EMERITUS Professor Alan Mackay-Sim may be an international leader in stem cell research but he is hardly a household name on the Sunshine Coast.
That may change next year if the biomolecular scientist is named the 2017 Australian of the Year.
But there's a fair way to go before that can happen.
First, the Griffith University academic who calls the Sunshine Coast home has to take out the Queensland stage of the competition against three other finalists, including humanitarian Dr Nora Amath, occupational therapist Michael Lyddiard and human rights lawyer Aimee McVeigh.
Prof Mackay-Sim is one of two Sunshine Coast finalists in the competition, with Noosaville philanthropist Laurie Cowled making the final field in the Senior category.
Prof Mackay-Sim is described as an "inspirational scientist" who has given hope to thousands of Australians with spinal cord injuries.
A global authority on the human sense of smell and the biology of nasal cells, he led the world's first clinical trial using these cells in spinal cord injury.
In 2014, his research played a central role in the world's first successful restoration of mobility in a quadriplegic man.
As the director of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research for a decade, his research has championed the use of stem cells to understand the biological bases of brain disorders and diseases such as schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease and Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia.
His pioneering work has led to collaborations with teams of health professionals who are translating his research into clinical practice.
Laurie Cowled was raised on a sheep farm during the Great Depression and didn't have the opportunity to fulfil her own childhood career dreams but now her generosity is helping others to achieve theirs - whether that's in medical research, engineering, education or the arts.
A passionate philanthropist, she established the Cowled Foundation in 2007 to foster the education of gifted, underprivileged and disadvantaged girls from regional and rural communities throughout Australia.
She has spread her generosity across a wide array of projects and scholarships, helping budding stage designers find their feet, providing micro-finance for small businesses in West Timor and offering annual scholarships to aspiring ballet dancers.
More than 50 young women have studied at the Queensland University of Technology alone, thanks to her generosity.
Queensland's Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero Award recipients will be announced on Wednesday, November 23 at Customs House in Brisbane.
The Queensland winners will join finalists from other states and territories in the national awards next January.
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