When Professor David Day flew in from Adelaide earlier this year for a retreat involving scientists from The University of Western Australia, it was almost like a family reunion, with him as the ‘great-grandfather’.
David is a Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology (PEB) and, in effect, is responsible for cultivating a crop of eminent plant researchers who now all work with PEB.
At the retreat, David caught up with his colleagues, including Harvey Millar, who was a PhD student of David’s in the mid-1990s. Harvey is now a Winthrop Professor at the School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences.
Then in the early 2000s, both Harvey and David went on to supervise the PhD work of Nicolas Taylor, who is now a Research Assistant Professor at PEB.
“David’s wealth of knowledge continues to be awe-inspiring. When I’m designing ‘new’ experiments, often he’ll remind me to look at a paper from before I was born, and often the answer was already there!” says Nicolas.
And in the latest example of academic cross-fertilisation, Nicolas and Harvey have teamed up to supervise the PhD work of Richard Jacoby, who is investigating the molecular mechanisms of salinity tolerance in Australian wheat varieties.
“I’m the beneficiary of a tremendous amount of accumulated knowledge. On a weekly basis, I will use mitochondrial isolation procedures optimised by David in the 1980s in France, protein gel techniques optimised by Harvey at Oxford in the late 1990s, and mass spectrometry techniques optimised by Nic here at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology,” says Richard.
Or as Professor Day, who is also Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research at Flinders University, puts it: “If the relationship between supervisor and student is thought of as paternal or maternal, that makes me Richard’s ‘great-grandfather’!”
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