Why I did not enjoy the technical course I did at the SA Institute of Technology.

Frank Pio Russo - October 15 2018.

In most cases one could speculate that a great theoretical scientist would lack a lot of experimental skills, however this wasn't really true in my case, as I came up with many technical innovations whilst at the IMVS... e.g. modifying the cholesterol assay on the SMAC, such that the timing or phasing was done prior to the peristaltic pump, rather than the original  after the said pump - and this would avoid all the back pressure and the damaging acid spilling everywhere... also to name another: realizing that both AST and LDH were being measured at 340 nanometres in the calorimeter, however one increased the optical density whilst the other decreased it, and they were acting on a similar substrate - so it was a simple matter of adding the other enzyme to the substrate so as to eliminate interference!

Furthermore I recall how the Australasian Association of Clinical Chemists had their calciums all wrong all over Australia , whilst my values were the only correct ones- this was in 1978. Also in that same year I came first in a quality control survey for magnesiums out of 95 labs all over Australasia, and second in the whole world out of 570 labs, and it was all done with antiquated equipment!

Hence it's obvious that there are other reasons as to why I didn't enjoy the technical course under question. I had always been at the top academically, and even coming to a new country and a new language did not faze me! In my first year in Australia I went from un-gradable to 3rd in the school at grade 7 in Newton Primary School: the teacher there - Mrs Grigoras - said that I was a natural and didn't need to study, whereas the top student there had to work very hard for her grades!

Following this, at Campbelltown High School I was still getting good grades despite many absences from school, as Mrs Anne Martin wrote in a report. The reasons for my many absences were many, but often I just needed time to catch-up with my assignments. This was because I had many sporting commitments, plus during my schooling I was a Jehovah's Witness, and that religion really ate into my time as it consisted the attendance of 5 weekly meetings, as well as going door-knocking and conducting bible studies with the public. Furthermore on top of all that I was also working as a casual boy in the supermarket at the Newton Target Shopping Centre.

Anyway, because my mother had died when I was 9 and my father had become an invalid pensioner, the finances weren't really there for a long education, and it was decided for me to leave school at the end of year11. Because of this I made plans to sit for both the year 11 and year 12 examinations in the same year. However as the time for the exams came closer, I realized that the time-table for the various exams actually clashed with each other, so I abandoned the idea of also sitting for year 12, and instead spent two weeks before the year 11 exams studying an extra 5 subjects, and went ahead to set a record for the number of subjects passed in one year doing Leaving or year 11, namely 11 subjects!

But in a way, my academic acumen worked against me - it was as if I'd shot myself in the foot! Wherever I went to apply for a job, I was always refused with the excuse that my results were too good and I should go back to school - this even happened at the CSIRO where they said something to the effect that it would be criminal to take such a great student away from the educational system.

Once I got my job at the IMVS, after wasting a year in Coles, I decided to sit for my Matriculation as well as start my technical course at the SAIT. Now in the first year of the technical course, one would do both Chemistry and Biology, now I was also doing both of these subjects amongst my 5 for Matriculation, and if the year 12 results were good enough, one would be credited such that the first year of the technical course would be deemed unnecessary. Because of the latter I developed some bad habits, as instead of attending lectures at the SAIT I would often find myself listening to vinyl records in town! Actually that first year I found that I was competing with Phil Johnson as to who was missing the most lectures and practicals and also as to who was the most inventive with the excuses we were giving our lecturers! It goes without saying that Phil ended up failing that year!

Next came the 2nd year and I did work a bit more that year, but now there was also the interference of all the overtime I was doing, as well as some of the other extracurricular activities mentioned earlier, plus I was now running a gym i.e. the St Bernard's Gym at the St Bernard's Youth Centre.

Now by the time the 3rd year came along, I'd decided that I wanted to do really well, and spent an incredible amount of time on my first practical for one of those 2 subjects, mine was longer and more detailed that all the other students I checked! Yet the bloody Scottish womanizer who only had eyes for the female students - and whom many had reported as exchanging grades for "favours" - decided to give me a zero claiming that I'd mentioned a referral to the notes somewhere in the practical! Well mine was the longest write-up... what was the moron actually saying - did he want me to present a book or thesis or was it just a "pract"?

I was furious and refused to attend any practs or any of his pathetic lectures for a while... I could see the writing on the wall, that I was going to spoil my record by failing my first subject ever! However toward the end of the year, I approached him and asked him that if I was to read the so-called massive textbook on the subject in question, which had about 1400 pages and was accepted as the Bible on the matter, would he pass me? He replied that he thought it was a bit too late in the year.

Anyway I went ahead and read the massive book, and I think the lecturer was impressed because not only did he allow me to seat for a delayed exam because I'd broken my wrist, but he also set a somewhat easy practical examination... so I thought he was no longer the horrible monster I'd imagined him to have been! One major problem I had during those years, was that I was not aware about how atrocious my eyesight was: the right eye just saw a bit of "noise" vision, and I was unaware that I should have closed it when looking down a microscope; and as for the left eye - well it badly needed glasses but I did not get any till some 5 years later! I was therefore very lucky to pass because a major component of the practical exam consisted of observations through a microscope.

In conclusion, I guess I might have been even much more gifted at practical lab skills, if I hadn't spent so many years with machines in the Automation Lab.

Frank Pio Russo.

Ps.- Plus that course did not impress me much, for the simple reason that even if one got all distinctions, his efforts would have been pointless as he would have still remained a 6th rate worker at the IMVS, (behind medical doctors, PhDs, graduates from Adelaide Uni, graduates from UNISA and other unis, AIMLT,medical technologists)

 

 

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