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June Norma Olley

Early life

After completing her PhD in 1950 and working with the the Medical Research Council, Dr Olley spent 18 years at Torry Research Station at Aberdeen, the UK laboratory devoted to seafood technology.

Her work at Torry mainly involved fish lipid biochemistry and her applied work concerned the processing and nutritional properties of fishmeal.

Time at CSIRO

She decided to make the move to Tasmania, and in 1968 she joined the CSIRO Division of Food Preservation at the Tasmanian Regional Laboratory.

In Hobart, she quickly established herself as an authority on the canning, drying and general processing of abalone, an industry then in its infancy and in need of scientific help. This was followed by investigations into heavy metal pollution in the Derwent Estuary and its effects on the fledgling oyster growing industry and the inshore fisheries.

Many other general fish technology problems were tackled under her guidance including mechanical separation of fish flesh, electrophoretic identification of species, lobster processing and sensory evaluation.

Dr Olley has always maintained a high level of industry liaison, believing it essential for the effectiveness of a fish technology group. She has worked on problems of practical significance in the belief that underlying patterns will emerge and that a broad brush approach is the best way of seeing the patterns in the data. Furthermore, she has inspired others to follow the same path.

This is particularly evident in her most important work temperature function integration, bacterial growth rates and rates of deteriorative change in stored foods.

Much of this work has been done in collaboration with the University of Tasmania, but it has been Dr Olley’s enthusiasm, drive and good spirits that have kept up the momentum.

This highlights a most important part of Dr Olley’s scientific approach in that she is always willing to listen and to share: ‘why compete when you can have more minds working on the problems, since there are more than enough [problems] to go round’.

Many students have benefited from her wisdom, advice and help, given unstintingly. Similarly, many young scientists (and some not so young) have much to thank her for in helping their careers.

This is evident in her Fellowship of Christ College of the University of Tasmania, where she is regarded as something of a ‘fairy godmother’. In more recent times, she has taken an interest in the development of research centres in South East Asia, particularly Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Among her many achievements and awards are: a DSc from the University of London in 1968; Membership of the Order of Australia in 1987; Fellow of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (UK); Foundation Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences; Member of the Faculty of Agricultural Science at the University of Tasmania; Senior Vice President of the Tasmanian Royal Society; and Member of the National Research Fellowships Advisory Committee.

Honours and awards

1950 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) awarded by University College, London
1968 Doctor of Science (DSc) received from University College, London
1975? Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE)
1986 Award of Merit received from Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology
1988 Member of the Order of Australia (AM)

Source

Adapted from a submission to CoResearch, CSIRO’s staff newsletter (no. 321, March 1989), p. 8

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