Ready to rock and roll
Deakin University’s research and researchers are ready to step up a gear, according to Thinker in Residence, Professor Steve Haswell.
“I’d say the University is very well placed to go to the next level particularly in engineering and chemistry,” said Professor Haswell, who is visiting Deakin from the University of Hull where is Professor of Analytical Chemistry.
“A lot of Deakin’s younger researchers are better than they think they are.”
The Thinker in Residence program at Deakin is an initiative aimed at developing the University’s research capabilities and particularly Early Career Researchers.
At the invitation of Professors Peter Hodgson and Neil Barnett, Professor Haswell is working with young researchers at the Institute of Frontier Materials and within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.
“The one thing I would say though to the next generation of researchers at Deakin is that they need to be prepared to do the hard work,” he said.
“They just can’t look at the successful researchers that Deakin already has and think, gee they make it look easy, so it must be easy.
“People like Neil Barnett and Peter Hodgson have only arrived at where they are because of a lot of hard work they were prepared to put in early in their careers and continue to put in.
“I think it is also an advantage for young researchers to have had some experience in industry as well.”
Professor Haswell also urged young researchers to be creative about the other ways they might go about building their careers.
“If you find you keep hitting a brick wall when you are applying for research funding, find a way to come at the wall sideways,” he said.
“I can say this from my own experience in Britain, where I had a number of knockbacks for grant applications.
“Even the greatest researchers get knockbacks and some pretty famous ones in the UK have had a lot more than me.
“What I did was to find a way to come at the wall sideways.
“I went out and found as many other universities and other organisations to support the work that I wanted to do and basically said to the funding bodies ‘knock it back now’.
“And they couldn’t!”
And so came about the Micro Reactor Research Group at Hull which has carried out over 300-man-years of research funded primarily by British research councils.
The group’s aim is to establish the design and operational parameters that give micro fluidic devices significant advantages in the field of chemical and biology research.
Highlights from the Group’s research include:
The development of a micro fluidic based Lab-on-a-chip system funded by EPSRC that can produce a DNA forensic profile in one hour with no moving parts (reagents and sample are pumped by electric fields), in which all the reagents are preloaded into the device using gels to avoid the possibility of contamination.
- Establishing micro fluidic based methodology that can maintain viable biological tissue for many days in order to enabled the study of cell function within both normal and diseased tissue environments. The methodology has been used to study drug therapy strategies applied to biopsies taken from head and neck carcinomas in order to establish a personalised medical prognosis.
Professor Haswell is also well placed to advise younger researchers on the ‘significant advantages’ of various career choices.
After playing with top musicians like Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones, legendary boogie-woogie pianist Bob Hall, and in his own bands, Traitor’s Gate and March Hare, he found himself having to choose between the grooves of rock and roll and the groves of academe.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” he said. “I would go to an academic seminar somewhere in England, and take my squeeze box with me.
“At the end of the seminar, I would go and busk and be able to go home to my wife with 40 quid and say, ‘here you can go and buy the school shoes for the children now’.
“I did a lot of gigs with Traitor’s Gate and March Hare.
“It was all right for the other musicians, they were professionals, so after a late night gig somewhere in the country side, they get to sleep in, but I had to get up and go back to London to work.
“I still wonder sometimes if I made the right decision to stick with academia but I have learned there are some similarities, you need talent and if you don’t do the gigs (conferences) and strut your stuff (presentations and papers) you won’t sell yourself or the subject."