News

Mark Rowe, 1943-2011


1 March 2011

The Faculty of Pharmacy would like to acknowledge one of our pharmacy alumni, Emeritus Professor Mark Rowe, who passed away earlier this year. Mark will be sadly missed by his peers and colleagues and his passing is a great loss to Australia's research community.

Mark completed a BPharm (Hons 1, Pharmacology) and MSc at the University of Sydney, which was conferred in 1965. Following some overseas post-doctoral work, he joined the School of Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine at UNSW.

Mark started his PhD in 1965, working on somatosensory neural mechanisms, under the supervision of Professor Ian Darian Smith and the degree was conferred in 1969. During his PhD studies he met his wife Janet Lockhart, who he married in 1966.

Mark was awarded an International USPH Post-doctoral fellowship to work with Sir John Eccles, the Australian Nobel Prize Winner, in Neurobiology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, USA (1970-71).

This was followed by a prestigious Humbolt Fellowship in the Physiologisches Institut at the Universit├Ąt Kiel (GFR; 1971-2), to work on neurophysiological studies on the cerebellum with the eminent German neuroscientist, Professor Robert F. Schmidt.

In 1972 he returned to a Lectureship in what had become the School of Physiology and Pharmacology at UNSW. Mark rose rapidly through the academic ranks at UNSW and developed an outstanding international reputation as a neurophysiologist. In 1988, he was appointed to a Personal Chair in Physiology (Professor of Physiology) in the School of Physiology and Pharmacology.

Mark earned an international reputation for his work on the neurophysiology of the somatosensory system, which led to new concepts on how sensory information is processed in the brain, from sensory receptors in skin, muscle and joints to the cerebral cortex. This resulted in the rejection of previous ideas of serial processing of somatosensory information, and showed that this information is instead processed by parallel neural networks.

His reputation also led to him being appointed as Chair of the Commission on Somatosensory Physiology and Pain of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS), the peak international body in the field.

Not only was Mark recognised as a distinguished researcher, but also as an outstanding lecturer. He supervised 8 PhD students, 10 BSc (Hons) students, with 7 of those obtaining first class Honours, and 7 BSc (Med) students.

Mark officially retired in 2003 and was appointed as an (honorary) Conjoint Professor and as an Emeritus Scientia Professor at the UNSW. In that same year Mark was awarded the prestigious Australasian Science Prize for his work in identifying the 'brain regions involved in processing tactile information' and the 'ways in which that information is coded in the impulse patterns of brain cells'.

He was the first medical scientist to receive this award. More recently, Mark was also made an Honorary Member of the Australian Physiological Society (AuPS) in recognition of his contribution to science and the Society.

The Faculty of Pharmacy extends its sincere sympathies to Mark's family, his colleagues and friends at this time.