Interviews with australian scientists


Welcome to the Interviews with Australian scientists project. On this site you will find interviews with some of Australia's leading scientists and discover how they change the world we live in.

The Academy established the Interviews with Australian scientists program in 1993 to record interviews with outstanding Australian scientists.The scientists talk about their early life, development of interest in science, mentors, research work, and other aspects of their careers.

Transcripts of the interviews and accompanying teachers notes are available online. Copies of the DVDs may be purchased from the Academy for $15 each including GST, postage and handling.

Lord Robert May

Interview with Lord Robert May

Lord Robert May's childhood interests in puzzles, problem solving games and debating served as excellent groundwork for a highly successful and interdisciplinary career spanning physics, mathematics, chemical engineering and ecology. In his interview, May - who describes himself simply as a 'scientist with a short attention span' - reflects on how he 'accidentally' became a physicist and revolutionised ecology, was elected to the House of Lords and became one of the most valued advisers to the British Government and some of the world's largest banks.

interview transcript

Professor Geoffrey Burnstock 

Interview with Professor Geoffrey Burnstock 

Professor Geoffrey Burnstock’s personal philosophy of ‘if you can’t do it one way, you find another’ saw him transition out of graveyard work to studying theology, maths, physics and biology at university. He reflects on a star-studded career in autonomic neuroscience and gastroenterology, the importance of a creative spirit and his first ever in vivo motility publication which involved the tricky business of putting condoms on fish. 

interview transcript

Interview with Dr. Cyril Appleby 

Professor Appleby

Dr Cyril Appleby’s curiosity about the world of science began by watching smoke escape from his neighbour’s burning leaves when he was 8 years old. Despite being labeled as a ‘precocious’ student with a complete lack of sporting finesse, he successfully navigated school and went on to complete a PhD in yeast biochemistry. Appleby discusses a life studying plant and microbial cytochromes and haemoglobins, including how a brief bit of ‘carelessness’ lead to him crystallise the first ever cytochrome.

interview transcript

Professor Mandyam Srinivasan

Interview with Professor Mandyam Srinivasan 

Professor Mandyam Srinivasan's early interest in making transistor radios with his father, led to his training as an engineer, which gave him the grounding needed to take off studying fly vision. His work with honeybees helped unravel how they use their vision to successfully navigate through narrow tunnels and make precise landings, later leading to the development of self-navigating robots. 

interview transcript

Dame Bridget Ogilvie

Interview with Dame Bridget Ogilvie

Dame Bridget Ogilvie spent a solitary childhood on a sheep property in country New South Wales pondering farm parasitology and was ‘lucky’ to have an Oxford educated father who at the time was regarded as deeply eccentric for sending his daughter to university. Nevertheless, she went on to receive many awards for her contributions to parasitology and medical research, including 24 honorary doctorates!

interview transcript

Professor Graeme Clark

Interview with Professor Graeme Clark

Professor Graeme Clark is best known as the ‘bionic ear’ or ‘cochlear implant’ scientist. Somewhat less of a mouthful than ‘otolaryngologist’. But in the beginning, getting research funding for a radical idea like the cochlear implant was always going to be a challenge. Undeterred, Professor Clark took to Swanston Street, Melbourne with a donation can in hand. The rest is history.

interview transcript

Professor Angas Hurst

Interview with Professor Angas Hurst

Professor Angas Hurst’s wartime recollections of his time commanding a radar base in Papua New Guinea had interviewer and crew enraptured. Moving on from the war, Hurst discusses a life in mathematical physics with frequent, profitable study-leave trips overseas.

interview transcript

Professor Noel Hush

Interview with Professor Noel Hush

Atoms are mostly empty space. Quantum reality explains why, despite this empty space, a baby’s hand doesn’t pass through its mother’s cheek. This idea was explained in the interview with theoretical chemist, Professor Noel Hush. When asked about an infant’s first experience of reality, Professor Hush said “If you asked the baby, and he’d read a bit, he would say, ‘I realise why mummy’s cheek is resisting me; it’s because of exchange quantum repulsion’.” Wow, clever baby!

interview transcript

Professor Jim Pittard

Interview with Professor Jim Pittard

Microbial geneticist Professor Pittard began his working life as a pharmacist and then embarked upon a scientific research career in gene expression. Despite his grandmother’s warning that he was “giving up the substance for the shadow”, Professor Pittard succeeded in providing for his lovely family – even building the roof that was over their heads!

interview transcript