Two UNSW Researchers Elected as Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science

NeuRA Chief Executive Officer Matthew Kiernan and NDARC’s Louisa Degenhardt have been recognised for their outstanding contributions to science.

Scientia Professor Matthew Kiernan AM and Scientia Professor Louisa Degenhardt have been elected as 2024 Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science for their respective outstanding contributions to neurological disease and substance use-related harms.

They are among 24 researchers announced as members of the Academy today.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs said: “We are immensely proud of Professors Kiernan and Degenhardt who have been acknowledged by their peers at the Australian Academy of Science.

“They are global leading experts in their fields, and their fellowships honour decades of exceptional and impactful research.”

Interim Dean of UNSW Medicine & Health Professor Adrienne Torda congratulated Prof. Kiernan and Prof. Degenhardt on their fellowships.

“Prof. Kiernan’s research has had significant impacts in understanding neurodegenerative disease, motor neuron disease and frontotemporal dementia. I am delighted that his dedication has been recognised by the Academy and look forward to watching the outcomes of his research in the years ahead.

“Prof. Degenhardt’s research has been pivotal for the instruction of policies and interventions designed to reduce harm for more than two decades. Her work will undoubtedly continue to drive improvements of alcohol, drug and mental disorder epidemiology both within Australia and internationally.”

Leading expert in neurodegenerative diseases

Prof. Kiernan from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) has made significant advancements in the field of neuroscience, having devised and introduced neurophysiological techniques that enable ion channel function to be studied in vivo in human subjects. These discoveries have delineated normal function and the mechanisms of disease, enabling the identification of therapeutic targets that are now being trialled around the world.

His work has defined diagnostic criteria for neurodegenerative diseases and established consensus guidelines adopted by the World Federation of Neurology. His implementation of novel therapies based on these discoveries is transforming the landscape of treatment for neurodegenerative diseases.

“I am honoured to be elected by my peers as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. This recognition is a testament to the quality of research being undertaken at NeuRA, UNSW and more broadly, the Randwick Health and Innovation Precinct,” Prof. Kiernan said.

“As a clinician academic and scientist, I wish to thank my collaborators and dedicated research team, whose hard work and commitment have been instrumental in driving our success and translational impact.”

Global authority on illicit drug use

Prof. Degenhardt from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW Sydney is a psychologist and global authority on illicit drug use. She has led seminal research on the global burden of illicit drug use and mapped global coverage of interventions to reduce this burden.

Her work is used by governments, United Nations agencies and other key international organisations to inform treatment planning and to advocate for the scale-up of interventions that are effective in reducing harms among people who use drugs.

“I am honoured to have been nominated for this Fellowship. My goal has always been to highlight the importance of illicit drug use as it relates to harms – harms that in most cases can be reduced, if not eliminated, through effective interventions. I hope that we – researchers, clinicians and advocates – can continue working to minimise harms related to drug use across the globe,” Prof. Degenhardt said.