Professor Edwina Cornish AO

Professor Edwina Cornish AO FTSE obtained her PhD for research undertaken in the Biochemistry and Microbiology departments of the University of Melbourne. After working as a post-doctoral fellow with Professor Adrienne Clarke in the Botany School of the University of Melbourne, she joined the newly established plant biotechnology company Calgene Pacific (later named Florigene).

She spent 11 years with the company in various leadership roles including Research Director and Managing Director. Over this period the company established global product development and sales operations and, in partnership with the Japanese company Suntory, commercialised the world’s first genetically engineered flowers.

In 2000 Professor Cornish moved to the University of Adelaide as Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, where she oversaw the expansion of the University’s research activities. She was instrumental in improving translation of the University’s research and had a lead role in establishing Australian Grain Technologies (AGT), which is now Australia’s largest plant breeding company and the market leader in wheat genetics.

In 2004 Professor Cornish joined Monash as Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, serving under Vice Chancellors Richard Larkins, Edward Byrne and Margaret Gardner. In 2012 she was appointed Monash’s inaugural Provost and Senior Vice-President, a position she held until her retirement in 2016.

During this period, she oversaw a dramatic improvement in Monash University’s research performance as a result of strategic investment in people and research infrastructure and the establishment of national and international research collaborations. This improvement was reflected in an almost unprecedented rise in Monash’s position in the Academic Ranking of World Universities from outside the world’s top 200 universities to securely within the top 100, a legacy upon which Monash continues to build. As Provost, Professor Cornish also instituted a comprehensive review of the University’s degree offerings and supported contemporary innovation in teaching and learning.

Professor Cornish has extensive experience working at the interface between government, research, industry and the higher education sector, and has held numerous board positions. She has contributed to science and research policy as a member of the Prime Minister’s Science & Engineering Council, the Victorian Government Science & Engineering Taskforce, the South Australian Premier’s Science & Research Council and the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap Expert Working Group. She has held governance roles with numerous national and international organisations including the Australian Research Council, the Australian Biotechnology Association, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Forestry Tasmania and Museums Victoria. She is currently a member of the Board of CSIRO, the Council of La Trobe University and is a Director of the Biosciences Research Centre.

Professor Cornish’s contributions have been recognised through numerous awards and honours. She is an Officer of the Order of Australia and a Fellow of the Academy of Technology and Engineering. She was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2013 and in 2018 was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science (honoris causa) by the University of Melbourne.