Internationally renowned scientist to lead UOW’s research and innovation strategy

Professor Jennifer L. Martin appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)

The University of Wollongong has appointed highly regarded research scientist Professor Jennifer L. Martin AC FAA to the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).

Professor Martin joins the University of Wollongong (UOW) from Griffith University where she is Director of the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery. She will commence at UOW on 27 March 2019.

Professor Martin is known internationally for her work in protein crystallography, a branch of structural biology that seeks to understand how biological machines operate. Professor Martin is using that approach to study disease-causing proteins, and using the knowledge gained from those studies to design potential new drugs. A major aspect of her research focusses on the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections and finding new approaches to combat them.

Professor Martin trained at the Victorian College of Pharmacy in Melbourne (an independent institute then, now the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University) and completed a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and a postdoctoral fellowship at Rockefeller University, New York.

In announcing the appointment, UOW Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE welcomed Professor Martin to the University.

“We are delighted to have someone of Professor Martin’s calibre join the University. After an impressive career as researcher, she has made a seamless transition from the laboratory to leadership roles,” Professor Wellings said.

“The University of Wollongong is a research-intensive university and is dedicated to research and innovation that addresses real-world problems. In all of the roles she has held, Professor Martin has demonstrated a similar commitment to research that makes a difference.”

As Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Martin says she will pursue a research strategy that is values-based.

“My vision is for a research strategy based that encompasses the values that I hold dear: excellence, respect, integrity and collegiality,” Professor Martin said

“I include in that the value of excellence. In a high-performing research organisation like UOW we expect to recruit and retain researchers of the highest calibre, and that means providing the support and opportunity for early-career, mid-career and senior researchers to pursue excellence.

“I also want to bring an element of entrepreneurship and innovation into everything that we do, and I am excited about the opportunity to engage with industry, government and the community.

“UOW is outward-looking and agile with a great vision for the future. I am delighted to be inheriting very strong foundations in Research and Innovation, and will be looking to build upon those.”

Another aspect of the role that Professor Martin is looking forward to is the opportunity to work across different disciplines.

“Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Wollongong is broader than my current role at Griffith University, and that excites me. I am looking forward to working with dedicated and highly talented people from all disciplines – across the arts, humanities, social sciences, engineering, information sciences, business, law as well as science, medicine and health.”

“That breadth of knowledge, innovation and creativity takes me back to my Oxford days when I was living in college with students from the humanities, with archaeologists and political scientists and engineers. I loved the diversity and the opportunity to communicate with people across discipline boundaries. That is where the greatest innovations occur.”

Professor Martin was made a Companion of the Order of Australia earlier this year for “eminent service to scientific research, particularly in the field of biochemistry and protein crystallography applied to drug-resistant bacteria, as a role model, and as an advocate for gender equality in science”.

She is also a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, current President of the Asian Crystallography Association and a member of the Executive for the International Union of Crystallography. She was a founding member of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Steering Committee, that established the Athena SWAN pilot to address gender equity in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine.

Despite all her accomplishments and honours, when Professor Martin first entered the world of higher education her ambitions were much humbler. She grew up in a low socio-economic area and was in the first generation of her family to go to tertiary education. She chose to study pharmacy because it would lead to secure employment as a pharmacist.

“I came from a poor background in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Both of my parents left school at 14, although they were very supportive of my education. So when I was thinking about what to study I was looking for something that would lead to a job that would support me for the rest of my life,” she said.

Fate intervened in the form of inspirational lecturer, Professor Peter Andrews AO, who later became Queensland Chief Scientist, and whom she still regards as a mentor. After she excelled in her undergraduate studies, he recommended she undertake a research Master’s degree.

“That was my first experience of dipping my toe into the world of research and I loved it. I loved the ability to ask a fundamentally important question and to use science and the scientific process to find the answer.”

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