Alexander Maier became intrigued by parasites as an undergraduate student during a study year in the United States and, subsequently, graduated with a major in zoology/parasitology from the University of Tubingen in Germany in 1996. He completed a PhD on trypanosomes at the Centre for Molecular Biology in Heidelberg where he brought together aspects of cellular and molecular biology, a recurrent theme for much of his work. In 2000, he moved to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne to study invasion mechanisms of the malaria parasite and established and ran the Malaria Functional Genomics Facility there for 6 years. In 2008, he joined the Biochemistry Department at La Trobe University as an ARC Australia Fellow. In 2012, he moved to the Research School of Biology at the Australian National University (ANU) where he holds a tenured position.
Alex has an excellent research record. He has published 54 papers in high impact journals and is widely cited. His publications are comprehensive, pioneering studies that have led to pivotal conceptual and methodological advances, resulting in multiple patents. His research has focused on molecular mechanisms of malaria pathogenesis, considering different aspects such as membrane modifications, chaperone molecules, gametocyte proteins, and lipids.
His work has made significant impact as evidenced by the award of 16 grants worth $4.8 million, extensive local, national and global collaborations and international recognition as a reviewer, spokesperson and invited speaker. His analyses of the invasion mechanisms used by malaria parasites laid the groundwork for multiple vaccine field trials published in Nature Medicine, Science and PLOS Pathogens. Under his guidance, the first genetically attenuated livevaccine to enter clinical trials was generated.
Alex has an excellent grasp of educational theory and practice, valuing understanding over knowledge, facilitating active learning, and using de-constructionist approaches to complex problems to promote integrated relational thinking. He has published several papers on teaching and learning, contributed to a range of undergraduate courses and has mentored 22 postgraduate students; it is testament to his philosophy and dedication that students remark on his compassion, understanding and support.
Alex provides senior service to his university, his profession and his community. He sits on many university committees for resourcing, policy development, curriculum review and research training. He is a passionate advocate for the discipline of parasitology and a strong promotor of science in general, participating in many outreach initiatives through school projects, museum exhibitions, thematic talks, Science Meets Parliament, political lobbying and press articles.
Alex’s enthusiasm for parasitological research, teaching and mentorship has resulted in two outstanding initiatives. He altruistically, and in exemplary fashion, developed the ASP’s Concepts in Parasitology course, which was launched in 2014. He has served the Society as Convenor of this course ever since. The remarkable success and quality of this course, and the contribution it makes to the development of young parasitologists, is a source of great pride and satisfaction for the Society. Then, in 2017, Alex spearheaded the establishment of an International Research Training Group, “Crossing boundaries: molecular interactions in Malaria”. The program comprises nine groups at the ANU and eleven groups at the Humboldt University in Berlin in a unique, synergistic partnership that takes advantage of the expertise of the two Universities. Through the program, 75 PhD students will be trained over the next 9 years with the aid of initial funding of over $9 million. The objectives of this graduate school reflect Alex’s vision and passion for the discipline. It will provide the students with molecular insights into parasitic infection with the view to developing novel intervention strategies using state-of-the-art research in biology, computation and medicine and will train students to become independent, innovative and interdisciplinary researchers able to deal with complex problems on an international stage.
For his endeavours, Alex has received an ANU Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, been a finalist for Eureka Prizes for Scientific Research and the People’s Choice Award, won a UNESCO Khwarizmi International Award, and been awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship. As a dedicated visionary and accomplished parasitologist who has been an outstanding ambassador and servant for the discipline and the Australian Society for Parasitology, Alex Maier is an extremely worthy candidate for election as a Fellow of the Society.