R10 Life Member – Don Sinnott, LFIEEE [South Australia Section]

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Don’s journey with IEEE has been a long one, beginning in 1966 when, as a graduate student at Melbourne University, he ‘shared’ an IEEE membership with a similarly impoverished fellow student. His friend took out IEEE and Microwave Theory and Techniques memberships, and Don reimbursed him 50% of the cost. They both read the journals as they arrived and, at the end of their graduate courses, divided up the copies for retention according to their interests.

Once he had a job, Don subscribed to IEEE personally, and to the Proceedings, MTT Transactions and, subsequently, Transactions on Antennas and Propagation and Airborne and Electronic Systems. As well as reading about others’ research, he was able to report his own and from 1968 began submitting papers and letters to the transactions and was also able to present at international IEEE conferences.

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At that time, there was no local IEEE Section in South Australia and it was hard to find and connect with an Australian peer group in Don’s area of research. There was an Australian professional body, the Institution of Radio and Electronic Engineers, that had some local meetings, held a bi-annual national conference, and published a journal but, with a necessarily restricted membership base, its interests were spread thinly over the breadth of radio and electronic engineering. IEEE remained as the best opportunity to publish in high-quality peer-reviewed journals that allowed Don to tap into a world-wide research community.

At that point in his career, Don was a user of IEEE services but, apart from publishing in its journals, was not giving back significantly. This changed in the mid-1980s when, frustrated that a significant group of IEEE members in South Australia had no local IEEE forum, he pressed to establish a local Section. It was a struggle to attract 50 signatures for the petition to establish a Section but it was duly chartered in 1985 and Don became the inaugural Chairman of the South Australia Section of IEEE in 1986.


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So far so good, but the Section had minimal funds (just an establishment grant). The breakthrough came when Don was able to persuade a visiting IEEE Distinguished Lecturer to give a two-day course on radar. The Section charged a modest participation fee and banked the surplus. The Section then reinvested its funds in a series of highly successful conferences over succeeding years, in fields including signal processing, microwaves, control, and radar. Don served a two-year term as Section Chair and remained on the committee for a decade, including a term as Australia Council Chair (1990). He also served on the organizing committee for four IEEE International ‘Radar 20xx’ conferences (General Chair for Radar 2003).

Don is currently on the South Australia Section committee where he represents the Life Members Affinity Group (LMAG), which he currently chairs, and is a Member of the Region 10 Life Members Committee. Now in retirement, he continues to contribute to IEEE through LMAG activity and by serving from time to time on IEEE award committees. Don’s IEEE involvement has run for 55 years and is still going!