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Adi Paterson

Doctor of Science (honoris causa)

Citation delivered by Professor Judy Raper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Adrian Walker Paterson as a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on 18 April 2017.


Vice-Chancellor, I present Adrian Walter Paterson.

Dr Adi Paterson’s calling was confirmed in 1972, on a high school science tour, while standing on a bridge above the reactor pool in South Africa’s SAFARI research reactor. It was in this moment that he decided to study science and engineering – a decision that would not only shape his own life, but the future of innovation in nuclear science.

Adi was born and educated in South Africa, attaining both a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a PhD in Engineering from the University of Cape Town before undertaking a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) post-doctoral research fellowship at the University of Leeds in England. He was to spend more than 15 years with CSIR, starting out as a researcher in engineering ceramics and culminating in his tenure as the organisation’s Executive Vice-President, Technology and Chief Information Officer. A joint executive role between CSIR and the University of Pretoria followed.

He spent some time working for the South African government’s Department of Science and Technology before taking on the frontier role of General Manager of Business Development and Operations for the Pebble Bed Reactor Company. At the time, the Pebble Bed Reactor project was at the forefront of developing a safer, cleaner nuclear technology that could be adopted in a small-scale and modular fashion, with significant potential for developing countries.

Adi’s contributions in his country of birth are many. He has advocated for indigenous technology and national innovation, developed policy on intellectual policy in publicly-funded research, and co-authored a development strategy that spawned an eight-fold increase in public funding of science and technology. He counts the post-Apartheid reconstruction and expansion of the South African science and technology system among his many proud achievements.

Migrating to Australia in 2008, Dr Paterson was appointed to his current role as Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) in March 2009. Over the past eight years he has driven a program of positive change and growth across the organisation’s multi-faceted portfolio of activities, leveraging his experience and expertise in key policy areas including science and innovation, energy and the nuclear fuel cycle.

Under his leadership, ANSTO has become a far more strategic and sustainable organisation. He has delivered a clear mandate for the expansion of nuclear medicine infrastructure and capabilities through the Australian Synchrotron project, and created a viable project to build the first synroc nuclear waste plant globally – using Australian technology and engineering talent – by 2019. He has recently commenced a new five-year term in the role, where he continues to champion the evolution of nuclear energy systems and create value at the interface of public and private science and technology.

Adi is committed to deepening the long-running research collaboration between ANSTO and UOW. He plays a key role in higher education in Australia, and was responsible for the successful transfer of the Australian Synchotron operations to ANSTO in consultation with the university sector.

Among his many accolades, Dr Paterson was named 2012 Professional Engineer of the Year by the Sydney Division of Engineers Australia. He has variously been elected as a member of both the Academy of Science and Academy of Engineering in South Africa, and as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Engineers Australia and the Royal Society of New South Wales.

Among the great influences in his life Adi counts Professor Geoff Garrett, best known for his leadership of the CSIRO, and South African SKA Project Director Dr Rob Adam. On a personal level, he credits his mother and grandmother for instilling in him a passion to create a better, more equitable working world for women, and his wife of more than 40 years, Cathy, for her extraordinary courage and wisdom.

Vice-Chancellor, Dr Adi Patterson is widely recognised as an international leader in advancing the field of nuclear science and technology, and his work at the nexus of public science investment and practical innovation has made a positive impact on health, industry and the environment. It is a great honour to present Dr Adi Paterson for a Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

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