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Friday, 23 September 2016 17:36

Congratulations & Scientific Connections Part 2

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On Wednesday we celebrated four graduands.  Dr Mel Waterman and Dr Johanna Turnbull were awarded their PhDs. Professor Bob Furbank became Dr Dr Bob. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science.  In his inspiring graduation speech he told the graduands how important it was to try and work in an area which you love. I certainly agree with that sentiment.  He also talked about the important part played by mentors, peers and of course serendipity. 

In addition, Alison Haynes graduated with a Bachelors in Conservation Biology Honours degree. She will be joining the lab in July to start a PhD.

The night before we celebrated with a lab meal and welcomed back alumna Dr Jane Wasley from the Australian Antarctic Division and Professor Cath Lovelock from the University of Queensland. We had fun exploring all the connections between the people around the table. 

Cath and I first met at Duke University in 1991. We both worked as postdocs at ANU with Barry Osmond who was Director of the Research School of Biological Sciences. Barry is now an Honorary Professorial Fellow at UOW and working with Rhys on the LIFT project.

Bob Furbank grew up in Wollongong, did his Honours degree in Biological Sciences at UOW with Ross Lilley and then went to ANU to do a PhD with Barry Osmond, Murray Badger and Hal Hatch. When Cath and I came to Canberra in the 1990s he was heading up a Division in CSIRO Plant Industry. He is now Director of the Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis
 and we are working together on an ARC DP AirLIFT. Rhys, Zbynek and Barry are all involved in this project, with statistical advice from Mick Ashcroft.


When I came to Wollongong in 1996, Jane was waiting to start an Honours project on Fire Ecology with Rob Whelan. I had just been awarded my first Antarctic Science Grant (ASG) with Cath.  When Cath couldn't come to Casey with me, Jane volunteered and so we spent four months together at Casey Station and have been friends and colleagues ever since. Jane got hooked on Antarctic research and did a PhD at UOW. She was awarded a Smithsonian Fellowship to go and worked with Cath in Maryland.  When Jane needed a field assistant to spend a summer at Casey, she talked Johanna into going.  Johanna then got interested in Antarctic mosses and this week got her PhD at UOW.

Jane and Johanna set up the long term monitoring project at Casey which is what Diana King is working on for her PhD and now Mick is working as a Postdoc on that project. Jane is working at the Australian Antarctic Division and was Johanna's and Diana's cosupervisor. She is a coinvestigator on several of our ASG grants.

Mel's PhD project involved identifying the pigments that Johanna, Cath, Laurence Clarke and I had started working on 10 years before. Mel also got some help from Bob and his CSIRO colleagues using FTIR to look for her pigments in the cell walls of Antarctic mosses.

There were more serendipidous connections at graduation.  Bob met the current Head teacher of his old primary school Tarrawanna. The Head was attending graduation as a proud parent and delighted to hear about Bob's career. Plus Hal Hatch's granddaughter Amber was also graduating ( with a BA) at the same ceremony!

Finally, today in another lab meeting with Rhys, Mick and Barry we started talking about waxy succulent leaves like the ones that Cath and I worked on at ANU initially. It's amazing how many scientific connections we found.

It was a lovely sunny day in Wollongong and it was wonderful to celebrate their successes with all their family and friends.


Photograph credits: Cornelia Buchen-Osmond, Andrew Netherwood and UOW.

Read 1784 times Last modified on Friday, 23 September 2016 17:36
Sharon Robinson

Senior Professor at University of Wollongong