Engineering a better quality of life

Gareth enjoying an early morning on the water before tackling another day of scienceFor Dr Gareth Forde, it’s the journey, not the destination that matters though, by nature, he is always looking to achieve his personal best, trying to beat the clock in both work and play.

In his latest professional foray, he is making technology available to those with the least access to resources, bringing a better quality of life to more people.

Gareth has taken on the role as Technical Director on the Australian board of the Institute of Chemical Engineers - the global peak body for bio-engineers, as well as chemical engineers.

Gareth says he’s there to “provide a voice for the Asia Pacific region into the rest of the world”.

In his spare time, when he gets a break from family time “keeping his four women happy”, he is on a surf ski or board, deep in training.

“I love water and enjoy the quiet time,” Gareth says. “I never see anyone else, not another soul where I train which is in a really special spot 15 minutes west of Brisbane. It’s a pristine environment - beautiful, stunning and serene, which is why I keep the location secret.”

Gareth moved his burgeoning family to Brisbane for two reasons: he and his wife, Dr Heidi Forde, with their first-born Imogen, had just welcomed twin-girls Pippa and Eloise, into their family and they wanted to be closer to her parents; and because the temperature in Queensland is much more conducive than Melbourne’s to his sporting interests, which include endurance events like the Coollangatta Gold ironman event.

Having returned to Melbourne from Cambridge University in 2004, Gareth joined Monash University’s Department of Chemical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering as a Lecturer. One of his projects was to create a particle delivering a DNA prime-and-protein-boost vaccine via nasal inhalation, while another project looked at converting CO2 into transport fuel. He also established the Bio Engineering Laboratory and wrote undergraduate courses for the university.

Gareth says, “If not for a veski innovation fellowship, I would not have returned home from Cambridge to Australia and I wouldn’t have selected Melbourne for a career. It’s a big decision to make and you need bravery and clarity of thought to do it.”

He believes veski is particularly good at spotting potential in people “which is useful for early-career individuals”, he says. He also praises veski for making him feel so welcome, so quickly, and providing the inspiration “to be really good, take the blinkers off and step sideways”. 

“Even when I was a ‘fellow under consideration’, I was in demand from research organisations and universities who were vying for my skills,” he says. “You’ve been vetted and reviewed by the veski selection committee and board, and selected as a rough diamond and all this creates an immediate demand which would not be there otherwise.

“All the doors which opened in the first three to five years of returning to Australia were due to veski. After a few years you make your own way and pursue ideas and opportunities independently. The link is still there even though things have progressed over the past decade and I am following other avenues of thought. You reinvent yourself every five years because you need to be on the cusp of things,” he says.

The fellowship ultimately enabled Gareth to carry on with ideas from the end of his time at Cambridge University and he says, if he had to dwell on the veski support he received, “I’d say I made a huge amount more progress than under any other scenario and we got to where we got in a half, to a third of the time it would have taken otherwise.”

 

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