Ipswich academic honoured

Professor Kaye Basford has been honoured as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her services to tertiary education and science.

The Bundamba resident and Head of UQ’s School for Biomedical Sciences said she was excited to be recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work, which has largely focused on using statistics in agriculture.

“I’ve always wanted my maths to be useful,” Professor Basford said.

“A lot of my work has used statistics in the field of agriculture, so that could be anything from helping people choose crops that are drought-resistant to looking at plant breeding trials.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people are scared of data, but I think using data by having it summarised and analysed appropriately is a very powerful tool across so many disciplines.”

Professor Basford said she was fortunate to have been involved in several areas of teaching and research at the University of Queensland, including previous roles as Head of the School of Land, Crop and Food Sciences and President of the UQ Academic board.

The Vice Chair of the International Rice Research Institute also travelled extensively across Asia and Africa, using her research to help developing countries grow their agricultural sector.

“The two main things that benefit people are food and education, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work in both those areas, particularly in developing countries to make a difference to agricultural development,” Professor Basford said.

Another career highlight was working closely with renowned American statisticians Walter Federer and John Tukey.

“I very much enjoyed working with both of them,” Professor Basford said.

“I started working with John Tukey when he was in his seventies and wrote a book with him. He was the person who made up the words ‘software’, ‘hardware’ and ‘bit’, now commonly used in computer technology.”

Looking back on her career, Professor Basford is surprised by where she’s ended up.

“I went to university to be a high school maths and science teacher, but I really enjoyed statistics, so I ended up working as a consultant and did my PHD while working before joining academia,” she said.

“I’m an unusual academic to still be living in the town I was born in, but I’m proud to call Ipswich home.”

The sense of community is something which continues to drive Professor Basford, who was recently named Acting Chair of Ipswich Hospital Foundation.

“Ipswich is a great city, it’s really a very community minded place,” Professor Basford said.

“I think we’re also getting a broader spread of people coming in, and I think that’s going to be a good thing for Ipswich.”

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