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Me and My Mentor: Camberwell Grammar School’s Dr Murray Anderson and Henry Wu

 Dr Murray Anderson and Henry Wu. Photo: Eliana Schoulal

Camberwell Grammar School’s co-ordinator of physics, Dr Murray Anderson, is a nuclear astrophysicist who has a passion for teaching the science of space. His mentee, year 12 student Henry Wu, similarly loves science – particularly rockets – and dreams of one day working for Australia’s first space agency.


 Photo: Eliana Schoulal

I got interested in space when I watched the movie Apollo 13. That was the first time I was exposed to space science. It’s really gone on from there.

Dr Anderson has taught me physics this year and last year. I also know him because he used to teach my brother, who is now at Monash University studying immunology and pharmacology.

Last year, I emailed Dr Anderson because I wanted to start a lunchtime interest group, and to do that you need a teacher in charge.

We met during Friday lunchtimes to work on projects, including building rockets. Dr Anderson helped me run these lunchtime sessions and would teach us basic rocket science and helped get the rocket kits for the students. He’s taught me a lot but the biggest thing is innovation and creativity; Dr Anderson teaches me to think.

During Science Week last year, I invited Dr Alan Duffy, who is a professor of astrophysics, from Swinburne University. He spoke about gravitational waves, as they were being discussed in the media. It was quite successful and other schools attended.

I also asked Professor Brian Greene (a theoretical physicist from Columbia University) to speak at the school this year as he was speaking at a conference. It turned out to be one of the biggest events and it was held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. More than 200 students from across Victoria attended. It was a proud moment.

I’m definitely looking to work in the space industry after I finish school. I was really excited about the federal government’s recent announcement that it is setting up a national space agency. I would love to be involved and work with it.

I’m planning to study aerospace engineering and commerce at Monash University, or maybe study overseas.


PHOTO: Photo: Eliana Schoulal

I’m actually a nuclear astrophysicist by trade, which is a combination of nuclear physics and astronomy. I have a PhD and my research work was in exploding supernovae (stars), which sounds pretty unusual for a teacher in secondary college.

I used to work in the field but I decided I wanted to teach school kids. I enjoyed the teaching work more than research work. I quit my research job with the CSIRO and went back and did my diploma in education. I was about 29 when I did that.

I ended up at Camberwell Grammar in 2000 and I’ve been here ever since.

I taught Henry in year 10 science and year 11 and 12 physics. He formed an interest in rocketry after returning from a NASA trip. To get the interest group off the ground, you need a mentor within the school. So he formed everything and I acted as the teacher in charge. He started a small group and it has expanded. The focus of the group was science and rocketry, so we built rockets and set them off.

Because it was so successful, we’ve included that into our teaching program at year 6. It’s tactile learning and I’ve got a real interest in it.

Henry’s been very good at being proactive – doing things, not just talking about it. He’s kind of out of the box, this kid: I’ve never come across someone as entrepreneurial as Henry. That’s his great strength. All the other science kids I’ve taught that I regard as exceptional, don’t tend to be entrepreneurial.

I reckon I learn from Henry a sense of calm resilience. He goes about his studies, he’s got all these things going on in the background outside of school. He’s a musician and he’s a prefect for faith and social justice within the school.

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. Published on November 9, 2017, 11:06am

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