veski's portraits of innovation

Hitting the right note

Ethan Goddard-Borger feels compelled to seek a greater relevance in whatever he does, which is why he loves being in a research institute where he can work in a team to produce translational outcomes.

“We are funded by the public purse, foundations and generous people, and I think they have the right to expect something in return,” he says.

The restless perfectionist also loves jazz, art that exhibits technical mastery, kayaking and striving to be the best in his field.

“Call it ingrained pragmatism, arrogance, or just a competitive spirit but if I can’t be the best at something, I’m just not interested. I also get incredibly bored, incredibly fast. I’ve got to be doing something new or I go crazy,” he says.

Ethan drifted toward science rather than engineering as a career because he felt that engineering “didn’t add that much to the fundamental knowledge of the human race”.

While studying undergraduate science, he was attracted to the field of chemistry by its hands-on, practical and empirical nature.

“I wanted to be working at the bench doing my own experiments. I wanted to be holding something in my hand, not just interpreting data. Chemistry had the right mix of the empirical and theoretical for me.”

Ethan left Western Australia five years ago as a postdoctoral fellow to diversify his skill set at the University of British Columbia. It was here that he became skilled in molecular biology.

Last year, seeking to return to his homeland, the veski innovation fellow relocated to Victoria to become a laboratory head within the Australian Cancer Research Foundation Chemical Biology division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

As a relative newcomer to the veski family, Ethan is surprised at how active the veski family is.

“I’ve heard of other programs that don’t have that side to them. I think it’s quite unique to veski,” he says.

“Scientists are often perceived as being an introverted bunch who don’t normally seek out and mingle with different people, veski does away with that stereotype”

Ethan thinks the genuine and continued effort among veski people to meet up is not just great in its own right: it will also provide a good return on investment for Victoria or, in Ethan’s words, provide something in return.

“Because people in the veski family are from such a diverse range of fields, I wouldn’t ordinarily interact with many of them in a professional capacity,” he says. “They are the best in their fields, highly intelligent and successful. Through the veski connection I can easily find an expert in a particular field to ask a question I might have and get an immediate definitive response. This mixing of knowledge and free exchange of ideas is what breeds innovation and breakthroughs.”