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Curtin Professor named 2024 Australian Academy of Science Fellow

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The Australian Academy of Science (AAS) has recognised Curtin University Emeritus Professor Zheng-Xiang Li’s stellar academic career by announcing him as a 2024 Fellow.

A John Curtin Distinguished Emeritus Professor at Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Professor Li has used an array of geoscience and supercomputing tools to better understand how the Earth works by uncovering mysteries of its past.

This includes playing a prominent role in discovering two ancient global supercontinents, Rodinia and Nuna, which expanded our knowledge of global palaeogeography back two billion years.

Professor Li also led breakthrough research which dramatically improved our understanding of what drives plate tectonics.

Curtin Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research Professor Melinda Fitzgerald said Professor Li was thoroughly deserving of such a prestigious acknowledgment.

“Professor Li has been contributing immensely to the world of science for more than 40 years,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

“He has significantly broadened our understanding of the Earth’s complex history, using his expertise in global tectonics, paleogeography, paleomagnetism, and geodynamics to better understand how our current world came to be.

“The Curtin community extends a heartfelt congratulations to Professor Li for this wonderful accolade.”

Professor Li said being named an AAS Fellow was a great honour.

“This is an accomplishment I did not even dare to dream of. It demonstrates how wonderful and lucky a country Australia is, where everything is possible no matter what background one comes from,” Professor Li said.

“I thank the many great minds, old and young, from around the world who inspired me to do better and helped me along my academic journey.

“I am particularly grateful to my past and present team members within the Earth Dynamics Research Group for sharing my pursuit to understand how Earth evolved and how its engine works — and thank you to my family for always standing with me, no matter what.”

Professor Li joined Curtin in 2007 and is co-director of the Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Tectonics and Earth Resources.

He established the Earth Dynamics Research Group in 2015 with the support of a prestigious Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship.

Prior to joining Curtin, he established the WA Palaeomagnetic and Rock-magnetic Facility at the University of Western Australia (now hosted at Curtin), before serving as Deputy Director of the Tectonics Special Research Centre.

AAS President Professor Chennupati Jagadish said the Academy elected Fellows based on their outstanding contributions to science across the spectrum of research disciplines.

“Nominated by their peers, Fellows of the Academy are recognised as leaders in their fields, having all made exceptional contributions to science throughout their careers,” Professor Jagadish said.

Professor Li’s citation praised his world-renowned research, which “transcends disciplinary boundaries and has led to paradigm shifts in our understanding of how the Earth works”.

The citation highlighted the importance of his work, which “catalyses the formation of deep Earth resources as well as climate and environmental changes”.

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