November 1, 2023
World-renowned chemistry professor recognised for learning, teaching and research
Professor Will Price reflects on groundbreaking discoveries and supportive culture at UOW
Throughout more than three decades at the University of Wollongong (UOW), Professor Will Price has made an immense contribution to virtually all facets of the institution.
A globally esteemed scientist and leader in the fields of physical, analytical, food and materials chemistry, Professor Price worked tirelessly across teaching, research, academic governance, and leadership, leaving an indelible mark that will remain for years to come.
This week, that contribution and legacy was recognised with Professor Price was honoured with an Emeritus Professorship during the graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences.
In front of his family, friends, and former colleagues and students, he was acknowledged for his outstanding achievements and exceptional service to the University that has been a “significant and central part” of his life.
Professor Faisal Hai, Head of the School of Civil, Mining, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at UOW, nominated Professor Price for the honour and acknowledge his immense contribution to the institution.
“Throughout his career, Professor Price has demonstrated exceptional levels of integrity, professionalism, and motivation to propel UOW to new heights in teaching, research, industry engagement, or academic governance. The award of Emeritus Professor at UOW deservedly recognizes the great impact Professor Price has made to the organisation during his illustrious career at UOW.”
Professor Price joined UOW in 1989 as a “young, raw lecturer” in the Department of Chemistry. He had obtained his PhD in Physical Chemistry at the Imperial College in London a few years earlier, before relocating to Australia as a Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow in the Research School of Physical Sciences at ANU.
At UOW, he found his home. It was an encouraging environment, and Professor Price’s strong research track record and penchant for nurturing young scientists enabled him to rise through the ranks. Over the next 30 years, he held several key roles, including Head of School, Dean of Faculty, and Executive Director, while also contributing to teaching General Chemistry, Food Chemistry, Physical Chemistry and Materials across both undergraduate and postgraduate courses and attracting millions of dollars in research funding.
“I gained my teaching and learning craft in Chemistry within an incredibly collegial and supportive school,” Professor Price said.
“I’ve worked with some very talented research teams and taken on some great leadership roles across the School, Faculty and Research Institute.”
An internationally renowned researcher, Professor Price has made enormous inroads in chemistry. He is particularly passionate about and committed to fundamental discoveries and their translational impact and has played a key role in establishing the field of smart dynamic membranes. His work has also led to many innovations in membrane systems for application in the wastewater treatment and food sectors. Working in and alongside industry, Professor Price has forged sustained collaborations with leading industry partners including in the mining, food manufacturing and water sectors.
With more than 250 papers published, many of which are cross collaborations with researchers from other fields and faculties, his research has been described as active, strong and vibrant.
“Innovative ideas are found at the intersection of different approaches to a problem and that is why we connect different disciplines and encourage innovation through collaboration and interaction,” he said.
During his time at UOW, however, Professor Price’s research profile did not take away from his commitment to his students and to his executive roles.
Profoundly committed to nurturing the success of others, he has been instrumental in the development of many outstanding researchers, has supervised more than 30 Higher Degree Research students to completion, has championed student-centred learning and led the development and delivery of new subjects and courses.
Professor Price has contributed significantly to the University’s research strategy, Academic Senate, University Research Council and countless other committees and initiatives. He strongly embraced and advocated for the UOW Reconciliation Action Plan and initiatives under the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Athena Swan program.
Academic governance has been central to Professor Price’s time at UOW, in his capacity as Dean and Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Innovative Materials (AIIM), a purpose-built facility that helps transform multi-functional materials research into commercial reality.
Professor Price was instrumental in helping to bring AIIM to life and to drive its success. It was the perfect amalgamation of his extensive experience in materials research, his commitment to the real-world impact of innovation, and his ability to provide a steady hand to a large enterprise.
AIIM celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018, and at the time, Professor Price said it had played a huge role in establishing UOW as a world leader in multi-functional materials research.
“AIIM has grown tremendously, and had great success in the volume, quality and impact of its research, thereby making a major contribution to UOW’s international reputation and ranking,” he said.
Following his retirement in 2022, Professor Price was named an Honorary Research Fellow at AIIM, a role that enables him to continue his research and position as a mentor to the next generation of scientists that call the institute home.
Because that is how Professor Price has always viewed UOW, as a sort of home. Four of his children have also studied at UOW and gone on to achieve successful careers. He was delighted to receive an Emeritus Professorship and said he hoped to maintain his connections to UOW in the future.
“I have many happy memories of my time at UOW and am proud of the contributions I’ve made to its development as a tertiary institution,” he said. “I have a very strong sense of service to others and have enjoyed mentoring and developing both staff and students to achieve their goals.
“It has been a significant and central part of my life. I have made lifelong friends and colleagues.
“I was very pleased that my contributions to the University were recognised and happy that I would be able to continue to have a close association with UOW and contribute to it.”