Nial Wheate

BSc (Hons 1) 1998 and PhD 2002
What is your current position, and what do you do?
I am the coordinator of the Bachelor of Pharmacy program at The University of Sydney.
Describe your study/employment pathway so far
I’ve had the most round-about career. I started as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy one month after finishing year 12. While at the Australian Defence Force Academy (UNSW) I completed a BSc and PhD in chemistry. After my study, I held appointments in a variety of military units including the Joint Health Support Agency and the Sea Power Centre – Australia. When I left the Navy, I worked at Western Sydney University as a research-focused senior fellow, which was followed by a lectureship in the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. I started my current academic role in 2012 as a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Pharmacy at Sydney University.
What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
Acquiring overseas experience to secure a permanent academic position back in Australia. It’s a hard decision to pack up your life and your family and commit to living overseas for 2-5 years.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Biggest achievement (or lack of achievement) has been the publication of 80 research papers, patents and book chapters to date without ever obtaining an ARC or NHMRC grant.
What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
The most important attribute a scientist needs, beyond a love of scientific discovery, is the ability to write. So much of the job requires this skill: preparing lecturing slides, writing grant applications, authoring research articles. A scientist who can’t right well, or quickly, has no time left to actually do science.
How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
Chemistry underpins everything to do with pharmacy and medicines. The skills I have learnt in my chemistry degree I put to good use in my research designing new drug molecules and drug delivery systems.

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