I had a late start along the research path. After graduating, I spent the first 7 years of my life working in State and Local government as an Environmental Health Officer. In 1989, I was appointed as a lecturer. As I had a teaching-only position, I did a post-grad qualification in education. Then in my mid -30s, I realised that I needed to get involved in research, if I wanted to progress as an academic.
I obtained my M Med Sci degree by investigating the formaldehyde exposures experienced by medical students and staff dissecting cadavers. An analysis of my first batch of samples clearly showed that students were over-exposed to formaldehyde and I notified the university. After a new ventilation system was installed, I was able to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention by comparing pre-intervention and post-intervention exposures.
After completing that study, I was hooked. While my Masters thesis was being examined, I was already writing a proposal for a PhD study. When I started doing research, I realised I had found my NICHE. I love the challenge of finding new and novel topics (questions) to investigate.
I generally conduct my research with industry partners. My research is therefore very applicable and relevant to specific industry groups, which assists both the implementation and evaluation of recommendations. It is very satisfying to know that your research is changing practices and procedures and enhancing worker health.
Working closely with the oil, gas and mining sectors, I measure and evaluate people’s exposures to a range of occupational stressors including dusts, vapours, mists and fumes, as well as heat, noise and vibration. Currently, I am developing a proposal to work in collaboration with Associate Prof Mel Ziman and PhD candidate Joe Mate to re-create various work scenarios in a laboratory environment. We want to expose cultured human cells to various combinations of chemicals, heat and ultraviolet radiation in a laboratory, in order to identify potential synergistic actions, unique to our Australian contexts.