Professor Susanne von Caemmerer now. Photo by Natalia Bateman Vargas.

Professor Susanne von Caemmerer now. Photo by Natalia Bateman Vargas.

Professor Susanne von Caemmerer, BA '76, PhD '81

She has devoted her career to plant science and won worldwide recognition for her research. Natalia Bateman-Vargas reports.

Susanne von Caemmerer arrived in Canberra from Europe at the age of 19 to study Honours in pure mathematics. While she was not intending to stay, she was trapped in the far-away land by a fascination for plant physiology.

Now she is recognised as a worldwide expert for using mathematics to represent the process by which plants convert sunlight, gases and water into sugars and oxygen – photosynthesis.

As a child she liked studying mathematics so later, as an undergraduate at ANU, she focused on pure maths and philosophy.

“My uncle, Professor Bernhard Neumann, who lived in Australia, was also a mathematician, and he was very supportive at the beginning of my career – and from there I was not going back to Europe,” she says.

“My aunt, Hanna Neumann, for whom a building at ANU is named, was a Professor in mathematics.”

Soon after finishing her undergraduate degree, von Caemmerer looked around for options to stay in Australia and took a job as a technical officer in plant science at the ANU Research School of Biology.