Meet our Science Ambassadors

 

LEE HUNTER (89–93) Head of Marketing Innovation, Google (Asia Pacific)

 

Lee Hunter is Head of Marketing Innovation for Google across Asia Pacific. He’s responsible for delivering new, innovative marketing to Google’s users, and helping redefine what’s possible using the power of the web. Prior to this, Lee ran Brand and Creative Marketing for YouTube globally. He’s an expert on creativity, innovation and big digital ideas, and a proud Science Ambassador for Wesley.

 

What is your connection to Wesley?

I’m a proud Old Boy (Class of 1993) and through my career at Google, I’ve developed several projects aimed at promoting STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Having semi-recently moved back to Australia after 10 years overseas, I’ve reconnected with Wesley and become a Science Ambassador in order to continue pushing STEM education at a school that was so important to me.

 

 

What role has science played in your life?

Although I work in marketing, science plays a huge role. From user research, to the principles of testing and hypothesis in developing creative work and campaigns, it’s something I regularly draw upon. Science, and STEM more broadly, has played a huge role in getting me to where I am today. Also, Google is a company run by computer scientists and engineers, and if you can’t speak the language of science, it’s tough to get things done.

 

Why do you believe that nurturing curiosity in science is important?

To me, scientific thinking forms the foundation of a questioning mind. This curiosity ultimately leads to creativity and innovation; the ability to make connections where others may not see them; and the desire to find new ways of doing things. These are skills that will be increasingly valued as our world develops, and critical to formative education.

 

Why should the community get behind this development?

Australia has an opportunity to be a powerful centre for innovation, but we need to invest in STEM education if we’re going to get there. Wesley’s Science Centre is a fantastic example of how we should be developing young minds, helping them to navigate the future, not just to get the best out of them, but for Australia as well.

 

MARK STRAHAN (82–86) BSc Hons (Physiol) | BMBS | FRACS (Plastic)

 

Mark Strahan is a Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon, who specialises in reconstructive surgery and trauma cases. Mark is passionate about science and as an Old Wesleyan and current Wesley parent he says he feels honoured to be an ambassador for this project.

 

What is your connection to Wesley?

I’m an Old Boy and also a current Wesley College parent. In 1982, I was lucky enough to be awarded a Council Scholarship and started in Year 8 at Wesley. I had a great time and really enjoyed studying Mathematics with Mr Trend, Chemistry with Mr Regel and Physics with Mr Bechard. My two boys William (currently in Year 8) and Henry (currently in Year 4) are now enjoying Wesley.

 

What role has science played in your life?

Science is a huge part of my life. When I left school I went onto UWA and studied a Science degree. I then did a short stint at Scitech where I was a demonstrator. My next job was at Royal Perth Hospital where I worked as a Scientist in the laboratory. During my time at Royal Perth Hospital, I decided to go back to uni as a mature-age student and study medicine. I graduated as a doctor in 2000 and spent my first few years as a doctor at Fremantle Hospital and was accepted into the Surgical Training program in 2005. During Surgical Training you’re encouraged to be a ‘Surgical Scientist’ and do research and critique journals. I graduated in 2009 and now have my own Plastic and Reconstructive practice, specialising in reconstructive surgery and trauma.

 

Why do you believe that nurturing curiosity in science is important?

Science is fascinating. It allows us to not only see the beauty in things but also understand them. You can enjoy a solar eclipse, sunsets and rainbows and understand how and why they occur. Science doesn’t diminish our appreciation of the world, it adds to it. Science opens doors to so many advancements and achievements. It’s a step toward renewable power, it’s pushing the automotive industry, it’s how we get rockets into space, it’s gaming and nano design. As long as we continue to use science in the right way it’s going to be the answer to a lot of the world’s problems.

 

Why should the community get behind this development?

Ultimately science will save the day. It will allow us to recycle more effectively, help use renewable energy and one day get off the planet. We need to make sure our children are excited about science and infinitely curious about how things work and the world around them. When it comes to supporting Wesley, I always think of my mum, who taught us to do what you can for your school community—because you get out what you put in to it.

