By Cristy Burne
DO you like bugs and insects? Are you very curious? Do you like to dream? Are you fascinated by rocks?
If you are any or all of the above, you’re in great company because some of Australia’s top scientists were just like that when they were kids.
And now 21 of them have been elected Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science, a huge honour.
On Monday May 22 they joined 500 of Australia’s science champions at the academy to help promote, celebrate and support great Australian science.
Some of those inquiring minds
Lois Salamonsen: biologist and leaf thief
Professor Salamonsen is an expert in reproductive biology– the science of how we can have babies – at Monash University, but her early studies nearly landed her in trouble …
“When I was a kid I collected bugs and silkworms … and I ‘stole’ leaves to feed the silk worms from a mulberry tree overhanging a fence nearby,” she says.
“Imagine my surprise when one day the silkworms emerged from their cocoons as ‘moths’ and started stringing silk strands around the room.
“My mother was very tolerant, but I had to help with the clean-up.”
Branka Vucetic: electrical engineer and dreamer
Professor Vucetic spends her days at the University of Sydney imagining and creating technology for the future. She loves pinning down solutions to tricky problems.
“I became fascinated with radio-engineering science early in high school when my science teacher challenged me with a difficult question that I couldn’t answer,” she says.
As a kid, Professor Vucetic dreamed of becoming a writer. Then she realised being an engineer required just as much imagination.
“Most people think only artists can be creative, but engineers are actually very creative people who solve problems and challenges of our society,” she says.
Dietmar Müller: geologist and fossil-finder
Professor Müller is an earth scientist at the University of Sydney and fell in love with rocks while wandering the coast of northern Germany as a kid.
“I began assembling an enormous collection of rocks taken from the beach, including fossilised squids, sea urchins and corals that had been buried deep in the earth, some more than a billion years old,” he says.
“None of the rocks belonged there. All had been scraped off by glaciers in Scandinavia, transported [more than] 1,000 kilometres south, then dropped when all the ice melted at the end of the last ice age.”