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SA Scientist of the Year

Congratulations to the 2024 South Australian Scientist of the Year finalists.

Professor Jamie Craig

Flinders University, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) 

 

Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness, affecting up to 2% of Australians and their families. Early-stage, treatable glaucoma often goes undetected, and diagnosis only occurs when vision loss is irreversible. 

Professor Jamie Craig has spent nearly three decades unravelling the genetic sequences that can predict glaucoma risk. With his team, he has partnered with industry to develop genetic tests to guide glaucoma detection and management. SA Pathology was the first site in Australia to offer this test, now available in 8 countries, with over 4,000 tests performed in South Australia to date. 

He has developed a powerful new screening tool to assess and triage glaucoma patients, reducing the short-term burden on healthcare, especially in remote settings, by prioritising individuals with the highest risks; and offering long-term health and economic benefits for individuals and communities by delaying, or even preventing, the onset of blindness in most glaucoma cases.  

His research is changing the way glaucoma is detected and managed. It is saving sight. 

Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem

University of Adelaide, Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing

Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem is a world-renowned scientist based in South Australia, whose work is focussed on developing new forms of optical glass and fibres.  

With over two decades of international recognition and numerous awards, Heike’s leadership has propelled transformative research initiatives, including the development of ZBLAN Space Fibre, an innovation with the potential to revolutionize global internet connectivity and data transfer rates. 

Her collaborative efforts have not only advanced scientific knowledge, but also fostered strategic alliances with industry partners, driving economic growth and societal advancement. Heike’s leadership extends beyond the laboratory, as evidenced by her commitment to mentoring young researchers and engaging with the artistic community to promote public engagement with science. Through her visionary leadership and dedication to excellence, Heike continues to inspire and shape the future of STEM fields, leaving an indelible mark on both academia and society. 

Professor Matthew Gilliham

University of Adelaide, Waite Research Institute 

Professor Matthew Gilliham leads the international team that secured the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plants for Space. As Director of this 7-year, $100M enterprise, he is redefining Australia’s roles in space and on-Earth biomanufacturing, and spotlighting SA as a global centre for space-inspired food innovation. 

Known internationally for translating his fundamental research into real-world agricultural impact, Matthew has pioneered improvements in salinity tolerance of wheat, barley, tomato, soybean, and grapevine, leading to yield improvements of more than 25% in the field. As a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher since 2019, his research is recognised in the top 1% globally.  

Under Matthew’s leadership as Director, the Waite Research (WRI) Institute secured major investments such as the SA Drought Hub and two ARC Training Centres, and partnership with the SA Government. By mentoring and recruiting a new generation of agricultural research leaders, he expanded WRI’s multidisciplinary capabilities, integrating new gene editing, synthetic biology, and machine learning technologies with existing strengths in wine, plant breeding, and agronomy. 


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