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Penny Sackett

In their own words

Recorded 2014

Penny Sackett
Audio: 2 minutes

I’ve been accused of being a generalist. It might be because I lack focus sometimes but I think in my mind I’d rather describe it as the fact that there’s so much to understand and experience in so short a life that it’s hard to choose.

I’ve been fortunate to study a variety of things, like the ion channels that are responsible for how our nervous system triggers to discovering planets around distant stars and solar systems quite unlike our own, studying the atmosphere of Saturn. All of these things have intrigued me and I think that science has really given me more than I’ve given back. That is really what a life in science is, it’s a life enriched by that interaction, what it gives you and the little tiny bit that you hope you can give back.

It’s given me an opportunity to use wonderful tools which in fact were also generated by science in a way. So, massive super computers, wonderful telescopes that are an extension of our eyes. It’s a really wonderful experience to be able to sit there at night and be able to direct this giant eye to look into a very very small piece of space, the particular piece that you want to look at that night. And it’s a bit like communing, you know, because you imagine it’s just you asking questions about that particular piece of space and realising that the laws of chemistry and physics are actually the same thousands of light years distant as they are here on this Earth. And I think that’s a pretty remarkable thing. The whole is not only bigger than the sum of the parts, but really more majestic as well.

Acknowledgements

This recording was made during interviews for the National Portrait Gallery's Portrait Stories series.

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Penny Sackett

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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