Lyn Beazley interview, 21 July 2014, 4 August 2014 and 14 August 2014

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Lyn Beazley interview, 21 July 2014, 4 August 2014 and 14 August 2014




Professor Lyn Beazley is an adjunct staff member of UWA (1976-2013). She was appointed Chief Scientist of Western Australia in 2006. The Chief Scientist of Western Australia is an independent advisor to the State Government providing advice on topics that are important to the future of science in Western Australia. Reporting directly to the Minister for Science, the Chief Scientist of Western Australia is supported by the Office of Science. Lyn retired from this role in 2014.
Lyn was awarded Officer of the Order of Australia in January 2009 and made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering later that year.
After her education at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities, Lyn built up an internationally renowned research team that focused on recovery from brain damage, much of the research done at the University of Western Australia.
Lyn has served on numerous bodies advising State and Federal Governments, including advisory boards to the Australian Research Council, the Australian Synchrotron and Western Australia’s Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) Fund.
She is a member of several boards such as The Institute for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA).
Lyn is also a member of the new Technology and Industry Advisory Council (TIAC) to the Western Australian Government. In March 2011, she was inducted into the inaugural Western Australian Women’s Hall of Fame.
Lyn is currently a Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies and the Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Professor of Science.
She is married with three daughters.


Beazley, Lyn


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Julia Wallis


Lyn Beazley


Interview 1: 55 minutes, 8 seconds
Interview 2: 1 hour, 3 minutes, 50 seconds
Interview 3: 49 minutes, 53 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 48 minutes, 51 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Lynda (“Lyn”) Dent Beazley was born in Gravesend, Kent, UK and educated at Gravesend Girls’ Grammar School. The school had excellent science teachers and on a trip with her Botany class Lyn visited Down House , the home of Charles Darwin, saw his specimens and was able to look through his microscope. This cemented her interest in Biology. Lyn was the first one in her family to go to University and was accepted into Somerville College, Oxford. The college was very science focussed and a previous student Dorothy Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. After a first year of Botany and Zoology, Lyn switched to Zoology. She studied under Nikolaas Tinbergen who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz for their discoveries concerning organisation and elicitation of individual and social behaviour patterns in animals. The course included the study of biochemistry and physiology. There was a large practical component in labs and field trips such as Wytham Woods.
09:57 There were 40 students doing Zoology - half men and half women. The degree took three years. Lyn did a summer job as a research assistant working at McGill University in Montreal. While at Oxford, she attended an evening lecture with Dr Mike Gaze from Edinburgh University on his work on brain recovery after injury and how to restore sight. Lyn won a scholarship to do a PhD at the Physiology Department at Edinburgh University. Her study was based on the development of the nervous system in frogs, how the eye connects up with the brain and how those broken connections can be regrown. She was three years in Edinburgh and met her future husband, Richard, a medical student, here. Lyn joined a student charity called Children’s Holiday Venture (a bit like Camp for Kids).
14:49 When she had finished her PhD, Richard had graduated but needed to stay in Edinburgh to gain experience as a junior doctor. Lyn worked as a research assistant in the Psychology Department at Edinburgh. In the evening and weekends she set up her own lab and applied for funds from the Science Research Council to pursue her own research in neuroscience from 1970 to 1975. By this time the couple had a daughter and were looking for somewhere where they could both work so began to look overseas. Luckily they were both offered jobs at UWA.
20:02 Lyn had a 2 year university research fellowship in the Psychology Department and then switched to National Health and Medical Research Council Funding which continued until 1994. They had two more daughters here and settled in Perth. They knew nothing about UWA. Lyn was not offered the fare for her husband and daughter whereas Richard was! Lyn queried this and UWA offered her a bigger travel allowance which enabled her to bring her lab equipment out and set up really quickly. They stayed in a motel in South Perth and then were given University accommodation in Monash Avenue. The Tuart Club provided the basics until their household items arrived. They were made to feel very welcome.
27:23 Lyn was employed by Psychology to work on vision with Professor John Ross who generously allowed her to set up a research team in her area of study. Neuroscience was a new and upcoming area.
32:14 Lyn was struck by the beauty of the UWA campus and how friendly everyone was. She was invited onto committees and boards to ensure female representation both at UWA and on national committees. Psychology sat under the Arts and the Science Faculties. Lyn worked with the Zoology Department and the Pathology Department. At one point Science split into Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences and Natural and Agricultural Sciences. They have now merged again. Lyn moved into Zoology in 1994. Zoology at UWA was more specialised whereas Zoology at Oxford covered everything. Lyn came in as Professor of Zoology. She brought a team in with her including Sarah Dunlop (now Winthrop Professor and Head of School) and Shaun Collin (now Winthrop Professor). There was only one other female in the department before her arrival and the department had recently moved from Crawley Avenue into the new premises.
41:19 Lyn began working on how the nervous system forms and repairs itself using Australian marsupials. Shaun Collin was studying how the nervous system worked in different types of animals. There was a belief that marsupials could not see colour which the team disproved. Shaun is now the world leader on shark vision.
46:14 The Department had once worked closely with Perth Zoo but the zoo is now a research institution itself. UWA students go into a huge range of different careers. Lyn set up a vacation scholarship scheme and they have relationships with the University of Bath and some Dutch universities.
50:23 Unlike Oxford, UWA has no physical connection with the city of Perth. This made it easier to commute to and from work and fit in with a young family. However, it does make it harder for UWA to build strong links with industry government and community due to its physical separateness.

