19 January 2010

As The University of Queensland gears up to celebrate its centenary in 2010, one University staff member will mark his own half-century achievement.

For more than 50 years, George Dick has worked as a technical officer in UQ’s Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, helping academic and student research become reality.

Currently working as the Workshop Supervisor for the Zelman Cowen Building at St Lucia, Mr Dick began his career at UQ in 1958 as an apprentice tradesman straight from high school.

“I started in the mechanical engineering department when it was located in George St,” Mr Dick said.

“One of my earliest memories of UQ was lining up under a big fig tree next to Queensland’s old Government House with all of the other staff to receive our pay packets.

“Back then everyone knew each other; working at the University was like being part of a great big family.”
As the University grew and the engineering departments moved to the St Lucia campus, Mr Dick was the first to set foot in the newly constructed Mansergh Shaw building in 1964.

It was the beginning of a number of “firsts” for Mr Dick, including a little-known expedition at UQ’s iconic T4 shock tunnel.

“One of the projects we worked on was building the T4 shock tunnel to test the scramjets developed by the aerospace engineers,” he said.

“One night, Professor Ray Stalker (Australia’s first professor of space engineering), a technician and I waited until everyone had left the building before making our way to the shock tunnel.

“We loaded the piston and then “BOOM!”- we became the first people to launch a test-fire in the tunnel.”

Mr Dick has used his expertise to help advance research in a range of areas and not just those associated with engineering.

“The sharing of knowledge across the faculties and the networking of technical staff is one of UQ’s best features,” Mr Dick said.

“We tested the elasticity of valves in pigs’ hearts for research into heart surgery and also helped UQ’s first PhD student in Dentistry test the strength and structure of crowns.

“One of the crazier things we did was to help develop a “gene-gun” to inject genes into plants for agriculture researchers.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield thanked Mr Dick for his invaluable contributions, which have included giving technical support to students of mechanical engineering, civil engineering and architecture, as well as teaching metrology (the science of measurement).

“George’s service record reads like an interactive map of development and innovation at UQ, with George personally laying many of the milestones,” Professor Greenfield said.

“On the University’s behalf, I wish him a satisfying and fulfilling retirement.”

Mr Dick said it was diversity that had made his work so enjoyable over the years and he would miss contact with the students when he retires in February 2010.

“I think my career is a great representation of how engineering has evolved over the past 50 years, with every day offering new challenges,” he said.

“As technical staff, we’re very involved in helping students with their projects and it’s been great to see them grow and develop over the years.”

Media: Alice Walker at the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (a.walker1@uq.edu.au or 07 3346 7696)