Alumni then and now: Professor Richard Baker, BA (Hons) '82, PhD '89 (Adelaide)

I had a great undergraduate experience here at ANU where I think I was the first person to do a combined archaeology and geography Honours thesis.

In first-year, my geography course, which was looking at the Australian environment over the last 40,000 years, was run by three world experts in their fields. They put together a most extraordinary course.  

There were only 25 of us in the course and, in those days, the University ran year-long subjects. A highlight was a two-week field trip to western NSW including the famous archaeology site at Lake Mungo.

For prehistory, one lecturer was Professor John Mulvaney, one of Australia's greatest archaeologists and the founding professor of the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology.

As I said at his recent memorial service, it was quite extraordinary having John come into a first-year class bringing material he’d excavated just the previous week at Lake Mungo.

He was bringing his research into a first-year class and that’s probably where I got the passion that I still have, for linking teaching and research.

There were opportunities to do research as a first-year student and that’s something I’ve valued ever since.

The experience of doing a semester-long research project assisting a leading geomorphologist was an extraordinary experience.