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Distinguished mathematician offers wise advice to graduates

Look to the future, seek mentors, and never stop learning says Dr Ron Sandland AM

Dr Ron Sandland AM, Chair of the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) Steering Committee, was special guest speaker at the graduation celebration for the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at the University of Wollongong (UOW) on Thursday 20 July 2017.

Dr Sandland was able to draw on the experiences of a long and distinguished career in science and mathematics to offer some wise advice to new graduates.

“For graduates starting today, my primary advice would be not to attempt to over plan your careers, to take opportunities when they arise and to put yourselves fully into your jobs,” he said, speaking ahead of the graduation celebration.

“Don't rue opportunities missed; look to the future always. Seek great mentors if possible. And never stop learning.”

Before taking on his current position at ANDS, Dr Sandland worked for many years at the CSIRO, including as the organisation’s Deputy Chief Executive.

He joined CSIRO in 1969 in the Division of Mathematics and Statistics, becoming chief of the division in 1988. He later managed its merger with the Division of Information Technology into what is now CSIRO Mathematical and Information Sciences.

In 1999 he became Deputy Chief Executive of CSIRO and led the Flagship Initiative. This involved six major cross-disciplinary research programs and was aimed at addressing problems of a national priority.

“One of my proudest achievements was rebuilding the CSIRO Division of Mathematics and Statistics from a much reduced shell to a truly high performing unit, trebling its staff and greatly increasing its engagement with industry.

“Another was overseeing the development of CSIRO's multidisciplinary national Flagship Initiative tackling some of Australia's major national challenges which achieved half a billion dollars in new government funding over an eight year period,” Dr Sandland said.

“On a personal level, raising a family with three wonderful children will always be my proudest achievement.”

In 2006, Dr Sandland won the CSIRO Medal for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of more than 37 years’ service to CSIRO in science, divisional leadership and organisational leadership.

He was made an Honorary Life Member of the Statistical Society of Australia in 1998, is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2007.

Dr Sandland told the graduates from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences that they had a special contribution to make to the future of Australia and to humanity more widely.

“Graduates in Engineering and Information Sciences have the opportunity to contribute to some of the biggest challenges facing humanity – sustainable energy, climate adaptation, the creation of new industries and redesign of existing ones stemming from digital disruption,” he said.

“Australia's innovation agenda depends heavily on people with your qualifications.”