Professor Morawska’s interest in science began at an early age. She was keen to understand the wonders of the world around her, from planetary systems to the intricacies of pollination and interactions between insects, plants, and the environment, and enjoyed mathematical puzzles. At primary school, and with the support of her teachers and parents (who encouraged her to believe she could achieve anything), she determined to become a nuclear physicist, a feat accomplished through her studies, culminating in achieving her physics doctorate in 1982. Her career interests gradually evolved to atmospheric, building, and human exposure science. What has remained constant throughout is her desire to lead research with purpose.
She describes her Eureka moments as ‘discovering scientific problems’. For example, discovering high concentrations of ultrafine airborne particles in central Toronto as a post-doctoral researcher prompted her to explore their source and impact on health and the environment. This knowledge can be harnessed to reduce pollution, exposure and risks. For example, she convened 20 scientists from four countries to explore the impact of ultrafine particles from traffic emissions on children’s health, proving that they were associated with systemic respiratory inflammation. In 2015, this prompted the World Health Organization and certain countries to review national norms to protect children and reduce their exposure to ultrafine particles.
In recognition of her pioneering work, Professor Morawska was listed in 2021 by TIME 100 among the hundred most influential people in the world. She is also a member of the Australian Science Academy, a Vice-Chancellor Fellow of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research University of Surrey (United Kingdom), and an adjunct professor at the Environmental and Climate Institute of the University of Jinan, Guangzhou,China.