La Trobe scientist honoured by peers

Distinguished La Trobe University scientist, Professor Jim Whelan, has been elected to the Australian Academy of Science for his outstanding contribution to plant biology.

The prestigious honour is awarded to a select group of scientists each year, following a competitive peer nomination process.

Professor Whelan has been recognised for 20 years of research into plant mitochondrial function and signaling pathways in plants.

His breakthrough discovery of the master regulator of mitochondrial stress signaling has allowed scientists to understand how plants respond to stress and changes in environment.

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La Trobe University Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kerri-Lee Krause, congratulated Professor Whelan on the significant award.

“Being elected into the Australian Academy of Science further distinguishes Professor Whelan as a pioneer in his field,” Professor Krause said.

“It’s a very deserving honour for a scientist who has dedicated his life to improving the production and sustainability of food crops worldwide.”

Based at La Trobe’s Institute for Agriculture and Food at AgriBio, where he is Research Director, Professor Whelan said he felt deeply honoured to be named a member of the Academy.

“It’s a humbling feeling knowing my peers, who are all eminent scientists in their respective fields, have nominated me for this award,” Professor Whelan said.

“This is not only a recognition and celebration of my work, but the early career researchers and students I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last 20 years.

“Building on my earlier discoveries, I’m now looking to understand why plants choose to either grow, or attempt to tolerate, environmental stresses like drought and flooding. By understanding how these decisions are made, we will be able to optimise growth under these exact conditions.”

Professor Whelan will be formally inducted into the Academy at the Shine Dome in Canberra tonight. He is the third academic from La Trobe’s Institute for Agriculture and Food to be elected as a member of the Academy, following Professor Tony Bacic and Professor Marilyn Anderson.

Media contact: Dragana Mrkaja – 0447 508 171 –