Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Research in Practice

By Barry Leviny

What does a scientist do day-to-day? Barry Leviny talks to a biomedical researcher to find out.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

I grew up reading about scientists. I know the story of Archimedes finding what the King’s crown was made of after an idea he had in his bath. I know the story of Newton’s inspiration about gravity after the apple fell and I know Gallileo saw ‘ears’ on Saturn when he looked through his telescope. I know all these things, and yet I didn’t know what a modern scientist actually does each day. I remember science at school, but I can’t imagine most scientists today getting to work, turning on their Bunsen burner and waiting for their first beaker of reagent to turn pink. How was I going to find out what a scientist did each day? I decided to gather some empirical data. I decided to ask one.

The one I chose was Dr Rob Medcalf. Dr Medcalf is a PhD, and an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Monash University, although his position is based at a laboratory on the Alfred Hospital campus in Melbourne. How did he become a scientist? Did he just start sending applications to want ads? In Dr Medcalf’s case at least, it wasn’t that simple. He completed an Honours degree in Science at Monash University and then applied for a position as a ‘Research Assistant’ at Melbourne University, based at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Dr. Medcalf remembers this as a happy time with, as he puts it, “no out of hours responsibility”. A research assistant, as the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Barry Leviny is host of ‘The Uncertainty Principle’ on Vision Australia Radio in Victoria. The show consists of interviews with scientists and reading of scientific articles.