The next president of the Australian Academy of Science has been selected. 

Nanotechnology pioneer Distinguished Professor Chennupati Jagadish AC FAA FTSE will become the next president of Australia’s premier science organisation, becoming the first Australian of Indian heritage to take on the role.

“I never imagined when I came to Australia with a two-month-old baby and two-year contract thirty-one years ago, that one day I’d be elected a Fellow of the Academy and then go on to lead the organisation,” said Professor Jagadish.

“The Academy plays an important role providing independent, authoritative and influential scientific advice to the Australian Parliament. I look forward to leading that work and being a champion for the cause of science and scientific excellence.

“As a nation, we must adequately invest in research and development to meet national and global challenges, such as climate change and future pandemics.

“We also need to transition from a resource-based economy to a knowledge and technology-based economy.”

One of the world’s leading physicists, Professor Jagadish’s expertise is in the field of nanotechnology. 

He arrived in Australia in 1990 to take up a role as a research scientist at the Australian National University and now leads its Semiconductor Optoelectronics and Nanotechnology Group. 

Professor Jagadish helps develop semi-conductors used in LED lights and has designed and developed some of the world’s smallest lasers. Approximately 20-30 of these lasers can fit within the width of a single human hair.  

His research has also been applied to make lightweight flexible solar cells, to split water to create hydrogen as a pure energy source and to manipulate neurons to treat people living with dementia. 

Professor Jagadish has also pioneered the creation of high-performance next generation optical devices, which have huge potential in the field of communications and data storage. 

He holds six US patents and has published more than 700 international journal papers. 

Born in India, Professor Jagadish grew up without electricity and studied in front of a kerosene lamp until his first year of high school, before coming under the tutelage of maths teacher, Chaganti Sambi Reddy. 

Seeing the young student’s potential, Mr Reddy invited Dr Jagadish to live with his family, so he didn’t have to walk six kilometres each day to attend high school. 

Mr Reddy says he was not surprised to hear of his protégé’s election to president of the Academy. 

“Jagadish has been the most successful among the thousands of students I have taught during my 40-year career as maths teacher and headmaster of many high schools,” he said. 

“We are delighted and proud of Jagadish and wish him well in this important leadership role at the Australian Academy of Science.” 

Outgoing Academy President Professor John Shine welcomed his replacement. 

“Professor Jagadish is highly regarded as a scientist and understands the importance of Australia’s international scientific engagement, having research collaborations in 30 countries around the world himself,” Professor Shine said.

“Professor Jagadish will also be a strong voice for our emerging scientists and young researchers who are Australia’s future science leaders. They have been severely impacted by COVID-19, as highlighted in a report published by the Academy’s EMCR Forum last year.”

Professor Jagadish will be the 20th president of the Academy since its founding president, Sir Marcus Oliphant AC KBE FAA FRS FTSE was elected in 1954.