Profile with Dorothy Steane

Dorothy Steane (Tasmania & University 1991) holds a joint appointment as a CRN senior research fellow with the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Tasmania and the Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. She holds a DPhil in Plant Science from the University of Oxford, an honours degree in Botany from the University of Melbourne and a BSc in Botany and Biochemistry from the University of Tasmania.

Rhodes Project: What is your favorite thing to do in Hobart?

Dorothy Steane: Hobart is a small port city at the foot of Mount Wellington, on the Derwent Estuary.  There are lots of opportunities to have outdoor fun: In summer I like to row (a hangover from my days at Oxford), go sea kayaking, body-boarding, snorkeling; when I’m not on or in the water I like to go bush-walking with my friends, ride my bike, go for runs in the bush, or – less and less frequently now, with global warming – go skiing.  Eating is high on the agenda, too. We have lots of good food in Tasmania (e.g., fresh sea food and fresh produce).

Rhodes Project: Who is your favorite author?

Dorothy Steane: That changes. I don’t really have a favorite, but I do like PG Wodehouse.  Evelyn Waugh is a bit of a favorite too; I read Decline and Fall three times when I was at school!  Charles Dickens rates pretty highly, too.  Of Australian authors, I have love-hate relationships with Peter Carey and Tim Winton.

Rhodes Project: What was the first job you ever held?

Dorothy Steane: I did a little bit of work for my dad, in the office, stapling newsletters together.  After that, I became an excellent house cleaner.

Rhodes Project: When did you become interested in plant science?

Dorothy Steane: When I was at university I was intending to do Marine Biology, but I found botany and biochemistry so fascinating that I decided to follow a “plant biochemistry” path instead.  Then I found out about DNA … amazing! 

Rhodes Project: If you weren’t a scientist, what would you have been?

Dorothy Steane: A health professional – probably a dietician/nutritionist.

Rhodes Project: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Dorothy Steane: I enjoy helping postgraduate (or undergraduate) students.  But I also like problem-solving.  It feels really nice when you finally work out how to overcome a tricky problem in the lab.

Rhodes Project: What frustrates you?

Dorothy Steane: When people don’t listen. Similarly, when people don’t read your emails properly.  What can you do?  Not much.

Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to a young woman beginning her career in science?

Dorothy Steane: Think very carefully about it. Think about what’s going to be important to you in the long term - do you want an interesting job with nice people? Do you want to travel the world with your job?  Science certainly can provide that.  Do you crave job security, a clear career pathway and a big salary? Do you want to have a family?  Think very carefully because a career in research is a long, hard road, especially for mothers.

Rhodes Project: What are you looking forward to at the moment?

Dorothy Steane: I’m going to the USA in two weeks. I’ve got a conference in Maine for a week, then I’m taking a few days off to spend in New York City.  I’ve wanted to visit the Big Apple since I was a teenager, so I’m very excited.  Tasmania used to be known as the “Apple Isle”, so I feel like I’m visiting a big sister city.

Rhodes Project: What brings you the most joy?

Dorothy Steane: I love spending time with good friends and family, sharing food and having fun – especially outdoors, at the beach or in the bush. 

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