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After an initial degree in physical chemistry from Sydney University and a PhD in solid state physics from Monash University, I taught chemistry at Monash for 5 years while carrying out surface science research. Foolishly resisting the temptation to switch to winemaking, I returned to Sydney in 1975 to join CSIRO to work initially on fibres and polymers, but after the energy crisis, on minerals and energy-related materials.
For the next 20 years, my research was primarily in the areas of mineral processing, industrial carbon materials, and coal preparation, notwithstanding the fact that as a vacation student at the North Shore Gas Company during my undergraduate years I vowed never again to work with coal.
Indeed, towards the end of my CSIRO career, when I was a Senior Principal Research Scientist in Energy Technology, I was actually a member of the Australian Coal Preparation Society and had industry-funded projects on coal crushing and on machine-vision applied to the optimisation of coarse coal cleaning circuits!
I had continued a background level of surface science applied to mineral processing and materials utilisation in an attempt to retain some sanity, and that research enabled me to spend extended periods working in laboratories in the US, Finland and Russia. My primary role, however, was to chase external funds for the 'I' in CSIRO rather than the 'S'.
Although that did lead me into some interesting projects, such as a Boeing-funded one on the fabrication of high performance carbon fibres, in 1998 I took advantage of one of CSIRO's frequent downsizing exercises and 'retired' early. That enabled me to return to more fundamental research within Surface Science & Technology at the University of New South Wales where I am now an adjunct (euphemism for unpaid) professor.
I am now involved in spectroscopy requiring synchrotron radiation, mostly accessed in Chicago, Madison and Tsukuba, and on helping to establish an Australian soft X-ray beam-line facility at the synchrotron in Tsukuba. Margaret and I live near Macquarie University, which was convenient when I worked at CSIRO, but is not quite so convenient now that I spend about half of my time at UNSW.