Jeff Tallon – Asking The Big Questions

  Jeff’s internationally renowned research focuses on high-Tc superconductors (HTS), particularly the physics and materials science of HTS – thermodynamics, magnetism, electronic transport properties, novel materials, and flux pinning. He’s been a research scientist for 46 years – working through three versions of the same government body – DSIR, IRL, and now, Callaghan Innovation. During that time, he’s accrued extensive experience in the value of investigator-led science to industry, developing a belief that “the best scientists are actually good business people,” since the required tool kit is the same: they’re people anchored in reality, materiality, engaged in an intellectual endeavour, and used to having to knock on many doors to get the answers they need. His practical engagement with the science enterprise is tempered by his experience of the commonality of a sense of awe when using science to describe the world. He’s a huge advocate of the importance of scientists getting out into the world, engaging with communities and connecting with the public on the mutually observed premise that the universe is amazing. Jeff’s delighted that the chemistry sets and crystal sets of his childhood are replicated in the live transmission of data from the Hubble telescope or the international interest in the Higgs particle. He observes that his sense of the ordinariness of his engagement with science as a child still rings true; as a parent and grandparent he can see that children are still naturally inquisitive and eager to think creatively, so that with the right exposure to opportunities to explore science further, the future will be in good hands. Jeff’s keen to see more projects that bring together the collective expertise of the MacDiarmid Institute PIs and AIs to address large-scale questions with critical science or technology applications in the MacDiarmid Institute’s future, suggesting that it is time to move from a collection of distributed capabilities to a collective that purposefully sets out to respond to societal and/or industrial need, with the applications of magnets and DNA sequencing being two areas he sees as full of potential for the future.