Larger than life, Professor Matthias (Matt) Tomczak (29 Oct 1941 – 31 May 2019) had many talents and interests. Rising to Professor of Oceanography at Flinders University, he published more than one hundred scientific papers and made groundbreaking scientific contributions, particularly in the identification of individual water masses in the deep ocean.
His colleagues and former PhD students celebrated Professor Tomczak’s scientific achievements in a special edition of the prestigious journal Progress in Oceanograhy, as a gift for his 65th birthday in 2006. In 2004, he was awarded the AMOS medal by the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society for his scientific lifetime achievements.
An excellent educator, Professor Tomczak inspired many generations of students and people around him. His first-authored textbook Regional Oceanography: An Introduction with accompanying web-based exercises are used as oceanographic educational tools at many universities worldwide.
During his career at Flinders University, he developed the teaching curriculum for several marine science topics that are still taught today. Towards the end of his academic career, he developed the teaching material for a non-marine subject about the links between science, society and civilization. This course material, which is testament to Professor Tomczak’s philosophical interests, is available online. Many students who had the opportunity to attend his lectures, remember this topic as “one of the best undergrad topics” taught at Flinders.
Passionate about supporting women of Afghanistan, the Organization of Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities (OPAWC) stated in a special tribute: “As the Convener of SAWA-Australia (SA), Professor Tomczak directed a sponsorship campaign in Australia for Afghan women that helped OPAWC to lay the foundation stone of OPAWC’s Vocation Training Center in Kabul in 2008. Through his efforts, this centre expanded over time to become an educational hub for hundreds of women and girls offering quality education in literacy and handicraft…We all Afghans will remember his extraordinary character forever.”
In recent years, Professor Tomczak decided to devote more of his time to oceanography. After being diagnosed with cancer and hospitalised for almost six months, he took on the role as teacher for the first CAPSTAN voyage aboard the R/V Investigator along the Great Australian Bight in 2017.
While receiving chemotherapy since January 2018, he continued to actively review scientific papers from home. Remarkedly, he recently accomplished the publication of a scientific paper on water mass intrusions in the south Indian Ocean in the journal Ocean Dynamics.
He also coauthored a yet to be published scientific paper on the oceanography in the western Great Australian Bight associated with the seasonal accumulation of killer whales near the Bremer Canyon.
Associate Professor Jochen Kämpf, a former colleague and friend, says “On a personal note, even in his last days, we were discussing and planning future marine expeditions to further investigate this natural wonder.
“Matthias Tomczak has made deep and long-lasting impacts on many people around him. He will be sorely missed by many. The ocean – filled with endless tears.”
A funeral service will be held on Friday 7 June at 11am at the Folland Chafer chapel, followed by a burial at Wirra Wonga Cemetery at 11.45 and a reception at Enfield Memorial Park.
Tribute provided by Associate Professor Jochen Kämpf