Murdoch professors to receive Queen’s birthday honours

June 14, 2012

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Murdoch Emeritus Professor Jen McComb and Adjunct Associate Professor Alex George have both been appointed Members of the Order of Australia for their work in the natural sciences.

“I’m honoured and take great pleasure in seeing the natural sciences recognised. There’s no more exciting place to be a botanist than Western Australia,” Dr McComb said.

“I hope the people I’ve worked with share my pleasure. Nothing in teaching or research is done solo these days – it is teamwork – and I’ve had hosts of people collaborate with me, from technicians to post-docs and fellow academics. I’ve been very lucky.”

Over four decades, the Kalamunda-based academic has made major contributions to research in plant breeding, reproductive biology and plant physiology, authoring or contributing to more than 170 publications. Her most notable achievements include propagating dieback resistant jarrah and salt tolerant eucalypts and helping to establish sandalwood plantations in WA.

Dr George, a recognised botanist, historian, editor and indexer from Kardinya, admitted being surprised by the recognition.

“A letter came out of the blue from Government House in Canberra asking if I was prepared to accept the award. It’s the sort of thing that happens to others, but you don’t expect it yourself,” he said.

Born in Fremantle, Dr George has had a distinguished 50-year career, including 180 publications, two terms as the Australian Botanical Liaison Officer to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK and extensive work at the Western Australian Herbarium. He also served as Executive Editor and Acting Associate Director of the Flora of Australia project.

“My career has been a vocation and has been thoroughly enjoyable, like having an extended hobby,” Dr George said.

“I’ve been fortunate to do field work throughout WA, going to regions where no botanical work had ever been done, and in some cases where no Europeans had ever gone before. The sense of discovery has been wonderful.”

The official medal ceremony is set for September at Government House in Perth. The Order of Australia was instituted by Her Majesty The Queen in 1975 to honour Australian citizens for achievement or meritorious service.

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