Chris Marjo

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I head an instrument facility that is part of the Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre at UNSW Sydney. My team of 11 scientists specialise in chemical analysis, X-ray diffraction and surface analysis.

Describe your study/employment pathway.
I studied applied chemistry at UTS, PhD in synthetic organic chemistry at UNSW, and did postdoctoral research at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, and then the University of Nottingham in the UK. I came back to Australia to work as a computer programmer, then eventually running a manufacturing business making printing ink and surface coatings for the paperboard industry. I finally moved back to UNSW ten years ago to help build our Analytical Centre.

What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
After my second postdoc in the UK, I felt I had done enough scientific research and needed to reinvent my career. In order to make the move back to Australia, I took a computer programming job that eventually lead to a management role.

What achievement are you most proud of?
My part helping to build our Analytical Centre at the University of NSW. In ten years, we have created some world-class laboratories, and help facilitate some great science with UNSW researchers.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
Creativity, optimism, problem solving skills, an appetite for new ideas.

How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
Chemistry provides insights into many disciplines like materials science, engineering, geology, and biology. Researchers in all these areas use our instruments, and this gives me an opportunity to collaborate with experts in those fields.

What are your interests outside of work?
Surfing, more a passion than a talent.

What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
When busy at work it’s good to be just as busy away from work - travel, surfing, family, travel, music, cooking...whatever. It rebuilds your creativity and enthusiasm.

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
One of the best skills you receive from an undergraduate science degree is the ability to learn complex new ideas, not just in science but in any field. This can lead to new opportunities in science and beyond.

Is there anything you would like to share?
Many people in the middle of their career tell me their younger selves would not have imagined what they are doing now.

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