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Best known for her ‘green steel’ invention, Professor Veena Sahajwalla has been named as the Australian of the Year, New South Wales in 2022. The announcement was made last night (15 November 2021) at a ceremony at Sydney’s Luna Park, which was attended by Governor of New South Wales Margaret Beazley AC QC and Premier of New South Wales Dominique Perrottet.

The 56-year-old professor is a materials scientist, engineer and inventor who has pioneered waste research and turned waste into a new generation of green materials and products. The founding director of the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT@UNSW) is best known for the invention of polymer injection technology, or ‘green steel’. In 2018, she also launched the first of many MICROfactories that are designed to create innovative approaches and technologies to reform various complex waste streams into value-added materials and products.

Sahajwalla has been instrumental in raising the profile of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) in Australia and said: “For me, my passion for science and technology continues to grow as we strive to help solve some of our global and local challenges. It is also vitally important to continue the progress made on encouraging greater participation in STEM.

“It is crucial for science, industry and the community to collaboratively work together on societal solutions, such as the microrecycling science and new technologies I and my team at the UNSW SMaRT Centre are pioneering, to help solve some of our urgent waste and resources challenges.

“Science and engineering play such a vital role in helping to solve challenges we face to improve our environmental, social and economic wellbeing.”

Sahajwalla will now progress to the National Awards, with the winner being announced on 25 January 2022.

Image credit: Anna Kucera

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