Interview 2

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Lyn came to UWA on a Research Fellowship Scheme which lasted for 3 years. Then she switched to National Health and Medical Research Council funding. The NHMRC was expanding their Career Fellowships programme. It was Federal Government funding which supplied a salary and appointed the grantee to a scheme that was part of a fellowship programme. This gave the Fellow a career structure which matched that of the universities. Lyn was a Principal Fellow which was equal to Associate Professor level. Lyn was research only staff unlike the teaching and research staff who were appointed by the university. Research only staff couldn’t supervise students in their own right. There could also be a disparity in the salary that was paid by UWA and NHMRC. Professor Nigel Laing was very strong in making the UWA Senate recognise and address this inequality. The university grew its research profile by attracting these fellowships.
06:59 In late 1993, Lyn had built up a large research group but decided that she needed more professional stability and wanted to switch across to a teaching and research job. She managed to get a very prestigious 5 year programme grant in 1992 or 1993 to research the development and regeneration of the visual system. This was the only NHMRC programme grant awarded in Australia that year. Lyn put this grant together along with Professor Sarah Dunlop and Professor Shaun Collin and PhD student Alison Harman who is now involved in special needs teaching.
09:41 Lyn did not hold an undergraduate degree in Psychology so could not hold a Chair there. She was looking for jobs elsewhere but fortunately UWA had just introduced the fast track path to professor scheme. Lyn got the job offer on 24 December and had the option of choosing between Biochemistry and Zoology. The staff in Zoology had just moved from Crawley Avenue to a new purpose built building located at the southern end of campus. The staff took a vote to accept Lyn and her team.
15:31 Lyn was happy to be back in the Zoology Department and took on some first and second year teaching. Then she taught a third year unit in comparative neuroscience (in animals). This was a new degree set up by UWA. At one stage it was not easy to work across faculties but UWA were keen to support initiatives between them. Lyn did joint projects with Professor John Papadimitriou in the Pathology Department and with the Lions Eye Institute.
18:51 Lyn was only Head of Zoology for a short time as she was heading the research and could only carry about half of the teaching load. She was head briefly (for about 9 months) between Professor Don Bradshaw and Professor Dale Roberts while Dale was on sabbatical leave. Lyn was looking at equity issues across the university and particularly in Zoology. It took some time to “bed down’ the department when they moved into the new premises. Dr Jane Prince assisted by passing on her knowledge of first year teaching. Zoology is a wide-ranging discipline but everyone is there because they love their subject and they were all interested in what each other were doing. Lyn was fascinated by Phil Withers’ work on moles in the South African deserts.
22:26 Social interaction outside work was difficult for the female staff due to family commitments. The department had barbecues and events and social events after seminars. Barriers were broken down on field trips. Mike Johnson got a grant to take his Ecology students to Ningaloo Reef. Zoology technical staff such as Wally Gibb provided fantastic support. Wally knew all about native animals. Where possible the students were given live animals to study. Quokkas were Lyn’s main research area. The second year students studied quokkas on Rottnest as well as reef structure, tracking wasps that made nests in mud, the migratory birds and the salt lakes. They stayed overnight and cooked all their own meals. The students were in small enough groups to get a great deal of practical experience and to get to know each other. Zoology had a high number of romances and marriages!
29:03 The students also did group projects especially in their Honours year. The quokka colony used by UWA was on the north side of Stirling Highway in the old Zoology Department. The overflow colony was at the UWA Underwood Campus. The quokkas like the protection of grass trees. Some of them were tame and others had to be caught in a net. The researchers measured the young and were interested in how the eye developed.
34:53 The Zoology Department had links with other universities in the world. Dr Jenny Rodger came from Bath University. UWA students did not travel overseas but overseas students visited UWA. Sabbatical overseas visitors came for up to a year. Some Zoology students visited study sites at Jurien Bay or in the Dryandra Woodland. Dr Tony Friend of the then Department of Environment and Conservation (located at Matilda Bay) helped students (such as Dr Catherine Arrese ) to study animals in their natural environment. The Department also worked with the Perth Zoo on numbats.
38:58 The Zoology Department had more international links than national links. Professor Leigh Simmons established a major research group on evolutionary biology and sexual selection. He had international connections. Professor Bradshaw had links with France and Lyn with Oxford – Professor Russell Foster was a regular visitor as was Professor Jack Pettigrew from the University of Queensland. Zoology also had links with Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Professor Kwok-Fai So from the University of Hong Kong was a regular visitor. There were not many Asian students at that time.

