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Volcano adventurer takes the heat out of new labs for the Charles Perkins Centre


16 May 2013

Dr Ian Garthwaite: "What makes the new [centre] so great is the diversity in the research and learning happening under one roof."
Dr Ian Garthwaite: "What makes the new [centre] so great is the diversity in the research and learning happening under one roof."

It's hard to know what Dr Ian Garthwaite is more excited about: relaying his volcano adventures from around the world, or the new research environment being created by the 'hub' for the Charles Perkins Centre.

Recently appointed as the Laboratory Services Manager at the flagship University of Sydney centre, Ian has recently returned from climbing Mount Vesuvius and seeing the devastation wreaked on Pompeii, energised and in awe of the power of nature.

He got hooked on volcanoes while employed as a scientist for AgResearch Ruakura, living in Hamilton in the North Island of New Zealand, where Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu were his playground.

"Volcanoes appeal to my scientific side and my love of bushwalking - or tramping," he says.

Ian joined the Charles Perkins Centre team in March to lead the development of the new labs which will be a key feature in the multimillion-dollar research and education hub, which is set to open in early 2014.

With a PhD in biomedical immunology, Ian is a former biomedical researcher who understands working in a lab from a researcher's point of view.

"My role involves setting up new systems for the labs in relation to bookings and work health and safety, and helping to develop how the collaborative spaces will work," he explains.

"Of course I'm also supporting a seamless transition into the new building, helping researchers adapt to their new environment."

That new environment includes 80-person labs - designed in consultation with researchers across the University - that will bring in a new way of working. For example, researchers will no longer have to manage numerous administration tasks, which currently take their time away from what they do best - research.

But what will it mean for people working in the new building?

"There are opportunities to truly integrate the work of different schools and faculties, as well as researchers being able to use equipment they simply would not have been able to benefit from before," says Ian.

"What makes the new set up so great is the diversity in the research and learning happening under one roof - from 'blue sky' research to clinical facilities."

A firm believer in the ethos of the centre, Ian believes that the best work is done at the interface between disciplines, and what's unique about the Charles Perkins Centre is that it will be truly cross-disciplinary.

As for running up the side of a volcano, the best we can offer at present is a few laps of the Science Road hill between meetings as part of the Global Corporate Challenge!


Find out more about the Charles Perkins Centre.


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Enquiries: Ben Wilson, 02 9351 6753, 0402 128 073, ben.wilson@sydney.edu.au