A haven for science world's whirlwind
New Zealand science mover and shaker Di McCarthy calls Marlborough home.
This month she was appointed to the board of independent Nelson-based science provider, Cawthron. This adds to her list of science jobs, including chief executive of the Royal Society of New Zealand, which promotes science, technology and knowledge.
In her mid-50s when she took up the Royal Society role in 2007, Dr McCarthy is enjoying an exciting era in a satisfying career. Being chief executive sees her rubbing shoulders with top scientists and influential politicians down to schoolchildren.
Days spent at the home she shares with husband Frank Metcalfe near Fairhall are a welcome break from a rigorous schedule of travel and demanding meetings.
In a recent week, Dr McCarthy's calendar included visits to branches of the Royal Society in Nelson on Tuesday, Christchurch on Wednesday, Wanaka on Thursday then back to Blenheim on Saturday. In September, she will travel to London, Edinburgh and Dublin to visit Royal Society offices and the Royal Irish Academy. After three weeks back in New Zealand, she is off to Boston to present a paper on learned societies' role in funding research in higher education.
Dr McCarthy walks to keep fit, and cooks to relax. She is careful to avoid tempting food at the cocktail functions which are part of the job.
"Often on a Friday night when I get in the Beech aircraft . . . and look out the window as the Sounds then Blenheim come into view, I pinch myself and think how lucky I am," she says.
Previous roles include University of Auckland pro vice chancellor and associate dean of the medical school and science faculty, promoting equity for Maori and Pacific students and for women in science and engineering faculties.
In 2008 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education.
Dr McCarthy was not interested in the Royal Society role at first, until her husband pointed out that working from Wellington would make it easier to spend more time on the Marlborough property they had bought two years earlier.
After an academic career, she is surprised at how much she enjoys a political environment. Part of the job involves organising 10 lectures a year where scientists help politicians grapple with relevant science issues. The Royal Society also manages $100 million of Government science funding.
Despite a commuting lifestyle, Dr McCarthy has put roots down in Marlborough and wants to make a difference here. A first step has been joining the board of the Mistletoe Bay Trust which runs an eco-camp in Queen Charlotte Sound, used by schools for lessons in science, the outdoors and sustainable living.
"One of the most important things for a country is having a scientifically literate society," she said. "What the Mistletoe Bay Trust is trying to do is to grow a generation who respect and value the environment in the way they live."
The Cawthron appointment was a chance to share her experience, knowledge and relationships with an organisation with a valuable research role in Marlborough and Nelson, she said.
Dr McCarthy said when she finally retires she hopes to volunteer in the Marlborough community, especially at the hospice.
- The Marlborough Express