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Busted in Materials Engineering

During the ‘70’s and ‘80’s the Materials Engineering staff without any teaching duties on Friday afternoons would occasionally arrange a nosh up for lunch at one of the excellent Chinese restaurants located in the suburbs around the university. These were usually accompanied by a glass or three of wine. Other than the empty offices, there would be little evidence of the mass exodus.

However, on one occasion we did get sprung. The then Head of Department, Ian Polmear, decided to call a staff meeting on the afternoon of one of our nosh ups to discuss something really important. So when we returned just a little bit on the happy side of serious we dutifully filed into his office for the meeting. I’m afraid that I can’t recall what the meeting was about, but I can recall one staff member (who subsequently served his own stint as Head of Department) running his fingers up and down the venetian blinds making a terrible clatter, much to our amusement and Ian’s chagrin!

These nosh ups were just one of many social actives that contributed to the terrific camaraderie in the department. Others included social and sports matches with the other materials laboratories that existed at that time, including the BHP Materials labs just down Wellington Road, The Telecom Research labs across Blackburn Road and the Comalco Research labs in Thomastown. Along with the other laboratories with materials research interests, including the State Electricity labs in Burnley, the ICI labs and the department at Monash, these labs were in many ways the forerunner of a large materials research cluster in Melbourne, covering just about all engineering materials. The social activities reinforced the extensive research collaborations between the various groups. Sadly, just about all except the Department of Materials Engineering (and of course all of the newer centres of expertise that have grown up around the Synchrotron now located on the site of the old Clayton drive-in) have long since vanished, victims of privatisation and large corporate balance sheets.

Paul Rossiter.