Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Science in a Fluoro Jacket

By Ross Smith

Contrary to common perception, most working scientists are not “researchers” and don’t work for public institutions.

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I am a scientist. I am very proud of that fact and worked hard as a student to become one. In the process I spent far longer at university than my parents expected. After 9 years, including a year as a research assistant, I was awarded a PhD, was able call myself “Doctor” and my parents were proud.

That is a common course for a young scientist, but my career diverged from the expected path. Just before handing my thesis to the printers, I received a phone call that led to me taking up a job at a mine in Papua New Guinea. It was a life-changing opportunity. I did science using helicopters, light aircraft and dugout canoes, and studied ecology in areas that really were pristine tropical wilderness. Wow! My work has continued to provide amazing experiences, but that is another story – or several stories.

I never went back to academia or a research organisation. That year as a research assistant was the only time I was employed to “do research”. I still do science on a daily basis, and I am recognised as a leading authority in several speciality areas. All of that has been achieved while working in private industry. I am now a major shareholder of a small business. My job title is simply “Director”.

I don’t wear a white coat and I don’t work in a laboratory. I work in an office in a commercial district, and if I wear any sort of uniform it is a high...

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