2009 Invitrogen Education Award: Graham Parslow

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Melbourne

I enjoy seeing young people challenge themselves to achieve understanding and purpose in their lives. Over 40 years of teaching, I have achieved great satisfaction from students who have told me that they enjoy my classes and that my association with them has motivated their career choices. Born in 1948, I grew up in Edithburgh, a country town in South Australia that provided a good life for me as a boy. Primary school was fairly regimented with “readin’, ‘ritin’, ‘rithmetic” and scribbling with nibbed pens and ink. In secondary school, Mark Backhouse, my science and Latin teacher, inspired me to love learning. Those were the days when I could go to Selby’s and buy anything I needed for my home chemistry experiments. I went to Flinders University in 1966 as an indentured teaching student co-enrolled at Sturt Teachers College. Professor Richardson, head of Sturt College, was passionate about teaching and regarded it as the most important of professions. He believed that teachers in the 1960s needed a better education than their predecessors and encouraged his teaching students to take five years to graduate with an Honours degree and Dip Ed. In my Honours year (1969), I was guided into biochemistry by Lee Burgoyne and Maurice Atkinson, and I attended my first Australian Biochemical Society conference. I later took postgraduate studies at the University of Adelaide with Bill Elliott, who was a great teacher in every respect and I learnt much from him and still enjoy our exchanges. Bill appointed me as a tutor at Adelaide and encouraged my pioneering efforts to establish what has become multimedia. Bill also initiated the events that led me to join Ed Wood for a sabbatical period in Leeds (1986-7).

Teaching at university later became my career. I came to the University of Melbourne in 1991 as a lecturer and I owe particular gratitude to Bill Sawyer, Bruce Livett and Dick Wettenhall for the opportunities this provided. The medical students I taught in 1998 voted me the winner of the inaugural Medal for Excellence in medical teaching at the University of Melbourne. This award meant a great deal to me because it acknowledged that university teaching was an important activity. Career advancement through teaching at universities has been historically difficult, but the situation is improving as hearts and minds follow the rhetoric of rewarding excellence in teaching. The purpose of teaching has hardly changed since Plato, but the practice has changed dramatically in my lifetime. ASBMB has been a lifelong constant in my personal development, with many friendships, particularly those with Philip Kuchel and Sally and Chris Jay, being made and maintained through ASBMB activities. The conferring of the Invitrogen Award is only one of many debts of gratitude I owe to the Society. I have contributed to the Society in various roles, including Newsletter Editor and founding Education Special Interest Group Chair.