Phew! What a week, Smart Geelong Research Week has been! For an early career researcher like myself, I had an embarrassment of riches to choose from, for inspiration during the program. And my penchant for ‘live tweeting’ when I attend such events, saw me in the front row, madly tip tapping on my tablet, so that the Geelong based folks who follow me on Twitter, could ‘see’ the proceedings.
On Monday, we had the launch with keynote speech, delivered Professor Terry Speed (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne) who is a recent Eureka Prize winner for science engagement. Introduced by Barwon Health CEO, David Ashbridge, Terry then gave an excellent and accessible talk to a large crowd on the topic of ‘Epigenetics’, which he defined as the ‘punctuation marks’ to allow the appropriate expression of physical characteristics for the ‘text’ of our genes in our DNA. Professor Frances Quirk, Head of Research, Barwon Health, then gave me the priceless networking opportunity (thank you!) to join the party taking Terry to dinner on the Pier.
Wednesday saw the Barwon Health Research Week Poster session and the first speech from my collaborator and new Deakin Medicine Chair of Orthopaedics, Professor Richard Page. Richard regaled us with his distant family history in Tasmania (involving the sly grog trade) as well as offering advice to newer researchers (always say ‘Yes’ and Innovate, don’t emulate).
Thursday saw the launch of the Inaugural Smart Geelong Network Harrison Lecture, named to honour pioneering Geelong innovator James Harrison, introduced by Addy Editor, Nick Papps. Harrison was a polymath, who educated himself at night school around his day job and savvy enough to recognise the potential of evaporative cooling whilst chemically cleaning his news printing die sets.
It was standing room only at the National Wool Museum & the Geelong innovators who spoke, Professor Saeid Nahavandi from the Deakin Centre for Intelligent Systems Research (CISR) and Mr Steve Atkiss, GM of the Deakin Carbon Nexus, gave fabulous insights into the ‘toys’ they had made, including robot movement simulators and carbon fibre Storm Trooper armour. Some of their staff and students were on hand with the more ‘portable’ toys to let us have a play!
Friday evening arrived and with it, the Smart Geelong Network Gala Dinner, and thank you to my colleague Dr Sarah Shigdar for shouting my ticket! It was good to see both federal politicians from Geelong, Hon Sarah Henderson MP and Hon Richard Marles MP, were able to get back from Canberra, for the evening. The guest of Honour was the Hon Barry Jones (one of my science heroes) who was there to present the inaugural Barry Jones Medal to Sue De Gilio, one of the founders of the Smart Geelong Network and a worthy winner. The other major prize of ‘Researcher of the Year’ went to newly promoted Professor Bronwyn Fox, leader of the Carbon Nexus project and an inspiration to all women in science and engineering.
My week didn’t finish until Saturday lunch time, after I took part in the Deakin 40 years celebration at the Geelong Gala day parade. Spurred on by our fearless leader, Professor Jane den Hollander, we waved our flags at the crowds lining the route. Surely, the good people of Geelong were bemused (or perhaps entertained?) by the incongruous sight of academics in full robes and regalia, playing volleyball with a giant inflatable world, with their boss? I certainly relished the opportunity to disrupt the stereotype that we are elitist and stuffy boffins, scared of leaving the ‘ivory tower’. Jane shouted us to an impromptu coffee afterwards and I got to introduce her to my husband and kids. I also got to chat to Saeid about his three adult children as he scrolled through his Facebook photo roll. Those labelled as ‘Smart Geelong’ have much in common with the rest of the people of Geelong – we are humans.