Newcastle biologist named NSW Scientist of the Year

Nov 15 2012

Laureate Professor John Aitken

HMRI researcher Laureate Professor John Aitken has been named NSW Scientist of the Year at the 2012 NSW Science and Engineering awards in Sydney.

The award, announced last night by Minister for Regional Infrastructure and Services Andrew Stoner, recognised Professor Aitken’s world-class work in reproductive biology.

“Each year the reproductive needs of some 120 million couples worldwide go unmet. I believe that finding more effective ways to control fertility is a critical global issue while, at an individual level, we should never forget the large number of couples seeking safe, effective solutions to their infertility,” Professor Aitken said.

“This award recognises the importance of reproductive biology research at the University of Newcastle. It is up to scientists, like myself and my team, to make the breakthroughs needed to revolutionise the technologies used to regulate reproductive efficacy in both man and animals.”

“NSW is home to some of the most prestigious research institutions in the world. However this award serves to remind us that not all of this research excellence is harboured in Sydney.”

Professor Aitken has identified oxidative stress (cells being attacked by ‘free radicals’) as a major cause of male infertility, a finding that has resulted in new methods of therapeutic intervention. His team has also developed potential contraceptive agents that could prevent pregnancy and simultaneously inhibit the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Fellow University of Newcastle Laureate Professor, Paul Foster from the Faculty of Health, won the Excellence in Biological Sciences (Human and Animal Health) category at the awards. Professor Foster is a recognised world-leader in the field of asthma and respiratory disease.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Mike Calford said Newcastle’s success at the 2012 NSW Science and Engineering awards further strengthened the University’s outstanding reputation in biomedical research.

“This is the first time in the award’s five-year history that a researcher from a regional institution has been named NSW Scientist of the Year. We are very proud of both Professor Aitken and Professor Foster’s achievements in their respective fields,” Professor Calford said.

HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson said Newcastle was incredibly fortunate to provide a rich research environment for such brilliant minds.
“These awards demonstrate that the multidisciplinary and translationalapproach to health and medical research championed here in the Hunter continues to deliver results for our local, national and international communities.”

Professors Aitken and Foster research in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.