Professor Gordon Wallace, Dr Willo Grosse, Charles Dodd, Melissa Hall, and Dr Jen Halldorsson. Photo: Mark Newsham

UOW graduates share career adventures at annual Leon Kane-Maguire Address

UOW graduates share career adventures at annual Leon Kane-Maguire Address

Outstanding chemistry students receive annual prize

Two up-and-coming researchers shared their career experiences when the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) hosted the annual Leon Kane-Maguire Address on Tuesday night (9 May).

The address commemorates and celebrates Professor Kane-Maguire’s contribution to research, wicked sense of humour, communication of science, and mentoring of the next generation of researchers. Based at UOW, Professor Kane-Maguire was one of Australia’s leading scientists in Materials Science.

Dr Jen Halldorsson and Dr Willo Grosse, who both completed their PhDs at UOW, each delivered a presentation highlighting their evolutions from science students to leaders in their respective fields.

With a diverse background in research, leadership education, and change making, Dr Halldorsson is passionate about the connections between people and nature. She currently works in product stewardship at BlueScope Steel and dedicates her time to making a positive difference on the sustainability and social justice challenges that are facing humanity.

Titled Chemistry, Sustainability + the Land of Fire and Ice: A Love Story, Dr Halldorsson’s presentation explored the insights she has gained during her journey from a chemistry student to a sustainable professional, including a pivotal time spent in Iceland. She aimed to inspire others to follow their passions and make a difference in their communities.

Dr Willo Grosse, who graduated from the Australian Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science with her PhD, delivered a presentation titled The Versatile Scientific Method. Dr Grosse’s career journey has taken her from academia to business consultant, from entrepreneur to research commercialisation.

Since 2020 she has built an international business helping ambitious women achieve their goals. As a mindset coach and leader, empowering people to design and live their best life has proven to be her most meaningful and impactful work to date. Dr Grosse’s talk examined how the scientific method has been the common thread throughout her unique career.

During the event, two current students also received the annual Leon Kane-Maguire Student Award. The award is presented to the student or students who achieved the highest weighted average mark in the subjects of chemistry and nanotechnology, as part of their UOW School of Chemistry Honours degree.

Melissa Hall and Charles Dodds were named the joint winners of the 2023 Leon Kane-Maguire Student Award.

Melissa completed her Honours in Chemistry at UOW last year and said she has always been drawn to the field of chemistry. Previously, Melissa had graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Medicinal Chemistry) followed by a Master of Pharmacy.

A pharmacist with NSW Health, Melissa was thrilled to be the joint recipient of the Student Award.

“I have a strong appreciation for comprehending the fundamental principles of life and the world around us, of which chemistry constitutes an indispensable part. I also enjoy the art of problem solving, which is a crucial aptitude in the study of chemistry. I always had a strong passion to pursue a career when I had a meaningful impact on the lives of others.,” Melissa said.

“I am very honoured to be a recipient of the Leon Kane-Maguire Prize. I am very grateful to the Kane-Maguire family for their ongoing contribution to the UOW School of Chemistry and providing the opportunity for students to be recognised.”

Melissa Hall and Charles Dodd at the Leon Kane Maguire Address. Photo: Mark Newsham Melissa Hall and Charles Dodds. 

Since completing his Bachelor of Bionanotechnology (Honours) last year, Charles Dodd has been working as a research and development chemist for an Australian company that specialises in the production of food and industry goods. He, too, was delighted to be recognised for his academic achievements during the Leon Kane-Maguire Address.

“Continued research into the medical applications of chemistry and nanotechnology has significant implications of the development of novel disease treatments. In studying these areas, I became interested in the chemical processes that underly the functions of a healthy human body and the technology advancements that have improved patient outcomes,” Charles said.

“I am truly honoured to be receiving the Leon Kane-Maguire Award. It is a privilege to have my efforts recognised by the Kane-Maguire family and the School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience. I am also thankful for all the academic staff, friends and family that offered mentorship and support during my degree.”

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Research and Sustainable Futures) Professor David Currow said the annual Leon Kane-Maguire Address was an opportunity to hear from the best and brightest in the field of materials science.

“It is always wonderful to hear from outstanding graduates who have gone on to pursue unique and interesting careers, underpinned by the exceptional education they received at UOW. I am looking forward to hearing from Dr Halldorsson and Dr Grosse, two passionate entrepreneurs and researchers, and their career journeys,” Professor Currow said.

“I also offer my congratulations to Melissa and Charles, on behalf of the University, for receiving the Leon Kane-Maguire Student Award, a reflection of their hard work and dedication to their studies.”