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Emeritus Professor Carolyn Oldham

School of Engineering

"Within the chaos of life, find a quiet spot, just by yourself, and start meditating."

Since 1994, Carolyn has led research in Environmental Engineering on aquatic contamination, biogeochemical cycling in marine waters, protection of urban waterways and improving water management after mine closure. She has focused on cross-disciplinary collaborations with researchers from the humanities, ethnoecologists, and social scientists, and with end users of her research, including regulators and industries in the water sector. Carolyn has produced over 140 publications, supervised 30 PhD students to completion and has UWA and national teaching awards.

Carolyn has also had a deep commitment to promoting inclusion and diversity, chairing the Leadership Development for Women and over the past eight years leading UWA’s SAGE Athena SWAN gender equity project. She has served on the Academic Promotions Committee and as Chair initiated a major review of promotion processes and chaired UWA’s Animal Ethics Committees. Carolyn is also a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and a practicing Buddhist, and with her husband has raised two delightful sons to adulthood.

Most important experiences while at UWA

Having as many diverse experiences as possible was essential for me. I always sought different ways to contribute to the UWA community, within my School and Faculty, but also outside it. I always actively sought out new learnings, in research, in how to teach better, in listening to students' opinions of my teaching, on a new committee to help me see the world differently, when hearing other staff sharing their own experiences.

Where did you think you would end up, when you began your career?

I’ve never really had long-term goals, I prefer to live day-by-day, year-by-year and see what emerges. Life was always very busy with children, extended family, yoga and Buddhist communities and a career at UWA. The challenges of fitting this into a single life were always changing, and it seemed critical to me to dance with those challenges and be fascinated by whatever emerged.

What are some of your most significant achievements?

Leading UWA’s gender equity program over 15 years has been immensely satisfying. I look back and can see how far we have travelled over those years. I also led a cultural change in the Animal Ethics Committees to a more collaborative approach amongst all stakeholders. Ultimately, this will benefit the animals.

What has been the most interesting aspect of your career?

I have enormously enjoyed working across disciplines, both for research and teaching, and across all of UWA, with academic and professional staff of all levels, from students to Vice-Chancellors.

Where are you planning to go from here? Are there new interests you are looking to get involved in?

The future is unknown for me. There are so many opportunities out there, I will take time to decide where I go. I will take a few months to experience stillness, quiet, yoga, meditation, bushwalking, no meetings, no busyness. We have a house in Walpole and I’ll spend some time in the magnificent forests down there and then see what emerges.

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