Dr Ray Shaw: A big science career
Dr Ray Shaw’s rise through the ranks of US technological giant, Varian, began with a love of building scientific instruments as an undergraduate at Monash University.
Dr Shaw started university in 1967, unaware of where the chemistry and physics he was studying would take him. It was an exciting time at Monash, he recalled, with the days of the Vietnam War and demonstrations on campus.
After finishing his PhD in spectroscopy Dr Shaw stayed on as a senior teaching fellow – spending nearly a decade at the university altogether – before being offered a position as a senior scientist in the Melbourne arm of Varian, which manufactured scientific instruments.
“I’d spent a lot of time designing my own instruments to do experiments at Monash,” Dr Shaw said. “Although I originally contemplated remaining in academia.”
He accepted the challenge.
Within a few years of starting at Varian he was appointed the company’s research and technology manager, reporting to the general manager.
“Here I was learning about financial management, marketing, people management; all those sorts of non-science things!”
Dr Shaw left Australia in his mid-30s to run a small company Varian had acquired in California. It was a “great experience” for him, completing the transition from being a technical manager to a business one. Two years later, in 1987, he was heading Varian’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance division in Silicon Valley, a $200 million outfit recognised globally for its work developing magnetic resonance equipment, including pioneering work in MRI. Additionally, he was ultimately responsible for all of Varian’s worldwide facilities, information systems and activities in Asia and Latin America.
They were heady times.
“I was meeting lots of people in the well-known big Silicon Valley companies, travelling round the world visiting major universities and talking to other scientists, including Nobel Prize winners who were using our equipment. But there was a lot of pressure.”
Dr Shaw returned to Australia in 2001 to retire. “I often miss the stimulation of that work – but certainly not the stress!”
Until recently he has chaired the board of Rectifier Technologies, and a small vineyard/wine company. A keen sailor, he is involved in managing the sport in Victoria and regularly competes in ocean-going races.
Dr Shaw is looking forward to sharing the commercial knowledge he has gained with those at Monash – insights that weren’t available in his undergraduate years. Until then, his advice to students: “You’ve got to be prepared to take a risk.”