Emergencies Require Ready Knowledge and Quick Thinking

Bruce Riches

Scientific Officer, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service

  • Qualifications: BSc (Chemistry) 1990, Hons (Organic Chemistry) 1991, PhD (Organic Chemistry) 1996

UNDERSTANDING chemistry compound by compound might be essential to UQ Science graduate Bruce Riches’ job – but it is the speed with which he can apply his knowledge that matters most.

A Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) Scientific Officer, Bruce’s job is to provide hands-on response to emergencies involving hazardous materials – from truck chemical spills to building evacuations where people have become ill.

While his bright uniform might conjure images of a superhero, it is Bruce’s advanced grasp of chemistry, rather than superhuman powers, that he applies to save lives in such situations.

Equipped with a Bachelor of Science (chemistry), Honours (organic chemistry), a Phd (organic chemistry), and seven years’ combined chemical experience at both CSIRO and drug manufacturer Alphapharm, Bruce says he lives for the challenge of executing his knowledge in emergencies.

“The part I like the most about my job is applying the knowledge and skills I’ve developed at UQ and in my career to completely unknown situations, with no advance warning,” he says.

“It’s amazing the number of practical experiments you do in your undergraduate studies that become the basis for everything you do in your career.”

Another highlight, according to Bruce, is job variety.

“There’s no set daily routine – and I get to drive a big red truck,” he says.