Graeme Clark receives top Australian honour

22 November

This week, Professor Graeme Clark, one of Australia’s greatest scientists and the pioneer of the bionic ear, has received the CSL Florey Medal in Canberra and accepted an appointment with veski host organisation NICTA.

NICTA hosts the annual Graeme Clarke Oration, which veski supports by bringing veski innovation fellows and Victorian science students to the event.

He received the CSL Florey Medal at the 2011 Association of Australian Medical Research Institute’s annual dinner in the Mural Hall at Parliament House Canberra.

It is awarded biennially to an Australian biomedical researcher for significant achievements in biomedical science and/or human health advancement. The award currently carries a prize of $50,000 and was established in 1998 by the Australian Institute of Policy and science in honour of Australian Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Sir Howard Florey, who developed penicillin.

Professor Clark joins an elite group of Australian medical researchers including Nobel Laureates Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, for discovering that bacteria cause stomach ulcers and Jacques Miller, who unravelled the role of the thymus in the immune system.

In the same week, Professor Clark has announced he will join NICTA as a Distinguished Researcher and lead a new project aimed at developing technologies capable of providing new types of hearing implants that can improve various aspects of auditory perception for hearing loss patients. Professor Clark’s appointment provides a unique opportunity to study the auditory neuroanatomy of the first cochlear implant (bionic ear) patient, Rod Saunders, who passed away in 2007 and donated his body to science.

The NICTA team aims to combine this detailed anatomical data with his known psychophysics to understand more about the human auditory system. A second element of the research will be an investigation of the potential to make implants more bio-compatible by the use new biomaterials and embedded microelectronics.

Professor Clark will be working with Professor Terry Caelli, Leader of NICTA’s Health Business Team. Their work will draw on the skills of staff from NICTA’s Control and Signal Processing Research Group and NICTA’s expertise in microelectronics and biomedical device development. Professor Clark commences his appointment on 1 December 2011.

“I have been involved with hearing research for so many years, some people might think there are no more discoveries to be made, but that is so far from the truth,” said Professor Clark.

“I feel as though, in many ways, we are just at the beginning of our understanding of how hearing works. I am really excited by the potential of this project, with the support of the incredible expertise here at NICTA, to help the hearing-impaired to perceive many more sounds than are currently possible.”

Professor Caelli said Professor Clark would bring a wealth of valuable experience to the team.

“At NICTA we have considerable expertise in the control and signal processing research area which we are eager to apply. We want to understand more about how people process auditory information, so we can help them hear more clearly,” he said.

“Graeme’s experience, drive and passion for research will be of immense benefit to our work and I am looking forward to achieving some exciting outcomes.”

Hugh Durrant-Whyte, NICTA CEO, welcomed Prof. Clark.

“At NICTA we are committed to research excellence and Graeme Clark exemplifies this value. I am delighted to welcome him aboard,” he said.

To learn more about the Florey Medal and Professor Clark’s role at NICTA, please visit the ICT for Life sciences Forum website.

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