist. He is a Professor in the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences;
  • Professor Gavin Brown, AO FAA CorrFRSE, who first took up a Chair in Mathematics at UNSW in 1975 and went on to become Head of the UNSW School of Mathematics and Dean of the UNSW Faculty of Science. He later became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney. He is now the Inaugural Director of the Royal Institution of Australia;
  • Professor Jak Kelly, DSc FInstP (London) FAIP, who established at UNSW an internationally renowned research centre on ion implantation and material defects. He went on to become Head of the UNSW School of Physics and Chairman of the Faculty of Science. He is a former President of the society;
  • Professor Robert Clark, FAA, was appointed Professor of Experimental Physics at UNSW in 1989 became Director of the Center for Quantum Computer Technology in 1994 and was elected Scientia Professor at the university in 2006. He is now Chief Scientist at the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organization.
  • Professor Bruce Warren, DSc FAIM FRCPA FRCPath, began a long and distinguished career as Professor and Head of Department of Pathology at the Prince Henry/Prince of Wales Hospital of the University of New South Wales in 1980, where he remained until his retirement in 1997. He is a former President of the society.

The society traces its roots back to 1821 as the Philosophical Society of Australasia and was later closely associated with the establishment of Australia's first university.

Its current President, John Hardie, says that it is only in recent years that the society has moved towards a role in science advocacy. The introduction of Fellows was "to recognise a higher level of achievement than was possible with its existing awards". They are selected by the Society's Council and the total number of Fellows is limited to a maximum of 15 at any one time. Recipients may use the post-nominals FRSN.

At the society's recent annual dinner, attended by the NSW Chief Scientist and Scientific Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, the Edgeworth David Medal was awarded to Professor Valanoor, of the UNSW School of Materials Science and Engineering.

Professor Valanoor works on nano-scale functional materials and thin film polar oxide structures. His citation noted that he has put Australia on the world map in leading-edge research in these areas. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed papers internationally which have been cited over 2,400 times, a remarkable achievement for a relatively young researcher.

It was the second year running that the medal was won by a UNSW researcher. It was previously awarded to Dr Adam Micolich, a senior lecturer in the UNSW School of Physics.

Media contact:
UNSW Faculty of Science - Bob Beale 0411 705 435