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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Deceased Alumna Professor Katharina Gaus in her office (Credit@University of New South Wales, Sydney)

It is with great sadness that we report that Biotechnology alumna Professor Katharina (Kat) Gaus sadly passed away on 3 March 2021, aged 48, after a short but aggressive illness with cancer.  

She was as a very accomplished immunologist and molecular microscopist. She did her PhD with our former HoD Professor Lisa Hall. She also met the post doc and alumnus Justin Gooding while in Cambridge, who was working in the same research group, Cambridge Analytical Biotechnology. She later married Justin and their lives together were very much a partnership, both privately and often professionally.

Kat obtained her PhD in 1999 in the former Institute of Biotechnology, creating a ligand library for low density lipoprotein (an indicator of potential heart disease) integrated with a surface plasmon optical model to detect protein-protein interactions.

Following her studies at the University of Cambridge, Kat joined the Cell Biology Group at the Heart Research Institute in Sydney, Australia.  She moved to the Centre for Vascular Research at the University of New South Wales in 2002. On 2005 Kat founded the Cellular Membrane Biology Lab, part of the Centre for Vascular Research at the University of New South Wales. She became a senior research fellow and associate professor of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia in 2009.  

Kat was an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) and Head of the EMBL Australia Node in Single Molecule Science. She was also the Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging, and the NSW Node leader of EMBL Australia.

In 2005, Professor Gaus was awarded the ARC Early Researcher Award, a NSW Young Tall Poppy Award and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship. In 2013, she received the New South Wales Science and Engineering Award for Excellence in Biological Sciences. Among the many accolades received, she was awarded the prestigious Gottschalk Medal from the Australian Academy of Science in 2012, was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (FAHMS) in 2015 and received the NHMRC Achievement Award (Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship, 2014-2018) and the Khwarizmi International Award (2018).

Kat was also an active advocate of girls entering scientific fields, she was a passionate role model for women in STEM and was heavily involved in the UNSW outreach programmes.

At the virtual funeral her husband Justin spoke about her latest super resolution microscopy. The fantastic legacy she leaves behind is Single Molecule Science at UNSW and her vision of T cell molecules.

Professor Lisa Hall recalls Kat’s innovation and excellence in everything she touched in science; she commented that nobody would forget that mischievous quiet smile and humility in her achievements. Science has lost a champion; she will be so very much missed.

CEB would like to send our condolences to her family and friends for their loss on behalf of the whole department.

Image credit @University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney)


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