UNSW chemical engineer Professor Rose Amal has added ‘NSW Scientist of the Year’ to her long list of accolades.
Demand for clean water, air and energy are driving many innovations in engineering. During a ceremony last week, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian presented Professor Rose Amal with the award for NSW Scientist of the Year for her efforts to produce all three.
The award acknowledges her world-leading research in the fields of fine particle technology, photocatalysis and functional nanomaterials, which have led to important developments in treating water, purifying the air and generating renewable hydrogen.
“Scientific research contributes to many everyday aspects of society and it has been a joy to be able to improve our quality of life,” Amal said of the win.
“I dedicate this award to my mentors and members of my research group who have worked tirelessly to unearth new scientific knowledge to improve our planet and those who live on it — now and into the future.”
Amal has helmed the UNSW Particles and Catalysis Research Group (PartCat) since 1997, where she has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in her field. In that time, Amal has explored ways chemical engineers can help build a more sustainable world by contributing to the fields of renewable energy and resources.
Another area of interest is the hydrogen economy. She is among a growing group of experts and policy makers who believe Australia has the potential to become a global force in producing and exporting hydrogen.
“We are researching catalysts for efficient energy conversion, such as hydrogen production from water, and chemical production from CO₂,” she said.
“These reactions are important as they address the changing energy mix for a sustainable future and can reduce energy costs for consumers.”
Last year, Amal was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for her research into cost-effective ways to treat water, eliminate greenhouse gases and produce renewable energy through photocatalysis.
“It’s an honour not just for me, but for all chemical engineers — recognition that what we do makes a difference, and we make the world a better place to live,” she said at the time.
Amal is also an Honorary Fellow of Engineers Australia, was named as one of the Most Influential Engineers for three years in a row (2012-2015), received the Judy Raper Women in Engineering Leadership Award in 2012, and is notable for being the first woman engineer elected to the Australian Academy of Science.
She received her AC for “eminent service to chemical engineering, particularly in the field of particle technology, through seminal contributions to photocatalysis, to education as a researcher and academic, and to women in science as a role model and mentor”.
Inspiring and educating the next generation of chemical engineers is one of her favourite parts of her role. Slowly but surely, she said the public’s perception of chemical engineers is changing.
“Things are changing, and sustainability is also key in our education for chemical engineering students,” she said.