In their own words: recollections of a wayward scientist

In their own words: recollections of a wayward scientist

Illuminate newsletter index page, March 2019
March 2019

Alumnus Associate Professor Paul Cooper
In his time at the Institute, Associate Professor Paul Cooper
learned some life changing lessons.

Alumnus Associate Professor Paul Cooper reflects on his time at the Institute.

“Paul – will you stop that infernal whistling!”

That was my early introduction to the booming voice of Professor Don Metcalf reminding me of the sanctity of his concentration on counting cell colonies. It was my first week as a PhD student in Don’s lab and I was about to learn some life changing lessons.

Three months later, I had prepared my talk on the results I found in the biochemistry changes of WEHI 3B cells when exposed to GM-CSF, and I had laboriously hand drawn the graphs from the data onto the acetate sheets that you put on overhead projector (this was in 1980, way prior to computer projections).

On this day I had just cycled from home in Carlton, and apart from a bit of rain making the trip damp, I got to the lab reasonably early and went to set up my ‘slides’. But all I had were smudges of red, green and blue on the sheets because to my horror I discovered the pens were water soluble (for sheet reuse). But no excuses were permitted.

Don said to me, “so present your data from memory Paul – surely you don’t need to look for your notes!”

Well ... I stuttered and choked. That day I learned a big lesson from Don about thoroughly preparing for a presentation. In fact, I can honestly say that I also lost any subsequent fear of presenting – nothing was ever as daunting as presenting to Don Metcalf!

Shaped by these early encounters, and many other guiding moments from Don, my lasting recollection is that he helped craft my approach to work and life and I have fond memories of his kindness and intelligence.

About Associate Professor Paul Cooper

Alumnus: 1979–1983

Paul obtained his PhD at the Institute in 1983 and a Grad Dip Business (Organisational Development) at RMIT University. He is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Health Informaticians and a Certified Health Informatician (Australia). He is Deputy Chair of Biogrid, and Associate Professor of Health Informatics at Deakin University.

Paul specialises in strategic advisory services aimed at helping organisations make the most effective use of information and digital capabilities. Paul believes strongly in the benefits of diversity and has been a diversity champion throughout his career.

He enjoys surfing, photography and sharing a joke and laughs with friends.

Do you have a story to share?

Now it’s your turn. Everyone has a story to tell about their time at the Institute. Funny, odd, amazing anecdotes: we’d love to hear them all. Get in touch with alumni relations adviser, Belinda Zipper:, 03 9345 2928.

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