Plant scientist Professor Ute Roessner to join ANU

11 Feb 2022

It will be interesting for me to see how another institution runs, and to build the best possible systems for the university, supporting the ANU’s research excellence.

Professor Ute Roessner AM will join the new Research Initiatives and Infrastructure (RII) team in the R&I portfolio as Academic Director on March 7.  

Professor Roessner, one of Australia's foremost plant scientists and a world leader in the field of metabolomics, comes to the ANU from the University of Melbourne, where she has been Head of the School of BioSciences since 2018. 

Professor Roessner has a PhD in Plant Biochemistry from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany. Prior to that, she gained a Diploma in Biochemistry at the University of Potsdam, and the John Innes Institute in Norwich, UK.  

Originally from East Germany, Prof Roessner said that despite having always wanted a career in research, the chaos that followed the Berlin Wall coming down meant she didn't initially make it to university. 

She studied nursing in a Catholic hospital but a few weeks in, she knew medicine wasn't for her. Nevertheless, she completed the three-year course and went on to study biochemistry at the newly founded University of Potsdam. 

In 1994, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology moved to Potsdam, and Professor Roessner was so keen to get into the lab that she went along, knocked on the door and asked if they needed any helpers. She worked there alongside her studies.  

While studying her PhD in Plant Biochemistry at the Institute, Professor Roessner developed novel GC-MS methods to analyse metabolitesin plants. The field of metabolomics - the large-scale study of small molecules, or metabolites, within cells, biofluids, tissues or organisms ­­­- was born and is now an important tool in biological sciences, systems biology and biomarker discovery.  

In 2003, Professor Roessner emigrated to Australia with her husband at the time, and one-year-old son, and established a GC-MS and LC-MS based metabolomics platform as part of the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the Centre's node at the University of Melbourne.  

In 2007, she helped set up Metabolomics Australia (MA), an internationally renowned, national metabolomics service provider to academia and industry. 

Professor Roessner led the MA node at the University of Melbourne until 2019 but stepped away then to focus on her role as Head of School. 

From 2014 to 2018, Prof Roessner held an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to establish her own research program.  

In 2020 she was named a Trailblazer on the Victorian Honour Roll of Women, and in 2021 was elected as a member of the Order of Australia in the general division for her contributions to tertiary education, in particular the biosciences. 

After 18 years in Melbourne, Prof Roessner said she and her husband Michael Caltabiano are looking forward to living in a smaller city, more like where she grew up in Germany. 

"I'm keen to learn about Canberra, explore the surrounding areas and wineries," she said.   

"I'm really excited to work with all the diverse systems at the ANU and get across the whole portfolio, to make connections and work with VC Brian Schmidt and DVCRI Keith Nugent.  

"It will be interesting for me to see how another institution runs, and to build the best possible systems for the university, supporting the ANU's research excellence."  

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