21 March 1999

Ergonomics pioneer retires to a busy life

For ergonomics pioneer and former head of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Professor Margaret Bullock, retirement does not mean the end of her passion for physiotherapy, ergonomics and education.

In fact, since her retirement on December 31, Professor Bullock is still probably busier than most.

"I'm writing a textbook, I've been invited to Sweden as a visiting professor and I have some keynote lectures to give at international conferences," she said.

"I'm chair of a couple of national councils and international committees and a member of several others, and this will continue as usual."

Professor Bullock's career has spanned more than 30 years and her groundbreaking research has included topics relating to ergonomics, posture and movement analysis, minimal brain dysfunction and muscle function.

The results of her research in ergonomics influenced design standards for the safe use of cars, light aircraft, parachutes, tractors and industrial pedals.

Professor Bullock has achieved many firsts in her career. She was one of the first two people to receive a degree in physiotherapy in Australia and later became the first Australian to be awarded a PhD in physiotherapy.

In 1978 Professor Bullock was appointed foundation chair in physiotherapy at the University of Queensland - the first chair in physiotherapy at an Australian university.

She was the first physiotherapist in Australia to carry out ergonomics research, the first to introduce ergonomics education into physiotherapy undergraduate and postgraduate education programs, and became the first female national president of the Ergonomics Society of Australia in 1988.

Professor Bullock graduated bachelor of applied science in physiotherapy (1955) and PhD in physiotherapy (1974) from the University of Queensland and joined the Physiotherapy Department as a tutor in 1955.

She was a staff physiotherapist at Massachusetts General Hospital, USA and later combined private practice with lecturing at the University of Queensland and clinical work with the Queensland Spastic Welfare League.

In 1968 she joined the University of Queensland's Physiotherapy Department as a part-time, then full-time research officer. She was appointed reader and head of the Department in 1974, a position she held until 1987.

Through her PhD research in quantitative movement analysis, Professor Bullock developed the first accurate method of measuring three-dimensional body movements using stereophotogrammetry. The most advanced method for three-dimensional motion analysis in the world at the time, it led to a number of overseas developments.

Professor Bullock was elected deputy president (1986-87) then president (1988-90) of the University's Academic Board and was appointed head of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in 1996.

She has been a visiting professor at Massachussetts General Hospital Institute of Health Sciences, Tufts University, Boston, and Harvard University, Boston.

Apart from her active involvement in numerous University Committees, Professor Bullock has served on many committees at State, national and international level, as a nominee of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, Government ministers, the University of Queensland, the Australian Vice Chancellors' Committee, the Physiotherapists Registration Board and the Ergonomics Society.

Professor Bullock's awards include the Order of Australia for outstanding contributions to research, teaching and administration, Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Excellence Award and President's Medal from the Ergonomics Society of Australia, Honoured Member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association and the IEA President's Award for distinguished service to ergonomics internationally.

Professor Bullock is married to Emeritus Professor Keith Bullock, former dean of engineering and former head of the Mechanical Engineering Department. They have two children.

Professor Bullock credited her ability to balance a busy career and family life to her "incredible endurance".

"I always had a full life and I stayed very busy," she said.

Professor Bullock said one of her goals had been to improve the status and standards of physiotherapy and ergonomics. She felt that one of her greatest achievements had been to establish research in physiotherapy as an important component of practice.

Professor Bullock said she considered it an honour to have been associated with a progressive institution such as the University of Queensland for so much of her academic career.

For more information, contact Professor Bullock (telephone 0413 583 101).