29 July 2014 3 Comments
Born and bred in England, he did a bunch of degrees at the University of Cambridge—first a bachelor’s and a master’s in Mathematics and then a doctorate in Mathematical Biology—before moving out to Perth.
The content of Francis’s research is gradually including more biology every year. At the University of Western Australia he works in bioengineering and biofluids, developing models of knee cartilage damage and repair to understand and prevent the onset of osteoarthritis.
He maintains side interests in pattern formation, self-organisation, and microswimmer propulsion.
I’m every Aussie’s least favourite invader: a grubby, plummy pom.
But unlike the other half million of us here in Perth, I’m not here for the sun, sand or surf.
I’m here for the science.
Nearly a year ago, I left the crumbling mortar of England to take up my first postdoc, far away at the University of Western Australia. I’d never switched university before, let alone moved country, so I was a little apprehensive.
Will they understand me? Do I need special gloves to deal with all the redbacks? Can I apply sunscreen fast enough to keep up with the sunburn?
I needn’t have worried. Confusion, spiders, and sunburn have all been minimal, and I’ve settled in just fine. I don’t yet ask “how ya going?”, and “Australia” still has four syllables, but I’ve happily accepted the flat white and long black as the two coffees to rule them all.
The first thing I learned is that Australia is really rather far away from England. I always knew this on paper, but the soul-sucking malaise of twenty hours in the air made it feel very real indeed. The journey isn’t getting any easier with practice, either (and being forced to pause in Baku doesn’t help).
Thankfully, the malaise didn’t last, and the distance receded once I’d wrapped my head around the novel avian and arboreal life forms. With somewhere to live and the city sussed out, it didn’t feel so alien anymore. Before I knew it, a couple of weeks had gone by and it was time to start work.
Moving to Australia didn’t mean existing research connections had to languish, so I soon resumed interacting with colleagues in Europe and North America over the all-connecting Internet.
That’s when the perception of distance came back, and this time with tyranny.