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Uni of Adelaide staff and graduates at forefront of Australia Day awards

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Source: University of Adelaide

Image: Australian of the Year 2020 and University of Adelaide alumni, Dr James Muecke.

Image: Australian of the Year 2020 and University of Adelaide alumni, Dr James Muecke.

The University of Adelaide congratulates eye surgeon and blindness prevention pioneer Dr James Muecke, AM, a Distinguished Alumnus of the University, for being named the Australian of the Year for 2020.

Dr Muecke is among 40 members of the University of Adelaide community receiving recognition on Australia Day 2020 for their outstanding contributions to their fields and society.

Dr Muecke has made it his life's work to fight childhood blindness in low-income countries. His not-for-profit organisation Sight For All has made significant steps towards eliminating blindness in Asia.

A Clinical Senior Lecturer in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Adelaide, Dr Muecke is a graduate of the University (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, 1988).

Since starting his medical career in Kenya, Dr Muecke has been passionate about fighting blindness. In 2000, he co-founded Vision Myanmar at the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology. The $1 million program has developed and operated eye health and blindness initiatives in Myanmar.

Inspired by this program’s success, Dr Muecke also co-founded Sight For All, a social impact organisation aiming to create a world where everyone can see. With 80% of world blindness avoidable – and almost 90% in poor countries – Dr Muecke treats blindness as a human rights issue.

Dr Muecke creates low-cost programs to fight blindness through research, education and infrastructure, including the comprehensive training of colleagues in Sight For All’s partner countries.

He donates 40 hours of personal time weekly to Sight For All, and is intimately involved in projects in Ethiopia, nine Asian countries, and mainstream and Aboriginal communities of Australia.

In 2019, the University of Adelaide recognised Dr Muecke’s achievements with the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Professor Peter Rathjen, AO, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, says: “All Australians should feel justifiably proud of the achievements of Dr James Muecke. His leadership, determination and passion has improved eye health, and helped alleviate poverty and disadvantage for many in the developing world and among Indigenous Australians.

“James is a perfect example of someone who has taken their knowledge and expertise and used it to for the greater good, within Australia and globally. He is a well-deserving recipient of the Australian of the Year Award.”

 

Australia Day Honours 2020

The news about Dr Muecke’s Australian of the Year Award coincides with many other members of the University of Adelaide community receiving recognition in the Australia Day Honours for 2020.

Among these is current staff member and leading particle physicist, the University of Adelaide’s Professor Anthony Thomas, FAA, who has been recognised in the Australia Day 2020 Honours as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), the highest award for outstanding achievement and service in the Australian honours system.

Professor Thomas is recognised for his eminent service to scientific education and research, particularly in the field of nuclear and particle physics, through academic leadership roles. His work has placed the University of Adelaide, and the nation more broadly, at the forefront of subatomic physics research.

Professor Thomas is Elder Professor of Physics at the University of Adelaide – a position that was first held by Nobel Prize-Winner Sir William Bragg – and heads the Adelaide node of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Particle Physics at the Tera-scale and the ARC Special Research Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter.

His research answers fundamental questions about the nature of our Universe, with applications as diverse as defence and global financial markets, using a unique approach of connecting experiment, theory, advanced computations and simulation.

“Professor Thomas has made a significant contribution to international research in nuclear and particle physics, to development of physics and more at this University, and to the scientific standing of Australian physics in general,” says Professor Rathjen.

“My warmest congratulations to Tony and to the many other members of the University of Adelaide community whose outstanding achievements and service have been recognised in the Australia Day Honours. They bring distinction to themselves and to the University, and we are very proud to have played a part in their lives.”

Professor Thomas was the Inaugural Director of the National Institute for Theoretical Physics, is a former President of the Australian Institute of Physics and has served on numerous national and international bodies, including the Australian Academy of Science (including as Vice-President) and the OECD Global Science Forum Working Group on Nuclear Physics, which prepared a world-wide roadmap for research facilities in fundamental nuclear science.

He was also Inaugural Chair of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics’ Working Group on International Cooperation in Nuclear Physics, establishing a new era of international cooperation in fundamental nuclear science across the world.

He has received numerous awards throughout his career, including in 2014 becoming the South Australian Scientist of the Year, receiving a Centenary Medal in 2003, and an Appreciation Award in 2009 from the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

“This award is a great honour for which I’m very grateful, and it recognises that one can carry out first-class science and be a full player in the international scientific enterprise from South Australia,” says Professor Thomas. “Putting the University of Adelaide on the world map of outstanding centres working in fundamental nuclear and particle physics is the achievement of which I am most proud.

“It is a privilege to work in fundamental science and, from time to time, be the first person to really understand one of Nature’s secrets. And it’s an honour to share access to that scientific world with my students, and benefit from their enthusiasm.”

Among other members of the University of Adelaide community in the 2020 Australia Day Honours list are:

  • The Honourable Amanda Vanstone (arts and law graduate and Doctor of the University 2017): Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the Parliament of Australia, to the people of South Australia, and to the community.
  • Ms Jacqui McGill (Doctor of the University 2017): Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the minerals and mining sector, and to gender equity and workplace diversity.
  • Emeritus Professor Warren Bebbington (Emeritus Professor and former Vice-Chancellor): Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to education, particularly to the study of music.
  • Dr Sanghamitra Guha (Clinical Associate Professor, Adelaide Medical School): Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to medicine, and to medical education.
  • Dr Helen McLean (Clinical Senior Lecturer, School of Dentistry): Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to dentistry, and to professional associations.
  • Dr Anthony Lian-Lloyd (Lecturer, Adelaide Rural Clinical School): Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to medicine, and to the community.
  • Ms Anne McEwen (arts graduate and former Senator for South Australia): Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the Parliament of Australia and to the community of South Australia.

The full list of members of the University of Adelaide community in the 2020 Australia Day Honours list can be seen here.

Also in the Australia Day Awards, Professor Helen Marshall (Robinson Research Institute) has received the Award for Inspiring South Australian Women from the Australia Day Council of South Australia and the Office for Women.

Professor Marshall, leader of the B Part of It study, has dedicated her career to practicing and leading medical research at the forefront of the global fight to stop meningococcal disease.

Media Contacts:

Professor Anthony Thomas, AC, FAA, Elder Professor of Physics, University of Adelaide. Mobile: +61 (0)420 961 148, anthony.thomas@adelaide.edu.au

Robyn Mills, Media Officer. University of Adelaide. Phone: +61 (0)8 8313 6341, Mobile: +61 (0)410 689 084, robyn.mills@adelaide.edu.au