Getting to know Alan Dorin

Associate Professor Alan Dorin

Associate Professor Alan Dorin

Name: Alan Dorin

Title: Associate Professor

Faculty/Division: Information Technology

Campus: Clayton

 

How long have you worked at Monash?

About 23 years.

Where did you work prior to starting at the University?

I have been working at the university since the start of my career with stints early on at RMIT Advanced Computer Graphics Lab, Telstra, a related digital media company called Pacific Access, some contract work and the Next Wave Arts Festival.

What do you like best about your role?

The flexibility to pursue my wide range of interests. (For instance, I am keen on computer simulation, artificial life, ecological modelling, electronic media art and computational creativity, history of science, art and philosophy, history of technology.) ... and being connected to an academic world teeming with others who are also passionate about these things.

Why did you choose your current career path?

I feel that research, whatever its form (scientific, artistic or design-based), is the way to understand the world, and that teaching and supervision are the way to pass on what we have learned so that others may share it. I love sharing the excitement of new discoveries, of understanding the things that are, and of making new things.

First job?

Bicycle mechanic.

Worst job?

As a student I had a casual position doing a massive stocktake of a warehouse for a large company selling cosmetics. It paid very well. But counting lipsticks and eye-shadow trays by the shipping container load was not exciting.

What research/projects are you currently working on and what does it involve?

I am currently researching the interaction of flowering plants, bees and other insect pollinators under climate change. The research involves measuring the physical and physiological properties of flowers, counting bees on horticultural crops, monitoring their behaviour, and then heading back to my computer to build and run simulations that will help predict insect and floral behaviour under different conditions. All this is part of an effort to understand what impact the changing climate is having on the pollination of crops and native species by insects.

I am also researching Roman mechanical technology in the form of machines that emulated the behaviour of living organisms. This involves reading classical literature for clues or references to the technology of the time, and classical mathematical and engineering texts explaining how Greek and Roman technology worked (or at least how the inventors of the time thought it worked). My interest in this kind of technology is not limited to the classical world, but that is my focus at this moment.

What is your favourite place in the world and why?

I like “South” - Wilson’s Promontory, the South Island of New Zealand, the South West coast of Tasmania. I suppose I enjoy any wild territory but we are particularly blessed with it in this part of the world.

What is your favourite place to eat and why?

No single place. I am happy eating tuna from a satchet on an icy summit, sitting on the couch eating a bowl of pasta or choking on a banana amongst a speeding bunch of cyclists. As long as the location isn’t foul I don't mind where I eat!

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

“Don't drink the water. There is a dead roo just upstream.”

Tell us something about yourself that your colleagues wouldn’t know?

I find interpretting the natural world’s complexity through algorithms a lovely challenge, but simultaneously I find it like trying to understand a rainforest by looking through a microscope. I am frequently frustrated by the limitations of computation.