Sci­ence in­dus­try boom­ing

To­mor­row’s sci­en­tists are find­ing their skills are in de­mand to­day, Han­nah Silverman re­ports.

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DE­VEL­OP­MENTS in cli­mate change, min­ing, wa­ter and technology have cre­ated spe­cialised ca­reers in sci­ence.

De­mand for sci­en­tists in nan­otech­nol­ogy, re­new­able en­ergy and biotech­nol­ogy are among the thriv­ing fields that are cre­at­ing jobs for to­mor­row’s sci­en­tists.

Ade­laide Uni­ver­sity Dean of the Fac­ulty of Sci­ences Pro­fes­sor Bob Hill says cli­mate change has af­fected many sci­ence fields, from agri­cul­ture to ge­ol­ogy to ma­rine sci­ence.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple don’t re­alise that the re­al­ity of cli­mate change cuts across so many dif­fer­ent ar­eas,’’ he says.

‘‘We train peo­ple in agri­cul­tural sci­ence, where there are mas­sive is­sues around cli­mate change and pop­u­la­tion growth. Can we ac­tu­ally feed the pop­u­la­tion in 50 years time with the re­al­ity of cli­mate change?’’

Prof Hill also iden­ti­fies en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing as an emerg­ing area, thanks to the state’s min­ing boom. Sci­en­tists are needed to en­sure that min­ing car­ried out is per­formed with min­i­mal dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Flin­ders Uni­ver­sity sci­ence ed­u­ca­tor Brent Ban­ham says that ground­wa­ter hy­drol­ogy is in de­mand as a niche area of en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence – also af­fected in part by the min­ing boom.

‘‘It’s in de­mand be­cause of the min­ing boom and in Aus­tralia we are large users of ground wa­ter,’’ he says.

His stu­dent Dylan Irvine has just com­pleted his hon­ours de­gree in ground hy­drol­ogy and is about to start his PhD in the field.

‘‘I started study­ing in 2007 and I thought of it as an emerg­ing field where there’s only go­ing to be more peo­ple needed,’’ he says.


‘‘There’s a lot of de­mand. Dur­ing the GFC, the min­ing was on hold.

‘‘Now that it’s all back on the ta­ble, there’s heaps of work, es­pe­cially for con­sult­ing com­pa­nies.’’

Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Pol­icy & Sci­ence ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Elek­tra Spathopou­los agrees.

‘‘Ground­wa­ter hy­drol­ogy, I think, is go­ing to be an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant area,’’ she says. ‘‘Sus­tain­abil­ity and wa­ter gen­er­ally will be­come a big­ger is­sue for South Aus­tralia.’’

Mr Ban­ham says nan­otech­nol­ogy is a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try that is in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity be­cause the as­so­ci­ated technology in mi­cro­scope devel­op­ment has im­proved.

‘‘Be­cause we can play with atoms, we can now un­der­stand atoms,’’ he says. ‘‘Nan­otech­nol­ogy as a study field has only been around for 10 years . . . it’s pre­dicted around the world to be a very big em­ployer.’’

Bio In­no­va­tion SA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Jur­gen Michaelis saysthat, over time, ex­ist­ing dis­ci­plines of sci­ence be­gin to over­lap. ‘‘ For ex­am­ple, nan­otech­nol­ogy has evolved from the com­bi­na­tion of ma­te­rial sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing, while pro­teomics has evolved from the com­bi­na­tion of bio­chem­istry and in­for­ma­tion technology,’’ he says.

He adds that stu­dents who study in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary or two ba­sic de­grees will have a work­force ad­van­tage.

‘‘Uni­ver­si­ties are now de­vel­op­ing cour­ses and pro­grams us­ing an in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary ap­proach,’’ Mr Michaelis says. ‘‘Ex­am­ples in­clude phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sci­ence and en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence. A good un­der­stand­ing on in­for­ma­tion technology as an en­abling technology also gives grad­u­ates an added ad­van­tage.’’

Na­tional Sci­ence Week, which runs in South Aus­tralia from Au­gust 6 to 22, will in­clude a ca­reers day for high school stu­dents as part of Sci­ence Alive week­end on Au­gust 6.

Among the mod­ern ca­reer paths high­lighted will be a pre­sen­ta­tion by Ris­ing Sun Pic­tures’ Ian Cope on spe­cial ef­fects, which not many peo­ple re­alise is an area of chem­istry.

Na­tional Sci­ence Week SA co­or­di­na­tor Rona Sakko says sci­ence as a ca­reer means more than ‘‘wear­ing a white coat in a lab. ‘‘A lot of peo­ple aren’t aware of how sci­ence af­fects their ev­ery­day lives,’’ she says.

Pic­ture: Chris Mangan

EMERG­ING: Stu­dents Matthew Knowl­ing and Dylan Irvine.

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