Former La Trobe chancellor was also a pioneer in biotechnology





10-4-1922 29-9-2012

LA TROBE University has lost one of its most outstanding members, former chancellor Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis, AC.

The eminent Australian microbiologist, who served as chancellor from 1992 to 2006, has died at the age of 90.

Expressing his sympathy to Millis' family on behalf of the university community,

vice-chancellor Professor John Dewar said her list of accomplishments was immense.

Millis who was one of five Australian scientists recognised on the "Australian Legends" series of stamps in 2002 had to her credit a string of more conventional scientific and civic accolades, including election to the Australian Academy of Science, an MBE and a Companion of the Order of Australia.

On her retirement, the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology reported a newly discovered bacterium named Millisa brevis in recognition of Professor Millis' contribution to water microbiology.

Millis joined the staff of the microbiology department of the University of Melbourne as a lecturer in 1956. A pioneer in the field, her expertise became evident as she tackled research problems in industry. These included the disintegration of the Hume Highway by microbial attack and the fungal infestation of paper pulp.

Her research in microbial physiology, fermentation technology and waste management established her international reputation as one of Australia's leading scientists.

In the early 1980s she was appointed chairwoman of the Australian government committee monitoring possible hazards associated with recombinant DNA technology, and gained appointment to a University of Melbourne personal chair in the microbiology department.

During her time as chancellor of La Trobe, Millis was a familiar figure on its campuses throughout Victoria, presenting degrees and diplomas to an estimated 30,000 graduates.

She was a supporter of the expansion of research into new areas and welcomed the large growth in international student enrolments. She took particular pleasure in the provision and expansion of quality education to regional Victoria that gave communities access to new education opportunities.

Professor Dewar said La Trobe had recognised Nancy Millis' contribution in many ways, including the annual Millis science lecture series, naming a research building at the Albury-Wodonga campus after her, and creating a much-used meeting space, the Nancy Millis Room, in the Student Union Building on the Melbourne campus.

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