David Henry Solomon

D.Sc. 1968, Ph.D. 1959, M.Sc. 1953, University of Technology (this was the evolution of Sydney Tech to UNSW then) B.Sc. Hons 1954, ASTC, Sydney Tech College.

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I am Emeritus Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Melborne. I act as senior advisor to Professor Greg Qiao who, after spending postdoc time with me, became a convert to Polymer Science, and took over the group on my retirement.

Previously, I was Head of the School of Chemistry at University of Melbourne, Chief of the Division of Applied Organic Chemistry at CSIRO, Senior Research Scientist in CSIRO, leader of Polymer Science at Dulux.

Describe your study/employment pathway.
I worked full-time with time off to study. With ASTC this meant 3 Nights and one afternoon, and it was a five-year course. We covered at least as much science as the University of Sydney, but also some engineering and Industry visits. I gained invaluable industrial experience during this time and this was vital to success of the Banknote project.

What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
Finishing my Ph.D., was married and had great support from my wife. I was given one day a week from my firm, Dulux, to work at University, and I spent weekends at Uni. It was unusual since I had developed my own interest in Polymer Chemistry, and had invented new systems, which my employer wanted me to go to UK to further develop. AS soon as I finished my Ph.D., they sent me to UK for one year.

What achievement are you most proud of?
The work on Free Radical polymerization, which resulted in the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. The invention of the Plastic banknotes, now used worldwide was also significant. And of course my AC, Companion of the Order of Australia.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
To think outside the square. For example, when I wanted to start work on Polymers, senior scientists in Australia and overseas considered they knew it all. Turns out they were wrong. The clues to this were in polymers used in paint systems

What are your interests outside of work?
Fishing, and previously, farming Angus cattle.

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
Do an excellent science degree. It is not restrictive in what path you can take through life. I have students who are winemakers, university staff, financial planners, patent Attorneys etc…
My Industrial experience was essential in developing the World’s first Polymer (plastic) banknote with optically variable devices.

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