Lumen - The University of Adelaide Magazine The University of Adelaide Australia
Lumen Summer 2014 Issue
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Pioneer of population genetics

Professor Oliver Mayo is one of those rare intellectual talents capable of applying his formidable analytical skills across a multitude of scientific problems.

A trained statistician and geneticist, he has worked in human, plant and animal genetics, achieving significant breakthroughs in all disciplines.

Professor Mayo has maintained links with the University of Adelaide throughout his career since graduating in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science First Class Honours degree.

He returned to undertake a PhD in 1967 and pursued various other studies over the years, including a Bachelor of Arts in 2008. He has taken his research to several leading universities, including Oxford, and also the CSIRO.

In recent years, he headed a feasibility study which proved the viability of the new School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at the University's Roseworthy campus and he has since helped with the accreditation process.

"It was an activity which was great fun and intellectually demanding, and absolutely worthwhile in an educational and scientific sense," says Professor Mayo.

"I was deeply enthusiastic about the vet school because it's an opportunity to build a wonderful campus for the future with a high status central activity, building on existing research strengths in animal science and the fact that it's an agricultural-related campus historically."

By coincidence, one of the first graduates from the new school is a young cousin, Esther Mayo, who is following a long family tradition at the University. Medical practitioner George Mayo was associated with the University in its early years and the Mayo Refectory is named after benefactor Helen Mayo.

George and Jean Mayo, Professor Mayo's uncle and aunt, were long-standing members of the Genetics Department.

Variously described as a 'polymath' and 'Renaissance man' by former colleagues, Professor Mayo's main career achievements relate to evolutionary population genetics.

Other credits include helping to solve a long-standing controversy in statistics leading to global advances in the precision of field trials for plant breeding.

After retiring as Head of CSIRO Animal Production in 2000, he has remained active as an Honorary Research Fellow at the CSIRO and Adjunct Professor of Biometry at the University of Adelaide. He is currently Treasurer of the Australian Academy of Science.

story by Ian Williams



Professor Oliver Mayo
Photo by Chris Tonkin


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