One of the world's most cited plant scientists has been awarded a prestigious Australian science award.
Winthrop Professor Harvey Millar, a Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at The University of Western Australia, won the 2012 Fenner Medal for distinguished research in biology by a scientist under 40.
The Fenner Medal is awarded by the Australian Academy of Science, which recognises excellence in diverse fields of science each year through its national awards program for lifelong achievement, outstanding early career researchers and research support.
Professor Millar, who has a passion for proteins and how they work, has built a remarkable career in the 14 years since he graduated from The Australian National University with a PhD in biochemistry.
As well as working with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology he is also Director of the new UWA Centre for Comparative Analysis of Biomolecular Networks.
In proteomics, scientists analyse protein products made when genes are switched on and downstream modifications that make them work. This allows researchers to learn about how plants cope with changing environmental conditions and to find genes of interest for drought, flood, salinity or pest tolerance in plants. The proteomics laboratory Professor Millar leads is ranked among the top 25 in the world.
His research group recently discovered a potential mechanism for rescuing wheat seedlings from flooding as well as a new role for free radical molecules in pathogen sensing, and is also working to keep honeybees healthy to maintain pollination. Over the past decade Professor Millar's research has focused on respiration, energy production in cells, and its response to environmental stress.
"To have my research recognised in this way is exciting," Professor Millar said. "Finding out how plants work at a molecular level is of critical importance right now, in a world faced with dwindling resources and climate change. Research in biology is very much a team effort, so I want to acknowledge that any award recognises not just my efforts, but the work of many researchers in my laboratory over the past decade."
Professor Ian Small, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, said the centre was fortunate to have such an excellent scientist leading its young scientists, inspiring students and working collaboratively on important projects all over the world.
The Fenner Medal will be presented in Canberra next May.
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