CNBP Director recognised by VC for Outstanding Achievements – here’s why

21 November 2019: By Kathy Nicholson

Recently, Dr Sanam Mustafa and I nominated our colleague Professor Mark Hutchinson for a VC Award for Outstanding Achievements.

Today we found out our nomination was successful.

I wanted to share with you a little of why we decided to nominate Mark, and shed light to those outside the CNBP the impact he’s had as director, and why the CNBP team stand so readily behind him.

The category under which we have nominated Mark is “a culture of impact and excellence”. Anyone who has met and worked with Mark, whether at the University of Adelaide or further afield, will understand.

Mark has an impeccable reputation as a leader, mentor, collaborator, translator of research, science communicator and role model, evident in his impressive academic achievements and also in the culture he has cultivated within his research team and the wider community.

CNBP Director receiving award from Vice Chancellor Professor Pether Rathjen AO

Mark stepped up as acting director of the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) in 2014. His personal discipline and sacrifice to embark on this steep learning curve were evident in his willingness to ask for advice and learn from the wider academic community. His leadership was rewarded when he was later appointed director, after an international recruitment drive.

It is not uncommon to meet researchers whose drive and passion come at the expense of their colleagues. This is not true of Mark, who shares his success with collaborators and colleagues. It is obvious to those of us lucky to work closely with Mark that this personal integrity comes from the heart – a demonstration of real gratitude and care for his research family. Students, researchers and others who work with Mark feel empowered to go beyond their comfort zones, and seek support during times of both success and failure.

Mark has created and championed a strategic plan for the CNBP, supported by four pillars: academic excellence, commercial impact, nurturing environment and quality communication. This plan has paid off. In 2018, Mark’s bid to win a new ARC Centre of Excellence developing sensors for animal welfare is expected to land a program on precision livestock. Mark’s relationship-building has also led to research funding from partners as diverse as the Department of Defence, AFL team Port Power; and pharmaceutical giant Novartis.

Mark communicates with influence and impact. In the last year he has been a regular speaker at academic conferences, government events and think-tanks in Australia and the US. He is also a regular on ABC Radio.

He has a commitment to excellence in learning and inquiry. Far from considering himself above criticism, Mark recently agreed to have his own manuscript publicly reviewed at a CNBP masterclass. As one attendee put it, when students have the confidence to constructively criticise their director, the effect is the creation of a nurturing environment.
He’s a real team player. Apart from his ability to facilitate meetings and encourage new connections, he helps colleagues to feel valued, safe and secure in their ongoing role within his research team.

Mark epitomises inclusivity towards all students, researchers, professional staff members and collaborators. He’s an inspiring leader who goes above and beyond to develop a culture of impact and excellence. If anyone richly deserves a VC Award, it’s Mark Hutchinson.