Science highlight (Issue 40, 2010)


Dr Khatijah receiving her award from La Trobe University Chancellor Mrs Sylvia Walton.

On 25 June, La Trobe University academics gathered to celebrate the awarding of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) to Professor Datin Paduka Dr Khatijah binti Mohamad Yusoff.

Professor Khatijah was born in Penang and after receiving her early education there, she was awarded a Colombo Plan Scholarship to La Trobe University. She graduated with a First Class Honours degree in microbiology and she then won a La Trobe University research scholarship. She completed her PhD in microbiology in 1983 under the guidance of Dr Vilma Stanisich.

She started her career as a lecturer at University Putra Malaysia where she received numerous awards and distinctions nationally and internationally. In 1990 she was the recipient of the Malaysian National Young Scientist Award and in 2005 she received the Carlos J Finlay prize for microbiology from UNESCO.

At University Putra Malaysia, Professor Khatijah served as Deputy Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Dean of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International). In November 2008, she was appointed as Deputy Secretary General (Science) at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in Malaysia. In this role, she supports the Minister in overseeing and monitoring the progress of its five main clusters: Biotechnology, Industry, ICT Policy, Sea to Space and Science and Technology Core. In this capacity, she is involved in developing a number of national policies in science, technology and innovation.

'Professor Khatijah is one of our most distinguished graduates, having gone on from her PhD in microbiology at La Trobe to receive numerous awards at university, national and university level. She has been a highly productive researcher, a superb mentor and supervisor, and a wonderful science leader in her home country in Malaysia,' said Professor Paul Fisher, Chair in Microbiology and Associate Dean (Research) at La Trobe University.

Professor Khatijah is a highly accomplished virologist, her work including molecular and epidemiological studies, as well as vaccine development and has opened up new avenues for using the Newcastle Disease Virus or NDV as a novel anti-cancer agent. She has also conducted research on several important human viruses and her results were published in nearly 140 scientific articles.

'Her research has covered a broad spectrum of topics ranging from the very practical detection of important pathogens of domestic animals to the highly innovative use of a bird virus as an ant-cancer agent in humans. She is a most worthy recipient of the Doctor of Science (honoris causa),' added Professor Fisher.