Track 3
00:00 Alan Robson asked Lyn to represent UWA on the RAINE Foundation . She sat on the Research Committee at UWA for several years and was on a UWA committee to select the new Vice-Chancellor and sat on many promotion committees. She also sat on similar committees for other universities in Australia. She was a Board Member of the Institute of Advanced Studies, was the longest serving member (leaving in 2013) and is now a Distinguished Fellow. She also served on the Board of UWA Press under Geoff Shellam’s Presidency. Like him, she was passionate to keep the Press alive. The Press published books on Australian reeds, fungi and frogs. Lyn was a member of the Australian Science Technology & Engineering Council (ASTEC) ASTEC gave advice to the Federal Government on science policy. Lyn co-wrote a paper on Ageing and Health with Professor Jim Peacock which was presented to Parliament. Professor Peacock later became Australian Chief Scientist (2006-2008). Lyn was keen that WA be part of the national scene. She was on several NHMRC committees. One considered ethical issues on scientific breakthroughs.
07:36 Lyn sat on an international committee on brain research and education. She thinks it is essential for WA to be a national player as otherwise the isolation of the State would mean that it lost touch with what is happening in the rest of the country. The meetings for ASTEC were held in Canberra every month. The National Health & Research Council expanded its scheme to have a larger group of Fellows and set up a National Association. Lyn was asked to lead that, visited Fellows in all the States and compiled the National Association of Research Fellows .
09:43 Lyn was invited to be a Trustee on the Board of the WA Museum in 1999 under the Chair, Dr Ken Michael (later Chancellor of UWA and Governor of Western Australia (2006-2011). She did two terms (of 4 years) retiring from the Board in 2006 when she became Chief Scientist. She was the inaugural Ambassador for the Museum and Patron of the Friends.
14:47 Lyn supports collaborations between the WA universities. She set up Dolphin Watch as a Citizen Science project when she was Chief Scientist working with Murdoch and Curtin universities. The Zoo supported UWA’s numbat programme. Sarah Dunlop has been working with the physiotherapy group at Notre Dame University. Lyn is the Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Professor of Science and is currently finalising an adjunct with Curtin University. She works with Professor Pete Davies from the UWA Albany campus and has supported the setting up of a Science Campus there plus more UWA presence at Geraldton. She would like to see more integrated courses between TAFE and the universities. CSIRO is another possible partner especially with regard to studies in agriculture and radio astronomy. UWA and Murdoch have a lot of joint interests.

