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Nerissa Hannink

University of Melbourne Media Office

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Internationally recognised chemist Professor Andrew Holmes has been awarded the 2012 Royal Medal – the only Australian in 10 years to receive the award.

Three Royal Medals, also known as the Queen’s Medals, are awarded annually for the most important contributions in the physical, biological and applied or interdisciplinary sciences. Former recipients include Charles Darwin, Francis Crick and Suzanne Cory.

Professor Holmes is a University of Melbourne Laureate Professor of Chemistry at the Bio21 Institute, a CSIRO Fellow and a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Imperial College London.

He is recognised for his contributions at the interface of the materials and biological sciences that will lead to outcomes that will benefit society. He played a pioneering role in the field of applied organic electronic materials.

In the late 1980’s he established a collaboration with University of Cambridge physicists that in 1990 led to the discovery of light emitting polymers. Professor Holmes led the Chemistry team in that collaboration for 14 years. These polymers have applications in solid state (LED) lighting, flat panel displays, transistors and solar cells.

In Australia Professor Holmes leads the Victorian Organic Solar Cells Consortium involving the University of Melbourne, CSIRO, Monash University and industry partners. The Consortium aims to deliver efficient flexible printed solar cells for low cost applications in electricity generation and benefits from a strong collaboration with the Imperial College Doctoral Training Centre in Plastic Electronics.

Professor Holmes said it was an honour to receive this award and be recognised in the area of organic electronic materials and for collaboration with cell biologists.

“It’s exciting to work in polymer chemistry, an area that can lead to a diverse range of applications from the development of more energy efficient products to the greater understanding of biological processes. Having a strong international collaboration at Imperial has also strengthened our opportunities abroad,” Professor Holmes said.

Dr Calum Drummond, Executive of CSIRO’s Manufacturing, Materials and Minerals Group said, “I am delighted that the Royal Society has awarded Andrew this very prestigious medal in recognition of his immense contributions to materials chemistry and its application to energy efficient and sustainable products, as well as bio-related applications.

“CSIRO greatly values the role that Professor Holmes has played in bringing together university groups and CSIRO to conduct research in areas that have the potential to provide enormous economic, social and environmental benefit for Australia.”

Bio21 Institute Director, Professor Tony Bacic congratulated Professor Holmes’ exemplary career. 
“Professor Holmes’ commitment to interdisciplinary research, innovation and leadership has held him in high esteem amongst his peers, the University and the broader research community. This is a great honour and acknowledgement of Professor Holmes’ commitment and recognition of an outstanding career,” he said.

The Royal Medals were founded by His Majesty King George IV in 1825 and are awarded annually by Her Majesty The Queen on the recommendation of the Council of the Royal Society. Professor Holmes will be presented with the Medal at the Royal Society’s Anniversary Day meeting in November 2012.

In addition to his current appointments, Professor Holmes is a Director and Innovation Fellow of VESKI (Victorian Endowment for Science, Knowledge and Innovation) and Foreign Secretary of the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor Andrew B Holmes – Biography

Professor Andrew Holmes is a Melbourne University Laureate Professor of Chemistry, based at the Bio21 Institute, a CSIRO Fellow and Distinguished Research Fellow at Imperial College, London. He is a Director and Innovation Fellow of VESKI.

Professor Holmes was an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne and completed a PhD degree with Professor Franz Sondheimer at University College London. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow on the final stages of the synthesis of vitamin B12 with Professor A Eschenmoser.  He was at Cambridge for 32 years then moved to Imperial College from where he was given long term leave of absence to be seconded to the University of Melbourne.

In 2004, Professor Holmes returned to Victoria as an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and inaugural VESKI Innovation Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute and at CSIRO. 

Professor Holmes is a co-recipient of the Descartes Prize 2003. In May, 2000 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours List in 2004 and he was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in March 2006 and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in November 2006. 

He is Foreign Secretary of the Australian Academy of Science.  From 2000–2003 he was Chairman of the Editorial Board of Chemical Communications and he has been an Associate Editor of Organic Letters since April 2006. He is a member of the CSIRO Publishing Advisory Board.