Two UNSW academics named 2022 Australian Academy of Science Fellows

UNSW Sydney professors from UNSW Science and UNSW Medicine & Health have been recognised among the nation’s most distinguished scientists.

Two UNSW academics have been honoured with election as 2022 Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science for their outstanding contribution to mathematics and childhood cancer research.

Professor Catherine Greenhill and Professor Michelle Haber AM were among 20 researchers announced today as members of the Academy. The Fellows are among Australia’s most distinguished scientists, elected by their peers for ground-breaking research.

Mathematical expert in graphs and networks
Prof. Catherine Greenhill from the School of Mathematics and Statistics is internationally recognised as a leading expert in research involving graphs. Her research focuses on the properties of abstract graphs and related structures, which can be used to model real-world networks such as social or contact networks.

Prof. Greenhill’s highly cited research achievements include new formulae and algorithms that have found broad application in many areas from statistics to computer science, and physics to cryptography.

“My research defines families or ensembles of graphs which are alike in some way, by specifying the number of connections involving each object in the system. I aim to prove results about the typical properties of members of this family, find good estimates for the number of graphs in the family or provide efficient algorithms for generating a random element of the family,” Prof. Greenhill said.

“While I am interested in these questions for their own sake, my research also provides tools which can be useful to researchers who use graphs or hypergraphs to model real-world discrete systems.”

Acting Dean of UNSW Science Professor Scott Kable congratulated his colleague on the prestigious achievement.

“Catherine has an outstanding career in mathematical research, and I’m thrilled that she has been recognised by the Australian Academy of Sciences. We live in a highly networked world and her research plays an important role in describing our world of complex systems,” Prof. Kable said.

Global authority on childhood cancer research
Prof. Michelle Haber has dedicated her entire professional life to improving outcomes for children with cancer. She is one of Australia’s leading translational researchers and is world-renowned for advancing our understanding of the childhood cancers, neuroblastoma and leukaemia, leading to new clinical approaches that have improved survival and quality of life.

Prof. Haber is best-known for defining new molecular targets in child cancers, as well as developing new therapies that attack those targets. She was part of the team that developed minimal residual disease testing for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which led to a doubling in survival rates for children with high-risk forms of the disease. She has driven the establishment and development of Zero Childhood Cancer (ZERO), Australia’s first national child cancer precision medicine program, which is improving outcomes for children with a range of high-risk cancers and will expand to be available to all children with cancer by the end of 2023.

“Our goal is to identify new, safer, more effective ways of treating children with this terrible disease. We are taking our results in the lab and translating them as rapidly as possible into clinical trials,” Prof. Haber said.

“What motivates me is seeing our science make a difference to children and knowing we are giving hope and changing outcomes for these kids.”

Scientia Professor Vlado Perkovic, Dean of UNSW Medicine & Health congratulated Prof. Haber on being elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences.

“It is an honour to be selected by your peers as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences and I commend Michelle. She is a global authority in childhood cancer research, setting the agenda for this field in Australia. We are privileged to have her represent the Faculty and the University,” Prof. Perkovic said.

Former UNSW Dean of Science Professor Emma Johnston was also named as a 2022 Australian Academy of Science Fellow. Prof. Johnston is a world leading authority in marine science and conservation. Her current research focuses on marine debris, microplastics, bushfire impacts in marine ecosystems and securing Antarctica’s environmental future. She commences her new role at University of Sydney as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) in July.

Australian Academy of Science President Professor Chennupati Jagadish AC congratulated the new Fellows for their contributions to science.

“Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science are among the nation’s most distinguished scientists, elected by their peers for ground-breaking research and contributions that have had clear impact,” Professor Jagadish said.

“The Academy’s actions to improve gender diversity among our Fellowship are succeeding. This year’s Fellows include 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men, the first time in the Academy’s history that gender parity has been achieved in the annual election of new Fellows.

“This has been achieved by adopting a range of measures to improve our nomination process and increase opportunities to recognise all scientists. Our work to improve diversity among our Fellows continues.

“We reflect a diverse and inclusive science community that recognises the widest range of talents, backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, and we are united by our contribution and commitment to scientific excellence,” Professor Jagadish said.