2017 NSW Scientist of the Year

Pictured (L-R): Professor Mary O'Kane, Chief Scientist & Engineer; Mrs Linda Hurley; His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd), Governor of NSW; Professor Gordon Wallace, NSW Scientist of the Year; The Honourable Gladys Berejiklian MP, Premier of NSW; Professor Judy Raper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Wollongong; and The Honourable Richard Colless MLC, NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Western NSW.

Professor Gordon Wallace AO FAA FTSE FIOP FRACI
University of Wollongong

Professor Gordon Wallace is the Executive Research Director at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science and Director of the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute and the Australian National Fabrication Facility (Materials Node) both headquartered at the University of Wollongong.

Gordon is a leading scientist in the field of electromaterials, pioneering the use of nanotechnology in conjunction with organic conductors to create new materials for energy conversion and storage as well as medical bionics. He is recognised around the world for his remarkable work making bionic body parts, developing plastics that conduct electricity and helping to fight disease with printers that can manufacture cells, to name just a few examples.

Gordon completed his undergraduate (1979) and PhD (1983) degrees in Chemistry at Deakin University and was awarded a DSc from Deakin University in 2000 and from South Korea’s Hanbat University in 2014. He was appointed as a Professor at the University of Wollongong in 1990, awarded an ARC Professorial Fellowship in 2002, an ARC Federation Fellowship in 2006 and an ARC Laureate Fellowship in 2011.

Gordon’s first major contribution to science was to challenge the conventional wisdom that instability in polymer materials should always be eliminated. He asserted that this instability could, if understood, be directed and controlled, allowing the creation of intelligent polymers – materials that sense and respond to stimuli. In 1990, he established the world’s first intelligent polymer research laboratory in NSW. His work has more recently been focused on exploring the development and use of such materials in biomolecular technologies, where he has led a number of initiatives in developing the field of organic bionics.

Gordon has pioneered work in the emerging field of nanobionics; combining nanotechnology with new organic materials that conduct electricity. The design and discovery of new materials to develop biocommunications from the molecular to skeletal domains could improve human performance, make possible the fusion of bionic limbs with nerve cells to allow them to be controlled by the brain, and potentially bring to an end a spinal cord injury diagnosis leading to a life relegated to a wheelchair.

Recent breakthroughs include the development of an inkjet printer that assists nerve cell generation, which has the potential to repair damaged spinal cords and heal hearing damage. In order to facilitate the creation of functional devices from fundamental discoveries, he has pioneered the development of 3D additive fabrication (including 3D printing) using advanced materials. This biofabrication aims to take a patient’s specific medical condition and fix it by printing a cell, bone or organ in three dimensions and inserting it into the human body via surgery. In the future it may be possible to prevent arthritis through 3D cartilage regeneration, potentially cure type 1 diabetes with islet cell transplants, print stem cells and even use biofabrication for epilepsy detection and control in the brain. Gordon is also involved in the use of new materials to transform and store energy, with potential use in wearable and implantable medical technologies.

Gordon is committed to fundamental research and the translation of fundamental discoveries into practical applications. He is a passionate communicator, dedicated to explaining scientific advances to all in the community, from the lay person to the specialist.

He was appointed to the Prime Minister’s Knowledge Nation 100 in 2015 and received the Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science and Innovation in 2016. This year he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Gordon is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), Institute of Physics, Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and the Royal Society of NSW. He is a corresponding member of the Academy of Science in Bologna.

Gordon has supervised almost 100 PhD students to completion and has mentored more than 50 research fellows.

He has published more than 900 refereed publications that have attracted in excess of 35,000 citations, a monograph on Conductive Electroactive Polymers: Intelligent Polymer Systems and co-authored a monograph on Organic Bionics. He has recently co-authored an eBook on 3D Bioprinting and he led the presentation of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on 3D Bioprinting on the FutureLearn platform. This has attracted in excess of 20,000 participants from around the globe including UK, USA, India, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Brazil.