When I was asked to interview a staff member for the ASK blog, my thoughts instantly went to one of my first year lecturers, Dr David Bean. He’s a really great lecturer and bloke, and I enjoyed his class a lot. I caught up with David for pizza this week to catch up and find a bit more about him, and to show you guys that your lecturers are people too — and are often far more interesting than most!
Hey David, let’s get to it. What is your favourite pizza topping?
Supreme! Hahaha no generally I’m a traditionalist; I’d like the Italian, wood-fire type pizza, with fairly sparse toppings, if I was to dine out. Red Door, the new Buninyong pizza shop is really good. My all time favourite is L’artista Pizzeria in London. I used to go there for take-away pizza a lot. You watched them make the pizza dough as you wait, and one time the guy looks at me and throws the pizza dough at me. I caught it and dough flew everywhere. I threw it back to him; hopefully he didn’t use that one to make my pizza!
Now let’s actually get down to the questions. You were a lecturer for me for Introductory Microbiology in first year — what other classes do you take or are you involved in?
I lecture four subjects. In semester one I lecture Food Microbiology and Food Biotechnology, and in semester 2 I do Intro Microbiology, as you know, as well as Food Quality Management. I’m also teaching some Applied Biochemistry this semester. I also run research projects for third years in Food and Nutritional Science — it’s slightly different from Biomed, it’s a lot more hands on in Food. There are five of us in Food and Nutritional Science. I’ve done three research projects on the effects of microwaves, antimicrobial properties of plant extracts, and types of germs you find in food matter.
So are you like the head of Food?
Yep, I’m the program coordinator, the go-to-guy for anything Food and Nutrition.
Wow, you are obviously very involved in Food Science. What sort of yummies do you make in that?
The last thing we made was in my Food Biotechnology class, and the students were making cheese. We produced mozzarella and haloumi cheeses. That’s the last thing I made, and we are going to do some brewing later for food biotechnology.
What would you say the most memorable thing you’ve made to date is?
The thing which I’ve invested the most time in is a pesto product. I didn’t make that here, I made it in another life (while I was working elsewhere) which was made by UHP (ultra-high pressure processing). Normally when you produce food for the market, you need to process it; the most common way is to heat them up. This technique uses high pressure instead. It required a lot of work and a lot of challenging tests. That was probably the most challenging product I’ve been involved in designing.
Did you make this pesto product to market or was it more of an experiment?
Yes, we made them in little sachets then formed them all into a torpedo shape and put them under high pressure for a few seconds. That product went to market for a few years but it was quite expensive to make. I don’t think it was continued.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a lecturer here at FedUni? When did you start?
I started by doing my undergraduate and PhD at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand [yes, he’s a kiwi!]. I was also working in a clinical lab for about six or seven years during this time, and I became very passionate about clinical microbiology, in particular antibiotic resistance. At the time I was looking into Streptococcus pneumoniae. Once I finished my doctorate I did a bit of lecturing for a year or two, but I was looking for post-docs, which is post doctorial experience, so I moved to London to do that. I worked at Barts (Saint Bartholomew) and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry from 2003-2008, as a postdoctoral researcher, still working with antibiotic resistance, now in E. coli and Acinetobacter baumannii. In 2008 I thought I’d work in the real world a bit and I got a job at Mars, working as a Global Microbiology Manager; it was sort of a corporate level job. I was involved with all food categories: chocolate, sauces, rices, pet food, etc.. I was based in London but I was responsible for all factories globally, so I spent a lot of time on the phone and on planes. That was kind of cool, so I got a lot of experience in many environments. I had no food microbiology experience at that stage and all of a sudden I was responsible for a lot — it was a steep learning curve. I had to come to terms with a lot of methods and approaches taken all over the world. That was interesting and challenging, but by about 2012, after four years in that job, I was feeling it was a lot of time on the road and not much time for myself, so I decided to move back to my real passion which is teaching and research.
So how did you end up in Ballarat?
When I was at Mars I travelled around a lot, and one my trips brought me to the Mars factory in Ballarat. It was a beautiful day in January, the lake was beautiful, the weather was great and they showed me a great time, and when a job came up here at the uni I applied here and got it. I arrived here in July and it stayed cold and miserable for about six months and the next day was 40 degrees. That’s what brought me here but I think they sold it to me on false pretences!
Do you enjoy lecturing at Federation University? What’s the experience like compared to working for Mars or at other universities?
Do I enjoy lecturing? Oh god, yes. The students are lovely, especially the ones that buy me pizza. Oh, I better not say that. So what is it here? This is a very small university compared to others, so even my big classes are very small. When I was in your shoes as an undergraduate, I was a number. They wouldn’t know who I was if I came to them. Here, because it is so small, you have a personal rapport with students. That’s probably the biggest thing that makes this better than other universities. Obviously there’s the flipside to that, and we may not have some of the resources the big universities do, but I think lecturers are more approachable and I’d imagine it’s a friendly learning environment because the classes are smaller and you get the opportunity for interaction with your academics — you get to know people by names, rather than your lecturer saying “Student #3100579, how are you today?”
Do you have any advice for students, maybe some mistakes you see over and over again or something consistently done that works well?
Everyone should do microbiology. It’s the best subject ever, hehe. No, I think its generic study techniques that make the biggest difference, if you give them a go. Okay, I’ll be a little hypocritical because I work well under deadline pressure — but just be aware of deadlines and think about them a little earlier. Another suggestion is to thoroughly read what is expected of you in a piece of assessment. If I’ve given an exercise or a practical, and told you how to write it or to read it beforehand, if you don’t do it like that you are in trouble. Read what’s required of you, give things some thought before deadlines, and always italicise bacterial names!
Thanks heaps for your time this afternoon David, last question. Do you like ponies?
Do I like ponies? No, they’re horrible creatures.
But you seem to have something for them in the lectures. I recall you putting them on tests and practicals!
Ponies have been psychologically proven to reduce stress and make students feel more at ease. I do that for the student’s benefit. That’s a lie by the way, but it’s funny.
David is predominantly involved with sections of Health Sciences, most notable Food and Nutritional Science as well as Biomedical Science. He can be found in Y-building, always cooking either some yummy food, or a dangerous plot.