veski's portraits of innovation

The lens of experience

When Professor Kenneth Crozier last lived in Melbourne, he’d spend some of his downtime walking city streets and laneways taking photographs using a manual focus Pentax camera equipped with a 50mm f1.4 lens.

The lens later accompanied Kenneth to Peru, shooting Machu Picchu, the 15th-Century Inca site. It then went on to Harvard, lending itself to experiments in Kenneth’s lab.

The f1.4 lens and Kenneth will, finally, part ways in June 2014 when Kenneth and his family disembark in Melbourne after 17 years outside the country. His trusty f1.4 lens won’t be joining Kenneth on any more photographic excursions. It has found a higher purpose in his old lab at Harvard.

“I’m feeling excited and fortunate to be back in Melbourne. It’s good to be close to family and friends and very satisfying because a lot of the things I learned in the United States, I can put into practice here, educating the next generation of young Australians,” the dual citizen says.

“Because of new facilities in Victoria, we are at a tipping point and we are able to do the work and be much more productive. There’s also room to expand and develop a competitive edge because it’s not a crowded space and we are in a position to challenge places like Harvard,” he says.

Kenneth returns to Melbourne to focus on advancing the frontiers of imaging through optical micro- and nanostructures at the University of Melbourne, where he completed his undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics. He also takes up a veski innovation fellowship.

He will deliver an integrated program of research, education and commercialisation as well as develop optical technologies based on nanoscience. These technologies could allow digital cameras to ‘see’ more than colour; could enable individual viruses and molecules to be held in place and observed; and could permit large-area biological samples being imaged at high resolution with unprecedented speed.

Kenneth followed a career path into optics because he found the physics of it interesting, as well as the applications, and he liked the human scale of the experiments.

“With optics research you can be involved in all aspects from the idea to the theory through to the design and conduct of the experiment. This smaller scale makes it very tangible and very satisfying,” he says.

“I’m looking forward to making good use of what I learned overseas to re-establish a lab and research program here,” he says.

“The veski innovation fellowship is important because it will help get the word out, bringing recognition among other scientists, so the work will have more impact. It’s good that researchers know veski is supporting them and what they’re doing is of value to the state of Victoria.”

Having lived in university towns with thriving high-tech industries on both coasts of the US, Kenneth sees Melbourne as a very good environment in which to raise a family, offering access to “tremendous opportunities in science, engineering and the Arts, with a healthy mix of activities for kids”.

Ask him what he would do with one night in the city and he says he’d dine with family and friends in Chinatown then take in a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concert, preferably to appreciate the peacefulness of Bach played on the violin, an instrument he has studied.

Kenneth says he will also enjoy the human scale of the University of Melbourne and the fact that, like San Francisco and Boston, Melbourne is a city of “smart, interesting people” who “appreciate science and engineering”.