Matt Hill

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I hold a joint position between CSIRO and Monash University, and lead a collective research team that is spread across the both organisations. We undertake fundamental scientific research, as well as applied and commercial activities with industrial partners. We have recently started a spinout company called MOFWORX, and I have a role directing the science within that as well. 

Describe your study/employment pathway so far
After completing my PhD at UNSW in Chemistry, I undertook a postdoc with CSIRO followed be secondments to University of California, Berkeley, and University of Colorado at Boulder. After this I established my own team. In 2016, I accepted a joint role with Monash in an effort to bridge the divide between fundamental and applied research. 

What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
Transitioning from pure research to applied and then commercial activities has been tricky but fun. In my view, the closer you are to an application as a scientist, the better your fundamental research will be, as you develop a better feel for the problem. 

What achievement are you most proud of?
Probably the successful development of other scientists, watching them first flourish in my team, and then in other fields of employment. It pleases me that whilst some have stayed in research, many have found opportunities in other areas. 

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
Technical excellence in the field is a given, but after that personal attributes such as resilience, strategic thinking, trustworthiness and open-mindedness seem important. 

How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
I am fortunate to still undertake a large amount of chemistry in my role. However, more generally, I learnt useful problem solving and strategic thinking skills as a student, and these skills as crucial in my present role as a leader. 

What are your interests outside of work?
I’ve played golf for many years, and have reached a level of mediocre competency that gets me out in the fresh air. Over the years, I’ve been on the boards of a few not-for-profit companies, which has been enjoyable, but I’m still holding out for the call to say I have been chosen for the Australian cricket team, which I know will come one day, my age and lack of talent notwithstanding. 

What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
Being able to delegate is the only way I have found. Sure, someone else might undertake the task differently to how you might, but if you insist on everything being done ‘your way’, then you’ll never get home at the end of the day. Of course, I have had the advantage of a wife working part time to allow me more time in the office. 

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
Immerse yourself in the research side of science as soon as possible. Passing exams and going to lectures is one thing, but research, where you can do everything right, but still not get a result, because, well, it’s research, is a different concept. Some students love it, others not so much. Familiarising yourself with research early allows you to get a sense of what a career in it might be like.

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