veski's portraits of innovation

Everything at her fingertips

Tiffany Walsh feels as though she’s found her flock. She is grateful for the chance to become part of the veski family because, as she says, with family you never leave, you’re a member forever, and there’s something about that which she finds very comforting.

To say she felt comfortable right from the start about joining the veski family would only be telling half the story.

When she learned she had received a veski innovation fellowship, she was lying on her sofa thinking she was going to die. Very ill with dysentery, she had just returned from less than a week in Delhi, India.

Despite not being able to celebrate much, Tiffany was “completely thrilled” to be returning to Victoria in 2012 as a veski innovation fellow. She was coming back after an impressive career in the UK, to work at Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials at Geelong’s Waurn Ponds campus.

The first veski family day Tiffany attended cemented her decision. It was the annual end of year event at the home of veski chairman Snow Barlow and his partner Winsome McCaughey.

“I walked in and I just knew,” she says. “Winsome was the first person I saw and she gave me a kiss on the cheek. Being a veski innovation fellow made me feel so much more relaxed and confident about returning.

“I felt as though I was already part of something where people would know me. I had left Australia as a 20-year-old kid and I knew no one in research here. When I arrived back in Australia, I knew them and they knew me and I had a pre-established network from the get-go,” she says.

She cites another boon of being a veski innovation fellow: the opportunity to have her name put forward to be part of the selection panel of the Victoria Prize for Science & Innovation, the biggest science prize in Victoria. As part of the same selection panel, Tiffany also helped select the Victoria Fellows for 2013.

“I was accepted and I had to evaluate submissions and decide who should make the shortlist. It was an awe-inspiring job and it gave me an insight into how such people become so highly successful. They have an overwhelming commitment and drive to deliver benefit to society.”

No stranger to wanting to make the world – or at least her old home town – a better place, Tiffany, who was top of her class in science and maths at Warrnambool High school, got back in touch with her alma mater “because it actually produced a Nobel Prize winner”: neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles, in 1963.

Tiffany spends her weekends around Torquay, where she and her husband, Dr Matthew Hodges, live, surfing, stand-up paddle-boarding, hiking, and trying to catch a rare sighting of the critically endangered helmeted honey-eater, the bird emblem of Victoria whose flock reportedly numbers just 130 birds globally this decade.

A fan of the great outdoors, Tiffany is also grateful for being able to return to Victoria.

“Victoria has everything, and it’s all at your fingertips.”