Our humble finalist

HE IS a world-leading food microbiologist but Professor Thomas McMeekin, AO, has his money on AFL footballer Adam Goodes to take out the Australian of the Year award.

The University of Tasmania volunteer professor who helped to establish the world renowned Food Safety Centre at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, is in Canberra with the other Tasmanian finalists in the Australia Day awards which will be announced today.

The Taroona-based Professor McMeekin, 69, took up a position with UTAS from the Queen's University at Belfast in the 1970s for three years and more than 40 years later he is still here, and is in the running for one of the country's biggest honours.

This week he told  The Examiner  he was initially humbled by the nomination and then again when he was named as the Tasmanian finalist by Premier Lara Giddings in October.

``I had no idea at all about this until I got an invitation to go to an event by Premier Giddings - that was a total surprise and I still haven't got any idea who nominated me,'' he said.

``I think Adam Goodes will claim it - he seems to be a very positive guy and he's does a lot of things for Aboriginal and other kids away from football and he's so well recognised.''

Professor McMeekin is recognised internationally for his pioneering work in improving food safety through predictive microbiology that uses predictive modelling to determine microbial behaviour.

He was also instrumental in developing the refrigeration index for the Australian meat and livestock export industry to ensure the product remains fresh and which is now used by many food producers in countries like the US and South Korea.

Although technically retired, Professor McMeekin hasn't slowed down too much as he still goes on to campus to advise younger scientists in the field and is in the process of preparing a paper with two colleagues, one aged 79 and the other who will turn 90 in March.

He said continuing to work also keeps him off the golf course.

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