Recently departed School members

It is not surprising that this year has been a particularly difficult time for many of us, COVID-19 has impacted the ANU and our school immensely. Under the expenditure reduction framework, each of the seven Colleges in the University, as well as the Central University Administration, have been set a target amount by which they are to reduce their expenditure for the remainder of the year. Some expenditure controls being introduced include such things as delaying new staff appointments, deferring planned activities and purchases, and offering a voluntary separation scheme.

Some of our most valued and long standing professional and academic staff have taken up this scheme. Due to COVID-19 restrictions we have not been able to provide them with a deserving send-off and to celebrate the many contributions they have given to RSES. 


Dr Xiaodong Zhang - Lab Manager Noble Gas Geochemistry (1997-2020) 


When Xiadong started at RSES he maintained the VG3600 and VG1200 noble gas mass spectrometers and worked on the projects of automating the noble gas extraction lines. Later, he developed the (U-Th)/He dating system together with Dr. Jim Dunlap. After which, Xiadong worked on the Helix MC noble gas mass spectrometer together with Dr. Masahiko Honda, commissioning this high resolution mass spectrometer, building and automating the gas extraction line associated with the Helix MC, and developing the motorised detector system for Helix MC’s multi-collectors. He has published papers in noble gas mass spectrometry. In addition, since 2009, he has been the School’s coordinating radiation safety officer responsible for radiation safety in the School. Xiaodong was known for his meticulous attention to detail, organisational skills and was a very respected member of the RSES community. 


Dean Scott - Research Support Officer, Experimental Petrology (1996-2020)


Dean, who has an engineering background, was a laboratory technician in Experimental Petrology at RSES for 24 years.  His main role was to maintain and develop the high-pressure and high-temperature facilities that enable us to reproduce the conditions of the Earth's crust and mantle.  Most of this equipment was designed and built in-house and depends on the kind of expert technical support that Dean always provided so cheerfully.  Dean's efforts have ensured that the School's experimental petrology laboratory maintains its reputation as the world's foremost in the field, bringing international recognition to RSES.  Dean's "can-do" attitude was exemplified by the role he played installing RSES apparatus for high-temperature experiments at various synchrotrons, which involved 10 trips to Japan and several to Melbourne.  What we will miss most about Dean is his helpfulness - nothing was ever too much trouble.

Photo: Dean just before he finished (Centre), on his left is Bill Hibberson who was our former TO and taught Dean all the stuff. The other one is David Clarke. Note the social distancing


Research Support Officer, Geochemistry & Cosmochemistry (1984-2020) 


David Thomson came to RSES to work in the Engineering Workshop in 1984. At that time, the workshop was a busy place fabricating pretty much everything the school needed for experimental apparatus for a wide variety of tasks. David was heavily involved in the fabrication of the components needed to build SHRIMPs, skilfully working stainless steel into the myriad shapes and pieces needed. He became adept at interpreting Solidworks diagrams and programming the precision metal working machines. It was therefore prophetic that David ultimately joined the SHRIMP Group to participate in the operational side of SHRIMPs and getting the beasts to work. David was largely responsible for the construction and installation of the new SHRIMP SI multiple collector, which has a number of unique capabilities for analysis of minor isotopes and will stand us in good stead for the future. David’s cheery disposition and calm can-do attitude will be missed and we wish him well for the future.


Brenda Armstrong - Senior Administrations Officer (1995-2020)


Brenda joined RSES officially in 2001 after 6 years employment with ANUTech (now ANU Enterprise) but seconded to RSES. She was an integral part of the PRISE group, which provided access for researchers from around the world to the School’s geochemistry facilities. Her role was both administrative and research support, including photographing and labelling thousands of zircon grains over several years. Liaison with the many domestic and international PRISE visitors was a highlight of this time.

From 2012, in addition to her PRISE role, she took on various projects for the School Manager. This provided an opportunity to engage more widely with other groups in the School.

After the PRISE group was disbanded in late 2016, Brenda was employed full time on School Administration where she continued to liaise with staff across the School on various projects for the Director and School Manager, and from mid-2017, led the administration team.

Brenda is well regarded for her friendly and approachable manner, and for her thoroughness in her detailed work. We have all relied upon her for answers, support and learning something we didn’t know – forever the teacher. Brenda will continue to stay connected to the School over the next few years, allowing us all the opportunity to benefit from her friendship a while longer.


Andrew Wilson - Engineering Workshop Manager (1995-2020)


Andrew Wilson joined RSES Mechanical Workshop in January 1995 as an apprentice Fitter and Machinist. He came to us after a couple of years with CSIRO as a trainee instrument maker. He remembers it was his father, a technician in RSPE at the time, who recommended he take up the opportunity at RSES.

Andrew dedicated his early years to refurbishing pressure vessels for Petrochemistry (Experimental Petrology) as well as attending to a variety of needs in the Rock Physics lab for Prof. Ian Jackson. Notable Projects then included: Petrochemistry hard materials development; SHRIMP 2 upgrades; SHRIMP RG including Quadrupole Lens upgrade for Stanford University; SHRIMP SI; Optically Stimulated Luminescence instrumentation; Coral coring and a variety of field work equipment; Noble Gas upgrades and Argus 6 Prep lines; and various ICPMS upgrades.

Andrew took over from Bob Waterford as manager of the mechanical workshop in 2003. Now, after 25 years of loyal service to the School, Andrew is leaving us to explore new career opportunities. His honest and cheerful manner will be missed by all. 


Joseph Cali - Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry Lab Manager Paleoenvironments Group (1985-2020)


Joe Cali began working at RSES on Jan 31, 1985. He was originally appointed to a technical officer position in the Noble Gas Group to work with Honda. Honda’s arrival at RSES was delayed.  As a result, Joe was seconded to the then Environmental Geochemistry Group under Allan Chivas to run the XRD lab and to write code for some software to run the groups somewhat ancient and cantankerous MS12 mass spectrometer. Approximately 9 months later, the groups mass spectrometrist, Trevor Dowling, left to take up a position at RSC.  Joe filled in then transferred permanently to the Environmental Geochemistry Group.

The MAT251 was delivered in April 1990 and was installed over subsequent weeks.  Over the next 20 years, the RSES MAT251 & Stable Isotope group gained a world-wide reputation for the high precision analyses produced, higher than the MAT251 original spec.  

Seven seems to be Joe’s lucky number.  When the group peaked in size, it had seven academics, seven technical staff and seven HDR students. He has outlasted seven school directors, seven group leaders and seven changes of group name. Around the school community, Joe has served in seven other roles. He was on the OHS, then WHS committees almost continuously for 22 years serving as chair from 2012 to 2015. He was Deputy Chief Fire Warden for 5 years before taking up the Chief Warden role for the past 13 years.  He has also served as a school advanced first aid officer most of the past 20 years. He served as School WHS Officer for 2 years from 2011 to 2012 and School Lab Manager from 2013-2016. He was a member of the working group responsible for acquiring and implementing the Chemwatch Chemical Management System but asks that you don’t hold that against him. Most importantly, he captained the RSES cricket team in the late 1980’s and in one season, recorded a batting average of 93 runs per innings over seven matches that probably still stands as an RSES team record some 30 years later. Joe worked with and had contact with most everyone in the School and will be missed. Luckily he will still be around for a while to finish some projects.