Interview 3

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Lyn was appointed as Chief Scientist in 2006. The previous Chief Scientist in WA was Professor Bruce Edward Hobbs. The role varies across the different States. It was a big learning curve. Lyn saw the job as one that assisted and liaised with Industry, government, academia and the community. The Chief Science is the voice for science in the community but is independent of government.
06:51 Many government ministries have science in their portfolios. Lyn worked especially closely with Environment, Mines and Petroleum, Fisheries and Agriculture as well as Education. The job was half time at first but became a full-time post. Lyn was seconded from UWA with the support of her team.
09:31 Lyn was the first female Chief Scientist in Australia. She has used the role to promote women in science initiatives and women in science networking events. The issue of women in leadership roles is very close to her heart.
14:10 Education must target young people and makes them realise that science is relevant and that there are employment opportunities. Earth Science Western Australia works with industry and education. Now with mobile phone apps, people can join projects like Climate Watch or River Watch. Lyn sees science as a practical subject and is supportive of the lab technicians.
19:39 Field trips are organised with tertiary institutions by the Zoo and the Department of Environment and Conservation. Partnerships with the arts are also essential. Lyn helped set up a programme involving primary schools around the world looking at the moon. Citizens of the world today must know more about science to assist their community.
23:38 Being Chief Scientist was a very busy role. There were lots of evening events and early morning starts as well as weekend work. It was an opportunity to bring different groups together. Lyn did gigs on the radio – mainly with the ABC but feels that Dr Karl does a better job!

Track 3
00:00 Lyn was Chief Scientist for 7 years. Professor Peter Klinken is now in that role. As a result of being Chief Scientist, Lyn has become patron of many organisations and has been invited to sit on boards. She is now involved with Fairbridge. She is still visiting schools and involved with various Chambers of Commerce. She was 3 years on the Board of Kings Park.
04:25 The Transport Infrastructure Advisory Group was another body Lyn was involved with. Lyn advocated for a bus between Subiaco station and UWA serving the community, the hospitals and the university.
06:51 Today Lyn is visiting Dreamfit an organisation set up by UWA mechanical engineering student Darren Lomman to help people with disabilities. She is visiting Manjimup with the Department of Agriculture and Food at the weekend. She is in Melbourne chairing a meeting next week. She is also involved with ear science headed by UWA Professor Marcus Atlas. At lunchtime she is being interviewed by the Western Australian newspaper for Science Week.
10:14 In 2012, was selected by the Governor’s Giving Award to choose the charity or charities that would between them receive $100,000. She nominated Brightwater Oat Street and the Western Australian Museum indigenous scholarship programme.
16:54 In 2011, a sponge was named after her that had been identified by Dr Jane Fromont of the WA Museum. It is bright red and lives off Rottnest. It is the Manihinea lynbeazleya.
18:34 Lyn had lobbied government for funding for the Neurotrauma research programme. They also knew her as a trustee of the WA Museum. She thinks that this might have led to her being offered the role of Chief Scientist.
20:49 Lyn believes that she has been very lucky. She has thoroughly enjoyed her Zoology degree and still enjoys the field.



Beazley, Lyn, “Lyn Beazley interview, 21 July 2014, 4 August 2014 and 14 August 2014,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,