BA (Hons), MBBS (Melbourne), Grad.Dip Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Studies (Charles Darwin), PhD (Melbourne)


Professor Kowal’s expertise in anthropology, ethics, genomics, precision medicine, and the field of interdisciplinary collaboration, is highly sought after to foster collaboration, develop policy, connect communities and transform conversations about the future.

Her undergraduate degrees in Arts and Medicine initiated work as a doctor and public health researcher in Indigenous health in the Northern Territory. Her doctoral research on non-Indigenous people working in Indigenous health led to her book Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Indigenous Australia, and her short course, Race, Culture, Indigeneity and the Politics of Disadvantage. Over the past decade the course has trained more than 400 people working in Indigenous policy and program delivery.

Emma joined Deakin in 2014 and is Professor of Anthropology in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation. She was central to the creation of Australia’s National Centre for Indigenous Genomics (NCIG) at the Australian National University, the world’s first Indigenous-governed genome facility. In 2018, the Federal Health Minister appointed Emma to the Steering Committee to develop an operational plan for the 500 million dollar Genomics Health Futures Mission. In 2019 she was appointed to the Expert Advisory Committee of the 10-year Mission.  

She continues to advise globally on complex ethical questions including the potential for genomics to assist with the repatriation of Indigenous remains, the impact of Indigenous ancestry testing, and the inclusion of Indigenous people in precision medicine. In 2019 she led the development of the first Indigenous genomics training program in Australia, training 30 Indigenous scholars in a field where there is only one qualified Indigenous person in Australia. 

In 2017 Emma founded the Deakin Science and Society Network (SSN) attracting more than 50 of the University’s top researchers. In 2018 she developed the SSN’s flagship programs: Interdisciplinary Project Incubator and Interdisciplinary Establishment Scheme to provide early and mid-career researchers with seed funding, mentorship and support for 15 interdisciplinary projects that address environmental, health and data challenges. At Deakin she has also supervised seven interdisciplinary postdoctoral researchers and mentors many others.

Emma has authored over 100 publications including 65 peer-reviewed books, articles and book chapters, (two thirds appear in highest-tier journals), and has received 25 grants and consultancies worth over seven million dollars. She is on the editorial board of international journals American Ethnologist; Social Studies of Science; Science, Technology and Human Values, the website Somatosphere, and was Co-Chair of the International Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) 2018 Annual Conference. She is committed to public engagement: in 2018 an article she contributed to The Conversation was selected as one of the top 100 (less than 1% selected). She has received multiple awards including a 2015 Thomson Reuters Women in Research Citation Award, the 2014 Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia Paul Bourke Award for Early Career Research, a 2013 National Citation for Outstanding Student Learning, and the Australian Financial Review Higher Education Award for Emerging Leader in 2019. 

Winner of Australian Financial Review 2019 Emerging Leader Award.

1. Kowal, E. and Llamas, B. (2019) Race in a genome: Long read sequencing, ethnicity-specific reference genomes and the endless horizon of race. Journal of Anthropological Sciences 97:1-16

2. Kowal, E. (2015) Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Indigenous Australia. Berghahn, New York.

3. Radin, J. and Kowal, E. (2015) Indigenous blood and ethical regimes in the United States and Australia since the 1960s. American Ethnologist 42(4):749-765.

4. Kowal, E., Radin, J. and Reardon, J. (2013) Indigenous body parts, mutating temporalities, and the half-lives of postcolonial technoscience. Social Studies of Science 43 (4):465-482.

5. Kowal, E. (2013) Orphan DNA: Indigenous samples, ethical biovalue and postcolonial science. Social Studies of Science 43 (4): 578-598.