Air quality scientist recognised with for ‘breathing safely’ research

Public health

By Siobhan Calafiore

23 Mar 2023

International air quality expert Professor Lidia Morawska has been recognised with one of the top awards from the Australian Academy of Science for her pioneering work and advocacy efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Queensland-based scientist has received the Matthews Flinders Medal and Lecture, which recognises scientific research of the highest standing in the physical sciences, for her research into air quality and her global influence on public health policies.

“Professor Lidia Morawska’s 30 years of innovative work brings us closer to breathing safely,” the Academy said on its website [link here].

“The fundamental science that she pioneered and advanced in the multifaceted field of air pollution is critical for humanity to understand pollution and its impacts, and to build bridges translating science into public health applications.”

Professor Morawska, director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, said she was passionate about her field of research because of its importance to human life.

“There’s nothing more critical for us as humans as air,” she told the Academy.

“[And] the importance of indoor air quality is because we spend more than 90% of time indoors, inhaling indoor air.”

Amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she led a group of more than 200 international scientists to argue the case that the virus was being spread through the air [link here].

Eventually, she convinced the WHO to change its official advice on airborne transmission.

Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in 2021 after recognising her advocacy had helped introduce ventilation practices in schools and workplaces around the world, enabling them to create safer environments and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Her research into air pollution also led to recommendations on ultrafine particles from combustion processes being included in the WHO’s Global Air Quality Guidelines in 2021.

The Academy said this provided authorities around the globe with the basis to develop regulations to control the major pollutant and improve human health and save lives.

She is also leading the Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre for Advanced Building Systems Against Airborne Infection Transmission, which aims to design and develop new building systems that can improve indoor air quality while maintaining comfort.

Already a member?

Login to keep reading.

Email me a login link