Applying scientific thinking to politics


Shane Rix (BMSc, BSc (Hons) ’14) had dreamed of being a medical scientist since his childhood but never realised the powerful and diverse skillset his scientific degree from Flinders University would ultimately provide.

Shane studied a Bachelor of Medical Science and Bachelor of Science (Honours) at Flinders, graduating in 2014, and now works as a Biomedical Technology Scientist at Lastek, a company that sells advanced scientific equipment, along with designing and developing prototype technology.

This area of medical product innovation represents a new wave of possibility for Australian specialised manufacturing, with Shane’s specialties including biomedical applications, advanced microscopy, labelling biological samples and consulting on biomedical prototypes (including many innovations cloaked in secrecy).

Curiously, he now sells sophisticated biomedical equipment to universities and research institutions across Australia and New Zealand – with some of his former lecturers included among his customers.

“Having always been interested in devices, it made clear sense for me to combine both the scientific and medical interests in the one Medical Science degree,” says Shane.

“I like the process of identifying problems and finding solutions, and I put all this into practice in my job.”

He was drawn to this profession to try and help his father, who has suffered debilitating chronic pain since a motorcycle accident during his time as a police officer with SAPOL, which crushed his spine causing permanent damage. He therefore enjoyed his Honours studies in the Pain and Pulmonary Neurobiology Laboratory, with his thesis focussing on spinal cord processing of pain.

Shane enjoyed being allowed more autonomy with his Honours research choices and direction, and subsequently developed a new protocol for the laboratory he worked in. He was encouraged by his supervisors at Flinders to undertake a PhD, but instead took a job opportunity presented by the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

“I found that the skills I developed at university – especially my final-year focus on microscopy – was ideally suited to this work, as I had knowledge of how the human body works and how medical devices operate,” he said.

Shane changed gears during his career, having pursued a degree in medicine after his time working as a Medical Scientist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, until a terrible gall bladder blockage led to hospitalisation, severely affected his liver and pancreas and abruptly halted his studies. Deciding to pursue a less stressful lifestyle after recovering from successful corrective surgery, Shane began working for Lastek as a Biomedical Technology Scientist and married the love of his life, Anna.

Shane may consider a return to study in the future, tempted by the invitation to pursue a PhD that he hasn’t yet acted on. “I like the idea of furthering myself scientifically. I still read a lot of scientific journal articles to keep myself up-to-date. It remains a core interest for me.”

Shane also says his science degree has provided him with much more than a desired career path. It has imbued him with a scientific rationale which now propels his keen engagement in politics. Shane was a candidate in the 2022 South Australian State Election, running in the seat of Cheltenham for the Liberal Party.

He is part of the committee for the Hindmarsh Federal Electoral Convention, and plans to run as a councillor for the City of Charles Sturt at the next Local Government elections. He says his scientific thinking gives him a unique political perspective.

“I look at solving problems differently, through forming a hypothesis of what will work best, then applying a method to solve the problem,” he says.

“The scientific approach is all about measuring outcomes in a bid to improve – and especially to positively affect the lives of other people. This needs to apply in politics as well, and I believe we need more scientific minds in politics rather than just legal or accounting minds.

“A lot of people in politics without a scientific background don’t know a lot of the things they are talking about. They tend to parrot other people’s ideas without understanding them, so my scientific background helps me to understand many crucial issues. We have too few scientists currently involved in politics, and that really shows in some very critical decision making. I’d like to be involved in changing that.”

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