5 Minutes with Bill Pritchard
September 12 2016
We talk to Professor Bill Pritchard, Associate Dean for Honours in Geosciences, about his research, his work with honours students and the University’s Honours Week, from 12 to 16 September.
Geosciences Honours Information Session is on 14 Sep, 2-3pm @ Madsen Conference Room 449 - everyone welcome
What is your background and why did you decide to join the University?
I joined the University in 1998. Before that, I had stints in the NSW Premier’s Department and as a ministerial adviser in Parliament House, Canberra. Working in the government sector had its attractions, but in my heart I knew I wanted a career in research and teaching.
What are the highlights and challenges of your role?
During the past few years I’ve been privileged to lead some large research projects in rural India and rural Myanmar. The opportunity to visit these places for a purpose, and to meet and work with some extremely talented colleagues from these countries, is a highlight of my job. Working in these places is not without its challenges, but the highlights overshadow the difficulties.
Back in Sydney, in my role as Associate Dean for Honours in the Faculty of Science, I get to see the incredible student talent at this university. In the Faculty of Science, we have more than 300 honours students enrol each year. With staff in the faculty office, I check their transcripts to ensure incoming honours students meet eligibility requirements. The performance of some of our top students is truly breathtaking.
Of what achievement are you most proud?
Since coming to the University I’ve supervised 36 honours students. I can remember each and every student, and the broad outline of their research projects.
I get to see the incredible student talent at this university. In the Faculty of Science, we have more than 300 honours students enrol each year ... The performance of some of our top students is truly breathtaking.
What projects are you working on with your colleagues?
I have two active ARC-funded research projects. One of these is in rural India and is investigating what happens to agriculture in villages when men leave to find jobs in larger towns and cities. I’m currently supervising an honours student who joined our team for 2016 and has just completed 53 interviews with the wives of male migrants.
The second project is assessing the connections between livelihood decision-making and nutrition in rural Myanmar. As part of this project, earlier this year our team interviewed 3340 households across 120 villages in some quite remote parts of the country. I’m anticipating we’ll have an honours student join our team next year and be involved in the next round of interview-based data collection.
How can staff get involved with Honours Week?
All schools and disciplines in the University will be hosting honours information sessions for prospective students. Individual academic staff members can talk to their local honours coordinators about pitching ideas for new honours projects.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by new and challenging ideas. They can come out of all kinds of places.
What is your favourite spot on campus?
Ralph’s café (in the Arena Sports Centre).
If you could give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t have a mullet in photos of the Year 12 formal.
During Honours Week all schools and disciplines in the University will be hosting honours information sessions for prospective students. Individual academic staff members can talk to their local honours coordinators about pitching ideas for new honours projects.
Please answer this question from a previous “Five minutes with” participant, Mark Dadds: What is it that you love about science?
I love the open-endedness of enquiry. The most difficult thing is not to find an answer but to frame the question in the correct way. Enquiry is like a staircase – one step leads to another.