ScienceWise - Nov/Dec 2007

The Tarcus Prize

Underlining the value of science graduates to the business world

Tarquin Ralph runs a highly successful management consultancy in the ACT and during his fifteen years in the business has seen more than his fair share of young graduates come and go. Some manage to take the step from academia to highly successful careers quite effortlessly whilst others seem to struggle. Tarquin explains that more often than not, the success stories are science graduates, even if their subsequent careers aren’t directly linked to science. He believes that this is because graduates of the pure sciences have the ability to tackle conceptually difficult problems. “You can give them a mess and they have the ability to develop a logical framework and sort it all out - which is exactly what’s so often needed in industry. I can teach them anything they need to know about management if they have the necessary mental horsepower” he says. “If you can understand quantum physics, you will have no difficulty handling the daily tasks thrown at you in the business world.” Tarquin sees the three critical ingredients to success as, (1) great mind, (2) the ability to express ideas clearly and (3) excellent interpersonal skills.

However, Tarquin’s belief in the value of science graduates extends beyond encouraging words. During National Science Week, he sponsored the $2000 Tarcus Prize, hosted at the Australian National University Melville Hall. A number of PhD students were invited to give a short public presentation about their work. The judges awarded points for the importance of the work, the passion the presenter had for his/her topic and their capacity to explain it clearly.

The judges were extremely impressed by the quality of the presentations, especially the rigor and depth of understanding the speakers conveyed. The winner was Steven Lade from the Nonlinear Physics Centre at the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering for a talk entitles Ratchets. He explained how it is possible to make a particle move, without subjecting it to a net external force if the symmetry of the system is broken and how such ratchet systems are interesting for their relevance to both fundamental physics and biophysics.

Tarquin would strongly encourage any students who have ability in the sciences to pursue a science degree. “You may well go on to have a stimulating career in the sciences, but even if this isn’t the path you ultimately choose, the skills you learn in science can be invaluable in the business world too.”

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