Outstanding Jordanian Australian scientist, Professor Hala Zreiqat AM is our alumna of the month for the October issue.
Professor Zreiqat earned a BSc degree in biology from the University of Jordan (UJ) in 1982, after which she worked as Scientific Officer at the King Hussein Medical City of the Royal Medical Services of the Jordanian Armed Forces.
In 1991, Zreiqat moved to Australia looking for a wider research opportunity. She joined the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, where she worked as a Research Scientist at the Bone Biomaterials Research Unit, School of Medical Sciences. In 1995, Hala commenced her PhD studies as the School of Medical Sciences, UNSW, which was conferred on her May 1998.
While at UNSW, Zreiqat conducted research and eventually headed the Bone Biomaterial Unit.
Upon joining the University of Sydney in 2006, Hala established the Tissue Engineering & Biomaterials Research Unit which continues to direct. It is currently a multidisciplinary team of scientists specializing in biomaterials, electrical/chemical engineering, cell biologists, and mathematical modeling. She has been awarded more than $16 M in competitive funding including from the NHMRC, ARC and the NSW Medical Devices Fund.
Professor Hala is now the Director of the Australian Research Training Centre for Innovative Bio-Engineering, and a Radcliff Harvard Fellow (2016-2017).
She is a Visiting Academic at the School of Biomedical Engineering, Drexel University, USA; Visiting Professor, American University of Beirut (March – June 2013, September 2014- January 2015) Lebanon; Adjunct Professor, American University of Beirut, (June 2013- September 2014), Lebanon; Honorary Professor, JiaoTong University, Shanghai, China (2013-2020).
Zreiqat is a highly accomplished scholars with over 120 original research papers in reviewed international journals, 7 book chapters and one book. Moreover, her novel biomaterials and advanced fabrication methods have led to the generation of 12 patent families, including three granted US patents, two granted European patents, and a range of different industry collaborations. Furthermore, her three patented bioceramics are now licensed to product development companies in Australia to commercialize the materials for a variety of orthopaedic applications, from a 3D-printed scaffold for intervertebral fusion, to a synthetic material for tendon/ligament reconstruction. Zreiqat also supervised tens of undergraduate & postgraduate students from Australia and beyond.
Professor Zreiqat is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and honors for her contribution to biomedical research and translation; including fellow of the Australian Academy for Health and Medical Sciences (2019), Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology (2019), Member of the Order of Australia (2019), The King Abdullah II Order of Distinction of the Second Class - the highest civilian honour in Jordan (2018), Fellow of International Orthopaedic Research (FIOR) of the ICORS International College of Fellow (2019), Fellow of the Royal Society NSW (2019), Radcliffe Harvard Fellowship (2016-17), named as one of Australia's 10 most influential women in engineering (Create Magazine 2019), Payne-Scott Professional Distinction (2020), a USyd Award honoring contributions to leadership, mentoring, teaching, and distinguished achievements in research, NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (2011-15, 2016-20), Australia Harvard Fellowship $A10K (2013), R Douglas Wright Biomedical Career Development Award (NHMRC; 2006-10), Australian Postgraduate Award (1995-98).
Zreiqat founded the Bioengineering Innovation Outreach Challenge, a mentoring program that pairs high school students with world-leading researchers to tackle some of today's biggest engineering challenges.
She is also actively engaged in promoting tissue engineering and biomaterial research in the Middle East and Asia (e.g., as a Sydney delegate to Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon, and India), and was instrumental in establishing the China-Australia Musculoskeletal Alliance (for research) in 2014.
Zreiqat is known for the value she places on developing our younger generation, fostering talent and capacity in the lab and in the broader community. She is a valued and popular mentor at several New South Wales high schools, and internationally (Jordan and the US), where she uses her personal time to share her expertise and give guidance by speaking with and inspiring the next generation of young leaders. Through her extensive supervision and mentoring activities she have championed opportunities to promote gender equity, both informally as a mentor of female researchers, and formally as a member of university committees and programs. Beyond the university, through outreach ranging from high school talks to being a panelist for the Franklin Women Discussion on “Applying an entrepreneurial mindset to your health and medical research career”, she has been an advocate for women who aspire to succeed in STEM.
Zreiqat receive an average of six invitations each year to speak at international conferences on her research. Since 2006 she has received 107 invitations including 11 plenary and 40 keynotes.