Bruce Riches needs to apply a knowledge of compounds quickly in his line of work…

From truck chemical spills to factory fires, to building evacuations, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service’s Scientific Officer Dr Bruce Riches regularly provides swift hands-on response during hazardous materials emergencies.

While his bright uniform might conjure images of a superhero, it is his 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) -- all attained at The University of Queensland -- and seven years’ of combined experience as a Research and Development chemist at CSIRO and pharmaceutical manufacturer Alphapharm, Dr Riches said 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 said.

“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.”

Other highlights for Dr Riches in his job are his day to day diverse duties, and an opportunity to assist the community.

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

Dr Riches’ hard work and dedication to his job has earned him several awards, including the QFES Diligent and Ethical Service Medal (2014), the Queensland Flood and Cyclone Citation (2010-11), and a Commendation for Operation Southern Cross at the G20 Leaders Meeting in 2014.

His advice to future students?

“Study hard but make sure to make some new friendships and enjoy your time.”

A person in Dr Riches' position earns $100,000 - $110,000 p.a.

Image: Bruce Riches

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