Sir Michael Marmot (Class of 1961) – Boyer Lecture

Dr Matt Baker, Class of 2000, attended the Boyer Lecture delivered last week by the Class of 1961 alumni, Sir Michael Marmot.

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Sir Michael Marmot (Class of 1961) and Dr Matt Baker (Class of 2000) at the Boyer Lecture

I had the privilege of attending the ABC Boyer Lecture on Sep 1st this year on the back of my being one of five Scientists in Residence at the ABC in 2015. Prompted by the President of the OBU to take advantage of a notorious High alumnus speaking, I was able to wrangle myself an invite. The speaker, Prof Sir Michael Marmot (1961), was first introduced by Old Boy, and Chairman of the ABC Board, James Spigelman (1962) , who immediately mentioned High and the fact that Sir Michael was his contemporary there.

Sir Michael is a world-leading expert on health inequality, in particular, the ‘health gap’, in life expectancy between poor and affluent regions. In some places, such as Baltimore, the location of Sir Michael’s opening example, this can be as much as twenty years across a single city, and in Australia, depending on your calculation, it is as high as 17 years between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Sir Michael set the scene for his remaining 3 lectures with the links between poverty, early-childhood, and environment that influence these numbers and he will subsequently talk about how we can address this. In a segment that resonated with me, he spoke in particular of the need for empowerment, or control over the type of work you do, as one of the factors that improves your life expectancy. You can listen to his live lecture or read the full transcript here:

Sir Michael had mentioned to me in an aside that Dr Jaggar had contacted him to get him to come and speak at the school, but his itinerary in Australia was very tight. However he expressed a keen interest that transcripts or audio of his lectures be circulated at the school for current students to appreciate and engage with.

The full lecture series will be broadcast on Radio National in the next few weeks, and can be followed here:

About Matt:

Graduating in 2000, Matthew Baker pursued an ambitious line of education. He was awarded a National Undergraduate Scholarship to completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at the Australian National University, a year of which was undertaken at the University of California, Berkeley. Matt was the 2005 recipient of the John Monash Scholarship, and went on to study at the University of Oxford, England, completing a DPhil in Physics in 2010. During his studies, Matt worked as tutor at Oxford.

Upon finishing, Matt stayed on at Oxford as a postdoctoral researcher, working jointly in the Chemistry Research Laboratory and the Department of Biochemistry. He published several papers from this work. In 2013, he returned to Australia to join the not-for-profit Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, researching molecular motors using structural biology and single molecule techniques. Matt’s research career has focused on studying the tiny molecular motor that makes nearly all bacteria swim.

Matt is an internationally acclaimed fencer, representing Australia in International World Cup competitions from 2005-2014 and was a member of the Australian Team at the Commonwealth Fencing Championships in Scotland in 2014. He is currently ranked 4th in Australia and 263rd in the world. He is an active science communicator, sometimes using performance poetry, becoming a finalist in the UK Hammer and Tongue National Poetry Slam in 2012 and performing at the Green Man Festival for four years running. In 2015 he was awarded the Top 5 Under 40 prize to find Australia’s ‘new generation of science thinkers’, where he was embedded at the ABC as a Scientist in Residence, producing packages for Radio National and ABC Online and doing multiple Q&A sessions on triplej alongside Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.