Health Physicist Lyall Munslow-Davies, whose career at UWA spans well over 40 years, was recently awarded the UWA Chancellor's Medal for his outstanding contribution to the University, and his vision and leadership in medical, research and industrial radiation, legislation and laboratory safety and design.
Lyall has spent his life turning his passion into a profession and at 80 years of age, his work history is impressive.
“I’m very lucky to be able to come to work and do what I love most, I’ve always enjoyed the stimulation and challenges my work has provided. When I started out, radioactive tracer research in Australia was just getting underway and I was in the right place at the right time,” he says.
From his early days at Bunbury High School, Lyall was interested in scientific and construction development which was facilitated by his father who taught manual arts, and his physics teacher who later became his mentor.
Lyall started work as an electronics technician working on x-ray and electro-medical equipment in Western Australian hospitals and within five years was involved in administering the State's first Radioactive Substances Act. This work included radiotherapy and assisting in the design of industrial, medical and research radiation and radioactive substance facilities.
“From this point on my interests began to change. I could see the field was opening up considerably in medicine, research and industry but there was little expertise in Australia. And I knew I wanted to be involved in the whole gamut," he says.
So in the mid-60s, Lyall packed up his family and moved to the UK where he obtained his master’s degree from the University of Surrey. Here he was the first person to receive a distinction for his work in radiation protection.
Lyall returned to WA and became the qualified expert on radiation and radioactive substances, and co-wrote the Radiation Safety Act 1975, which is still implemented today.
With the growing use of radiology, lasers, nuclear medicine and research in the 70s, came the need to set up a dedicated radiation protection service at the QEII Medical Centre. Following world-wide advertising, Lyall won the role and became the specialist at the centre.
Although he had been assisting the UWA Radiation Safety Committee from the early 1960s, Lyall transitioned to UWA’s official radiation protection officer in 1978.
“The Radiation Protection Office was significant in the development, management, teaching and practical handling techniques of radiation, radioactive substances and lasers for the QEII and UWA campuses. Over three thousand people have successfully passed the unsealed radioactive substances handling course which we have been running since 1978,” he says.
Throughout his time at UWA, Lyall has made many outstanding contributions and has been instrumental in laboratory safety, electrical safety, compressed gases safety and the design of more than 20 buildings and facilities at the University.
Lyall is still enthused by what he does and shows no signs of slowing down. “Although my job description is about safety, I have always been a research scientist at heart and if I can still impart knowledge and assist others, then I know I’ve done my job.”