Favourite Thing: Playing with toys! Toys are useful as models of how things work and can be used to teach and learn science.
All Hallows (Bathurst NSW, boarding school), St Aloysius (Sydney), St Ignatius (“Riverview”, Sydney)
Studied science/law at University of Sydney. Deferred the law and competed a doctorate in chemistry at University of Sydney. More recently, studied education at Deakin and Monash Universities.
Research at Stanford University (California) and University of Goteborg (Sweden). University scientist/teacher at University of New England (NSW), Univerwity of Melbourne, and Deakin University.
Associate Professor, which is a mixture of teaching in chemistry, research in forensic science and how students learn, and also coordinating the forensic science program. Lots of science.
Me and my work
I try to find safer fingerprinting reagents and ways of bring back deleted serial numbers. I also find out how students might learn science better, and use computers and maths to learn about chemical properties and change.
Many forensic reagents must be used very carefully as they are nasty. My collaborators and I have been doing kitchen chemistry identifying fruit extracts and oils, which are safer and can be used to visualise fingerprints, or to bring back serial numbers that have been deleted from stolen property. I also use computers and maths to understand properties and chemical change, find out how students might learn science better, and use computers and maths to learn about properties and chemical change. The picture is at the Australian Synchrotron, where we were using the infrared microscope to look at the oils and amino acids in fingerprints.
My Typical Day
Teach science, communicate science and learn more about science.
My chemistry classes range from 20 to over 400 students. It is hard to discuss things in detail during class, there is a lot of on-line discussion and some email communication during term time. Out of term time is totally different — I read science books and journals and do research. This is really trying to figure out what we do still do not know about some area of science, or some problem, and them to discover the missing knowledge, or to solve the problem.
What I'd do with the money
Buy toys and gadgets for doing science.
Toys like Lego and Magnetix are great models for learning about atoms and molecules. A Lego “humane molecule” can be used to learn about how substances fall apart into fragments, which are then detected in a mass spectrometer (Abby’s Major Mass Spec in NCIS). Other toys and gadgets would include little “pop-pop boats” whihc have candle-powered rocket engines, hydrogen-powered cars. These toys would be used to help your teachers plan your science lessons and to help explain science to people like your parents, relatives and friends.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Puzzle-solver, Shy, Learner
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I like orchestral movie music and musicals, for example Vangelis (Alexander) John Williams (Star Wars), Hans Zimmer (Backdraft) James Horn (Titanic) and Andrew Lloyd Weber.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Two things: going skiing and visiting theme parks in California.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Doing more things with my son and other family. Travel, including skiing. Scouting.
What did you want to be after you left school?
I wanted a career in science, did not think I was good enough. I was planning a career in a plastics or petroleum company.
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
Talking in class, and not doing homework on time.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Sharing my science with others. For example, I wrote parts of the book “React to Chemistry”, which is being sent to very school in Australia, this month.
Tell us a joke.
I could just copy a joke from a book or something, but that wouldn’t be me. The one I wanted to tell is about a person who is flatulent (a nice scientific word!), but is a little rude to put on this site. So, pass.