 

 

PHILIP NAKASHIMA (82–91) Australian Research Council Future Fellow | Department Of Materials Science And Engineering | Monash University

 

Philip’s affinity with science began at Wesley in his Chemistry and Physics classrooms. Now, an Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Engineering at Monash University, he is sharing his passion for science with other Australians, who like him, want to know ‘why?’

 

What is your connection to Wesley?

I am a Wesley Old Boy, having attended from Years 3 to 12 inclusive (1982-1991). A number of my closest friends today are Wesley Old Boys, too, and their children now go to Wesley. It is amazing to see how much Wesley has changed from one generation’s experience (mine) to the next (my friends’ children).
What role has science played in your life?

Ever since falling in love with both Physics and Chemistry at Wesley, I knew that I wanted to be a scientist. As I could never choose between the two fields, I chose to do a combined major in them both, called Chemical Physics, at UWA. Only one student every two or three years would elect to do this and in combination with an Engineering degree (I studied Science and Engineering at UWA), I was the first to try it. This course of study meant a large degree of autonomy as I was involved in designing the course with the course coordinators. The autonomy captured my imagination and suited my working style and this made me realise that the job of freely exploring unknown worlds (essentially what a scientist does) was very attractive. From there, I followed an academic career path, completing a PhD in Physics which included heavy elements of Chemistry, going on to start work on my first Post Doctoral Fellowship at Monash University in Melbourne in 2002. I have been at Monash ever since and am now an Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Engineering, where I am currently developing coursework for Masters and PhD students, centred on my own research into electron crystallography and chemical bonding using transmission electron microscopes.

 

Why do you believe that nurturing curiosity in science is important?

When I think of the leaps and bounds of mankind as a species, they are invariably based on scientific discovery. If we are not alone in the universe, mankind will be evaluated by other intelligent lifeforms based on what we are capable of, possibly including our lifestyle and standards of living. The world has many problems that need to be solved globally, like climate change, the massive inequalities between the developed and developing world and the distribution of resources, health care and wealth across the globe. Most of these problems have solutions based on scientific knowledge.

On a national scale, we are a resource-rich country with an amazing standard of living. Most of our income as a nation comes from the export of primary resources. To preserve Australia’s ability to generate wealth, maintain very high standards of living and maintain a competitive edge, a basic knowledge of science, at the very least, is necessary to make informed decisions as to how to best utilise and process our resources and add incremental value. Without a mining industry, Western Australia would be much poorer. The mining industry makes use of applied science and engineering to optimise yield and profits in developing and processing ores for shipping overseas. Manufacturing in Australia currently struggles against giants in Asia and Eastern Europe. However, top scientific knowledge could add value to products and provide a competitive edge so that Australia as a nation could grow in this area, which is urgently needed for development.

Apart from these pragmatic reasons for believing that we should nurture curiosity in science, the most powerful reason is that it can lead to a wonderfully satisfying career. Not everyone will become a scientific researcher but for those who do, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from exploring things and venturing into the unknown, much like explorers of old discovering continents or man exploring space. Curiosity all by itself stops whatever you’re doing from being ‘just a job’ and instead, something you look forward to doing. As they say, ‘if your job is your hobby, then you never work a day in your life’. Curiosity is the antidote to all boredom.

 

Why should the community get behind this development?

Science and scientific research are frequently perceived as an indulgence of an affluent society. To some degree, this is necessarily true as funding for science in the absence of guaranteed short term outputs or results is a fundamental necessity, to allow scientists to make truly groundbreaking discoveries that have fundamental benefits in the long term. However, if the community continues to perceive science in this way and not as the source of much of the nation’s and world’s long term wealth, then we enter a spiral where science and its advances may go into decline. The community needs to get behind projects like the Wesley Science Centre to, firstly, provide young students with the best environment for fostering curiosity in science in the most formative years of their lives and, secondly, to spread a generally optimistic view of the benefits to be gained from supporting scientific pursuits. These pursuits will be all the greater if the next generation of science education is given the best and, in this case, groundbreaking facilities.