Seymour, Bagpipes and Science

Mango Parker is passionate about many things, but science and the College Pipe Band stand out from the crowd. Through her passions she has enjoyed an exciting career in the Wine industry and met some incredible people along the way.

I came to Seymour looking for an academic challenge, from the Mt Barker Waldorf School, a co-ed school where we didn’t have a school uniform, addressed teachers by their first names, and celebrated each unique individual. It was a bit of a culture shock at first, but I made friends, and excelled in my studies, thanks to many excellent teachers.

I was the College piper at Seymour from 1993-1995 and graduated as Dux of the College. Finishing Year 12, I had such good marks everyone was asking what career I wanted and I didn’t really know. I did know I didn’t want to do Medicine or Law!

Having studied Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Physics in Year 12, I followed my love of science and enrolled in a Bachelor of Science at Flinders University. I loved Biology in high school, but at university I discovered a love for Chemistry.

In third year I realised it might be hard to get a job, so for some practice I applied for a graduate program with Southcorp. After many interviews, personality and aptitude tests, they offered me a position in the wine division where I had a great time for three years. I found the wine industry lots of fun and rewarding, because I could see the value of my science skills in the real world.

I have worked at the Australian Wine Research Institute since 2002 and took career breaks to raise three daughters with my inspiring husband Simon. I’m very proud of the girls, but, disappointingly, none of them have taken to the bagpipes yet! After 13 years I felt like my career was stuck, so I enrolled in a part time PhD. It was hard work to balance study with family life but I was proud of myself when I graduated in 2020, after winning the Manfred Rothe award, an international award for flavour science.

These days, my job at the AWRI is to understand the chemistry of wine flavour, using analytical techniques like gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, as well mas sensory. In sensory science, groups of people are trained to measure smell and taste in a very precise and rigorous way.

It’s important to do sensory science, because at the end of the day, the smell and taste is what really matters to wine, and other foods and drinks. You can hear some funny facts and stories about wine science in my podcast with Professor Brian Cox and Tim Minchin. Listen at www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0dcngq7

I have been following the story of the Seymour Pipe Band and am amazed at the incredible band and culture that has been built. The concert in the Norwood Town Hall in 2018 absolutely blew me away. I am humbled and honoured that girls were inspired by seeing me play and it has reinforced the importance of visible role models. The best thing I heard on the night is that the band is like a safe place, a family, where everyone can belong and feel themselves. Thank you to all the parents and supporters who have made the band what it is today.

I am so grateful to Seymour College. I graduated with excellent results, the confidence to take my own path through life and some dear friends. The Seymour community is full of amazing women, a network that is there if you need it, for advice, for inspiration, for connections and a good laugh. I encourage you to explore the world and all it has to offer, and know that you can always come back and connect with the Seymour community.

Mango Parker (Ranzijn, ’95)