John Ralston

Emeritus Laureate Professor - The University of South Australia

“Interfacial Science – A Critical Enabler in Hydrometallurgy and Mineral Processing”


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John is a Physical and Colloid Chemist with complementary training in metallurgy, whose research interests embrace various aspects of interfacial science and engineering. In 1984 John was appointed Professor of Chemical Technology at the then South Australian Institute of Technology, SAIT, the precursor to the University of South Australia. He revitalized the school, attracting money and students from many sources and then, in 1994, established the Ian Wark Research Institute (“The Wark”, and was its Director, until his retirement in 2012. The Wark developed and expanded, in size, people and reputation, to become a world-famous institute. It employed around 180 academic staff and research students, over 3 campuses. In 1999, John led the successful bid for a nine-year, Australian Research Council Special Research Centre for Particle and Material Interfaces. This underpinned the basic science carried out in the Wark in support of the more applied areas, in mineral processing as well as bio- and medical materials. In 2006, John was the principal researcher who led the initiative to establish the Australian Mineral Science Research Institute (AMSRI). AMSRI was a virtual institute in particle science and engineering, with its headquarters at the Wark and involved collaborative research at the Universities of Queensland, Melbourne and Newcastle. Major international companies were involved, through AMIRA International, along with overseas collaborators. The Wark is now incorporated within the University’s Future Industries Institute. His research efforts with his colleagues have returned over $1BAUD to national and international industry with, in the case of minerals research. John has actively supervised 85 PhD research students who have gone on to establish successful careers in universities, industry and other research institutions all around the world. John has received numerous awards and honours over the years, including the Chemeca Medal in 2006, the ATSE Clunies Ross Lifetime Contribution Award in 2009 and in 2008 was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. In 2007 John was awarded South Australian of the Year, the first scientist to be so honoured, as well as South Australian Scientist of the Year. Apart from mentoring research teams at UniSA, a number of his present activities, as a “roving ambassador” for UniSA, include strong interactions with universities, companies & research institutes internationally, especially in Canada, China, Europe, Africa & Japan. The University of South Australia has established the Ralston Medal for Excellence  in Physical Chemistry as well as the John Ralston Chair in Minerals and Resource Engineering  in recognition of John’s scientific legacy.

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