Engineering alumnus earns accolades for food system and sustainability work

17 Sep 2019

UQ alumnus Michelle Grant (Bachelor of Engineering, Honours, 2002) has received the 2019 Advance Award for Food and Agriculture to honour her work in global food systems and sustainability.

The award recognises Grant’s contribution to the food and sustainability industries through her initiatives in research, education and outreach.

Former student Natalie Jeremijenko was also honoured with the award for Commercial Creatives.

UQ alumnus Michelle Grant

In 2011, Grant established the World Food System Centre (WFSC) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The platform brought together industry partners and research groups to design multidisciplinary solutions to problems in global food systems and security. These include issues such as hunger, obesity, and sustainable food production in the wake of burgeoning environmental concerns.

“When we collaborate with other people to try and make a positive change in the world, no matter how small it is, it can be really rewarding,” Grant said.

As Founding Director of the Centre, Grant grew WFSC from little more than a concept into a world-leading facility with over 40 research groups and a range of key industry stakeholders collaborating at the intersections of science, education and industry.

Her expertise has seen her appointed to the Swiss National Committee of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (CNS-FAO) to advise the Swiss government on matters of Swiss food security, agriculture and food systems.

Grant stepped down as Executive Director at WFSC in 2017, but remains on as Education Director part-time to continue her longstanding passion for educating the next generation of policy- and decision-makers.

Grant credits the drive of young leaders in her education programs as sources of motivation in the face of infinitely complex global issues.

“When you spend a lot of your time looking at overwhelming and complex challenges, I think it gives you hope to see young people with energy that want to make a difference in the world,” Grant said.

Grant is also engaged with a range of outreach programs to engage broader public interest in food systems and sustainability, including through the Kickstart Accelerator and Founders Institute to provide guidance to agricultural start-ups and leadership coaching to women. She is currently working on a cookbook (to be published in October 2019) which encourages readers to seek change at the individual level and engage with food in a novel way.

Natalie Jeremijenko’s award for Commercial Creatives recognises her work as an artist and engineer. Jeremijenko adds the achievement to a long list of previous honours, including being named a Top 100 young innovator by the MIT Review and one of the Top 40 most influential designers by I.D. Magazine. She currently directs the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic at NYU. While at UQ, she founded Livid, a festival which became an icon of the Australian music scene and was held from 1989 until 2003. The inaugural event was held on UQ’s St Lucia Campus, a venue it quickly outgrew, with the festival attracting sell-out crowds of 30,000 at its height.