Tiffany Walsh: beginnings

10 April

veski is launching a new series of conversations with our veski innovation fellows. Throughout 2013, we will be in conversation with our fellows about a range of topics from where they got their start in science to what happens in their lab today.

 


 

This time, we chat to Associate Professor Tiffany Walsh, who was awarded a veski innovation fellowship in 2012. Tiffany returned to Victoria to continue her nanotechnology research at Deakin University's Institute for Frontier Materials.

We ask Tiffany about the beginning of a lifelong passion for science and research, and discover her love for movie making. 

When did you start thinking about science as a career?

I wanted to do a lot of things when I was young including making movies. Funnily enough, these days my (nanotechnology) research and the computations we produce actually allow me to be a bit of a movie producer. We generate a range of animations using molecular simulations (on the computer) to investigate and understand the structure/property relationships of various materials. In terms of science, I always did well at maths and really enjoyed the subject. Maths and science always seemed to go hand in hand, and in year 9 when the school offered an extra science enrichment subject I jumped at the chance.

What else did you study at Warrnambool high school?

As well as maths and science I did a lot of music including saxophone and clarinet, and played in the school band. I still love music and really enjoyed most of the subjects at school, but there comes a point in high school when you have to start making choices. While it's great to begin plotting your future it starts to cut off options. I continued to be drawn to the math/science subjects, and I'd say that was probably down to the teachers of those subjects.

Tell us about your teachers, how did they inspire your choices?

I was lucky to have excellent maths and science teachers. They were teachers who provoked me into thinking about the world around me. Thankfully they were not the type of teachers who said "just open your textbook and here is where we will begin". They asked us "have you ever thought about this" and encouraged us to look at things from different angles. I can't single out any of them as being my favourite but they all really expanded my horizons.

Next it was onto the University of Melbourne, what made you select their science degree?

I really liked that the University of Melbourne allowed you to mix and match different types of science. It meant I could do a bit of everything and see what sciences were of most interest. It's a really terrific degree which provides a smorgasbord of science and lets you choose how much of each you want to sample, which means you get exposed to variety. It's similar to the natural sciences degree at Cambridge and Durham and I really benefited from that structure. 

How did you choose from the smorgasbord of science on offer?

It was a really hard decision because I enjoyed them all. Seriously. But I particularly enjoyed the maths, physics and chemistry, and thankfully one of my earliest discoveries was that I could combine them all with a focus on computational science. At the same time I gained a spot in a summer studentship program with Professor Frank Larkins, who was DVC - Research at the time, and that was it. I did my honours with Frank and my career in nanotechnology research was underway. 

 


 

 

After completing her Honours at the University of Melbourne, Tiffany continued her PhD studies at Cambridge University. She then furthered her research at Oxford University where she became a Glasstone Fellow in the Department of Materials. Tiffany then accepted a position with the University of Warwick before returning to Australia as a veski innovation fellow. 

 

Next week, we'll be in conversation with Dr Seth Masters about high school, university and his start in science.

 

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