1. Tell us a bit about yourself including what brought you to ANU.
I am originally from Northern Ireland. Prior to moving to Canberra, I lived and worked in London and then in Melbourne. My main motivation for applying to work at ANU was the desire to find a welcoming intellectual home in Australia, which is supportive and where colleagues will each other on to succeed.
When our Vice-Chancellor (Prof Brian Schmidt AC, FAA, FRS) talks about the ANU ‘community’, this has certainly been my experience – there is a real sense of community and collegiality here. In addition, we are so lucky to be working surrounded by beautiful campus grounds and as staff members we are immersed in the beauty of Australian wildlife and scenery every single day.
2. What inspired you to become an academic?
I’m the first out of all generations in my family to attend university and I’ve always viewed third-level education as a real privilege. My great-grandfather, my grandad and his brother, and then my dad, had a tough seven-year apprenticeship to become blacksmiths – I guess the LLB, masters and PhD was my version of an apprenticeship!
My biggest joy is now watching students I have mentored and supervised, having commenced their PhDs and first academic jobs. I love all aspects of being an academic – the freedom to research and critically engage with concepts, generate new ideas and meet many amazing people along that journey; teaching the ‘now’ generation and learning from them, as well as engaging with civil society and policymakers. I think it is one of the best jobs in the world - we are so lucky!
3. How do you relax away from university?
I love spending time with people and linking that in with trips to great coffee shops; independent bookstores; galleries and museums. One of my four ‘A’ Levels (akin to year 12 in Australia) was in Art and Design, being creative is another way I relax – in particular, I love drawing, watercolour painting and working with ink. I always have music playing in the background and love attending live music. I also enjoy the outdoors and being active. The gym has always been a way to unwind after work.
4. What was your dream job as a child?
I wanted to become a children’s medical doctor.
5. If you could meet one historical figure, who would it be?
6. Who’s your favourite fictional character?
Emma Harte in the book, A Woman of Substance.
7. What’s a project or hobby you’re currently working on that motivates you?
I have just commenced an Australian Research Council-funded Discovery Project with four inspiring women and I’m really excited about it. Their commitment to high-quality empirical research, critical scholarship, impact, engagement and genuine mentoring, motivates me every day!
8. What’s your favourite quote?
"Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes." ~ Maggie Kuhn
9. What was the last book you read?
I actually usually have about 3-4 books I read at the same time on my bedside table. Sometimes I finish these around the same time too. The last books I finished were:
Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass R. Sunstein;
Self-Contained: A Memoir of a Lifelong Single, by Emma John; and The Other Black Girl: A Novel, by Zakiya Dalila Harris.
10. What’s an underrated movie?
The Quiet Man (1952). It’s a classic set in the West of Ireland and I think way too underrated in my generation. Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne are outstanding in it.
11. What’s your favourite dish?
Australia has broadened my horizons cooking and restaurant choice wise – we have access to such amazing fresh produce here. My favourite dish is barramundi and salad, as well as Vietnamese and Thai food. However, any dish prepared by my mum or dad (slow cooked on our 1920s oil-fired AGA) is also my favourite dish!
12. What do you like about Canberra?
Canberra is homely, friendly and the wildlife and outdoors are incredibly beautiful.
13. What’s your favourite song or playlist to work to?
I absolutely love music. Spotify is always on in my office, at home or when I’m out exercising. Someone just introduced me to Joel Legett’s ‘Part of Me’, so it’s a new favourite. I also love The Staves, Kodaline, Hozier, Coldplay, Fleetwood Mac, Michael Dunstan, the music list goes on…
14. What’s a skill you’d like to learn?
I had to started to learn sign-language, but it’s a skill I’d like to fully master.
15. What’s the secret to successful online teaching/research?
Communication, enthusiasm, patience and a willingness to evaluate, pivot and learn from what has worked or what hasn’t.
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