The measure of an incurable engineer
As an early career researcher, Alan Finkel discovered three things. First, that for him, perfecting the instruments was far more interesting than doing the experiments. Second, that the work of many scientists could be dramatically accelerated by an instrumentation breakthrough achieved by even a single engineer. And third, that the key to personal success was to be that engineer, and study the leading-edge laboratory tools intently – because they hold the seeds of the truly disruptive technologies to come.
Dr Finkel reflects on his journey from post-doc, through industry, to his current position as Australia’s Chief Scientist; and shares the lessons learned along the way for engineers with the taste for measurement instrumentation.
Dr Finkel commenced as Australia’s Chief Scientist on 25 January 2016. He is Australia’s eighth Chief Scientist. Prior to becoming Chief Scientist, he was the eighth Chancellor of Monash University and the eighth President of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).
Since commencing as Chief Scientist, Dr Finkel has led a number of national reviews, delivering the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, the 2017 Review into the National Electricity Market (“Finkel Review”) and the 2018 STEM Industry Partnership Forum report. He serves as the Deputy Chair of Innovation and Science Australia.
Dr Finkel has an extensive science background as an entrepreneur, engineer, neuroscientist and educator. He was awarded his PhD in electrical engineering from Monash University and worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in neuroscience at the Australian National University.
In 1983 he founded Axon Instruments, a California-based, ASX-listed company that made precision scientific instruments. After Axon was sold in 2004, Dr Finkel became a director of the acquiring company.
In 2006, he focused his career in Australia and undertook a wide range of activities including co-founding Cosmos Magazine. During his time at ATSE, he led the development and implementation of the STELR program for secondary school science.