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Greek Australian Maria Makrides Named 2022 Scientist of the Year

Makrides Scientist 2022 Australia
Makrides leads a team working to improve the lives of pregnant women and young children through nutrition. Credit: Video screenshot/Department for Industry, Innovation and Science, Australia

Greek Australian Professor Maria Makrides has been named 2022 Scientist of the Year in South Australia’s Science Excellence and Innovation Awards.

The awards, announced last week, recognize the state’s leading science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) professionals.

Professor Makrides, deputy director of the South Australian Health Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), leads a team working on improving the lives of pregnant women and young children through nutrition.

She is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) principal research fellow and a professor of human nutrition at the University of Adelaide.

Makrides’ work on dietary supplements lands her scientist 2022 honor

Makrides works on the health effects of various dietary supplements, including fatty acids and iron during the perinatal period.

Makrides’ work has led to changes in infant formulas as well as to the improvement of food laws internationally (Codex Alimentarius). Most recently, Maria was part of an international expert advisory group that commented on the composition of follow-up formulas under review by Codex.

She explained her role, saying “My team works to improve the outcomes for pregnant women and young children using nutritional interventions.”

“I had done a science degree and was looking for something more applied,” she said. “I looked at nutrition and dietetics thinking that that was a way to combine good physiological and biochemical science with real-life applications.”

She added that her interest in infancy care was the focus on nutrition for optimal growth and development—not just maintenance.

“A baby will double its weight in the first four months of its life,” she said. “In adult terms, it’s a little bit more straightforward. We don’t double our weight in four months, and if we did, we’d be in a lot of trouble!”

Makrides said that people need to focus on quality instead.

“What I’d love to see is for people to be more focused on quality, the balance of nutrition, and moving away from particular fad diets that tend to cut out specific nutrient groups—that can sometimes have unintended consequences,” she said.

The 2022 SA Science Excellence and Innovation Award winners are:

Scientist of the Year: Professor Maria Makrides, SAHMRI
Innovator of the Year: Professor Andre Luiten, Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, The University of Adelaide
PhD Research Excellence Award: Dr Chelsea Thorn, University of South Australia

Chief Scientist for South Australia Professor Caroline McMillen congratulated the winners, saying, “I am proud to say that this year’s SA Science Excellence and Innovation Award winners are as diverse as the STEMM workforce they represent. Congratulations to all.”

“This cohort is developing solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges and inspiring the next generation of South Australians to take up STEMM careers and change the world,” she added.

“The winners’ stories allow us to be optimistic about the future—we are fortunate to have such outstanding researchers, innovators, collaborators, and educators who are delivering remarkable outcomes every day across our state,” she concluded.

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