23/01/2007 - 22:00

Chief scientist Beazley takes a hands-on role

23/01/2007 - 22:00

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With an acclaimed science career spanning more than 30 years, Western Australia’s chief scientist, Lyn Beazley, could hardly be criticised for moving into a well paid government advisory job.

With an acclaimed science career spanning more than 30 years, Western Australia’s chief scientist, Lyn Beazley, could hardly be criticised for moving into a well paid government advisory job.

But leaving a hands-on job is something that does not sit comfortably with Professor Beazley, who is the University of Western Australia’s Professor of Zoology.

Before accepting a role as WA’s chief scientist, a job that involves providing direct advice to the premier on his $72 million science budget, Professor Beazley insisted she would only take on the high-profile job on a part-time basis.

Her predecessor, Bruce Hobbs, held the position full-time for three years.

“I’ve been a working scientist for 30 years and it’s not something I can give away,” she said.

“I think it will keep my feet on the ground and ensure that I have a good network to draw from.”

Professor Beazley’s sphere of work has been wide and varied but has included groundbreaking discoveries, including key developments in the treatment of spinal chord injuries.

She was a member of the team to determine that stimulating or training damaged nerves can lead to their regeneration, a practice that was not widely accepted previously.

Professor Beazley also has co-ordinated UWA’s Neurotrauma Research Program since its inception in 1999. She is a fellow of the Australian Institute of Biologists, a member of the Australian Science, Technology and Engineering Council, chair of the Gene and Related Therapies Research Advisory Panel and on the College of Experts of the Australian Research Council.

She also chairs the Women and Infants Research Foundation’s scientific advisory committee and is a trustee of the WA Museum.

Professor Beazley said being a woman in science has proven to be an asset.

“When I started we were very much a minority and people remembered you and you were invited on to committees to provide a bit of balance,” Professor Beazley remembers.

“But then you prove yourself and showed them what you could do and you would get invited back.”

Professor Beazley, who was born and raised in England, studied science at Oxford University. She was the first in her family to go to university.

“To get into Oxford was just fantastic,” she says.

Her first degree was in zoology, the study of animals, but, unsure of what kind of career path to choose, applied to study for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh.

She continued to study and, during that time, married and had her first child.

But, as if the challenge of studying, marrying and having a family wasn’t enough, Professor Beazley and her husband decided they would see the world.

They headed to Perth after securing jobs at UWA.

“I took on a two-year position but when we came over we knew we weren’t going back,” she said

Professor Beazley said science in WA was much more collaborative than in other parts of the world.

“Everyone is so much more open minded and co-operative and I think maybe it is because of the distance. We have to share our equipment and sometimes the ideas in order to make it happen,” she said.

Professor Beazley said the most challenging part of being a scientist in WA was remaining competitive in order to secure funding.

“It requires attracting good people and one of the things that I have found is that we can attract a lot of people here, even though WA is not on the overseas radar screen,” she told WA Business News.

Prof Beazley was appointed WA’s chief scientist in December and has her first meeting with the premier next month.

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