60 seconds with… Roy Tasker

Roy TaskerProfessor Roy Tasker teaches first-year chemistry in the School of Science and Health. In 2011, Roy received the highest accolade given by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) when he received the Prime Minister’s Award for Australian University Teacher of the Year.

“I see my major role as helping students with a range of motivations, backgrounds and interests in their transition to university studies in science and, in particular, chemistry,” says Roy.

Roy’s research interests are in how and what students can learn from interactive multimedia activities. “I enjoy working with academics who are interested in developing evidence-based, interactive teaching strategies that make the most of face-to-face contexts, rather than just one-way presentation of ideas,” he says.

Roy is also the Provost for the Hawkesbury Campus, where he encourages staff and students to enjoy working and studying on the historical, beautiful campus.

How long have you worked at UWS and what’s the best thing about working here?
I was appointed as a Foundation Lecturer in chemistry in 1985, when it was Nepean CAE, but clearly destined to become part of a university serving Western Sydney. Since then I have worked with some amazing staff, all with the common goal of providing the best university learning experience we can to students who really deserve it.

Which campus are you based on?
The best campus – Hawkesbury.

What is your favourite place on one of the UWS campuses and why?
The tree-lined College Drive from the main Hawkesbury campus entrance to historic Fairy (!!!) Circle is a wonderful introduction to this beautiful campus. As it’s almost too narrow for two cars passing in opposite directions, there is that element of edgy excitement as you embark on the university experience to come.

When you’re not at work, what will we find you doing?
I imagine I am a player in one of my favourite local (Western Sydney Wanderers) and international (Chelsea) football teams, whilst I actually play abysmally for the over-35s Hazelbrook Hawks. Bushwalking, eating good food and drinking fine wines are activities I also find bearable.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a pilot but I am colour-blind. I wanted to be a professional football player, but I was not good enough. I thought all scientists were nerds.

What was your first job?
Apart from numerous part-time jobs during my university studies, my first real job was as a science teacher at Brisbane State High School. I was enthusiastic, but pretty naive and inexperienced, and suffered from blushing too easily – not a useful trait when confronting street-wise teenagers seeking entertainment.

What has been your greatest success?
The politically correct answer: having two wonderful children with the woman of my dreams.

The career answer: being presented with the Prime Minister’s Award for University Teacher of the Year in 2011. To be recognised by my peers for what I love doing in my career has given me the self-confidence I never had before that event. All downhill from then on.

If you could go to just one country in the world for a vacation, which country would it be and why?
For me, the United States of America offers the widest possible range of scenery, people, opinions, challenges, successes of all kinds, and some awful failures – I could spend the rest of my life experiencing as much of this country as I could.

What is your favourite book, movie and/or album?
The God Species by Mark Lynas is one of the most thoughtful summaries of the challenges facing humanity on our planet, with possible remedies, and these should be central to public and political discourse.

The Monty Python film The Life of Brian, made in the late ’70s, is my favourite satirical comedy, as relevant today as ever.

Music is too important to me to declare just one favourite album.

If you could invite anyone to dinner who would it be and why?
My favourite member of the Monty Python team is Michael Palin. His sense of humour and comedic skill are legendary, but from his writing he is also a deep thinker about people and their contexts. He has seen and done a lot, and he would provide great dinner conversation on so many topics.