Dianne King grew up in Alice Springs, 1200km from the nearest ocean – but that didn’t stop her forging an early career in competitive swimming.
However, after once being ranked fifth Australia-wide for her age group in the 400m freestyle, Dianne’s career path took a different route.
“I always knew I wanted to study marine science at university – it seemed like the perfect way to combine my love of science and the environment.
“When I was in Year 10, I turned down a training opportunity with the Australian Institute of Sport’s swimming program so I could focus on my studies,” she said.
Luckily, competing in championships around the country had given Dianne the opportunity to visit different cities – and through this she decided Perth was where she wanted to study.
After finishing her science degree, Dianne joined UWA’s Environmental Research Laboratory in 2005.
“Being a teaching and research technician (research officer) offered amazing variety; I went on field trips to the Kimberley, Exmouth, Albany and Coffs Harbour as part of our research projects.
“We were one of the first groups to conduct water sampling in the Kimberley and contributed data towards environmental management.
“One day, just before sunset, our team was sitting in the dinghy and listening to whale songs. You can’t beat that for a workplace!” she said.
One year ago, Dianne transitioned into a management role. Now, she oversees a diverse team of eight expert technicians who work in various physics and engineering disciplines.
One of her biggest challenges has been relocating laboratories to accommodate construction on the EZONE UWA Student Hub.
“It took more than a year of preparation to shift our laboratories across the Civil and Mechanical Engineering building and to Shenton Park. It’s not like moving house – we’ve had to allow for gas connections, fume cupboards, chemical sumps and other services.
“It was quite an achievement to combine our teaching and research requirements with moving major infrastructure, including wave flumes, to Shenton Park and shifting many pallets of equipment into storage! We were back to full operational capacity within a couple of months like a well-oiled machine.
“When the student hub opens, we’ll have a new hydraulics teaching lab, environmental field staging area, structures teaching lab and mechanical teaching lab. I think our facilities will be on par with some of the best engineering universities in the world and it’s really exciting to be part of this.
“The new building will give our students more opportunities to interact with industry and researchers and transform the whole student experience in a very positive way,” she said.
If Dianne ever grows tired of WA’s beautiful oceans, there will always be a place for her in Alice Springs, her ‘home away from home.’
“I love the open space and sense of relaxation in such a small town. Plus, I’m famous – the Alice Spring Town Pool still has a plaque with my old swimming record on it!” Dianne laughs.