Superbug fighter becomes a Tall Poppy

25 Sep 2018
Dr Hosam Zowawi and 2018 Qld Young Tall Poppy selection committee chair Professor Jenny Martin

A steadfast commitment to community outreach has seen UQCCR superbug expert Dr Hosam Zowawi named among Queensland’s best young scientists as a Young Tall Poppy Science Award winner.

The Young Tall Poppy Science Awards celebrate intellectual and scientific excellence in Australia, and aim to encourage younger Australians to follow in the footsteps of outstanding achievers. 

Antimicrobial Resistance Rapid Diagnostic Lab Group Leader Dr Zowawi’s endeavours to bring science to the community have ranged from being active on social media and visiting schools, to organising polo events featuring his team ‘the superbug slayers’.

“I’ve always used public outreach as a kind of Trojan horse to educate the public about using antibiotics appropriately, hand hygiene and combating infectious diseases,” he said.

“By demonstrating how people can combat these things from the comfort of their own home, hopefully it will encourage some of them to take the next step and pursue their scientific curiosity.”

Dr Zowawi said it was incredibly rewarding to be recognised on a national level. 

“This award is fantastic validation of the scientific outreach I’ve been doing as we’ll as my achievements in the Zowawi Lab.

“The more I give science, the more it gives back and that’s what keeps me going.

“I want to promote combating superbugs to the next generation and to inspire them to pursue science as a career because it’s very rewarding.

“There are many challenges associated with a career in science, but they only serve to sharpen your scientific abilities.”

Dr Zowawi is keenly aware of how the simplest act can spark a life-long interest.

“I was seven or eight years old when my dad, who’s a beekeeper, received a microscope as a present from relatives to look at the cells in his honey,” Dr Zowawi said.

“Dad never used it so he gave it to my brother and I, and it gave me my first insight into the ‘unseen’ microscopic world.”

Dr Zowawi said he would like to encourage his scientific colleagues to speak out about their work.

“There is a huge hunger and interest among the public about the science we are doing, and we sometimes underestimate the vast amount of knowledge we conceive and keep,” he said.

“It’s important to get out there and devote time to the public to share this knowledge.

“It’s our duty as scientists to keep the public interested in science and in turn inspire the next generation of scientists.”

Dr Zowawi was named as one of 14 Queensland Young Tall Poppies on Thursday 20 September, including six researchers from UQ.

Media: Dr Hosam Zowawi,, +61 7 3346 6041; Faculty of Medicine media,, +61 7 3365 5118.