You might not expect a world expert in materials engineering, semi-conductor physics, applied physics and chemistry to be playful and outgoing, but that’s how Ho-Baillie is. Hearing her talk about her career (including stints at British Aerospace, the telco Alcatel Australia and various solar-related organisations), you get the sense of someone who is quickly recognised by industry people as an asset worth having.
Underpinning all that is a hard-earned resourcefulness and independence linked to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. As her parents made arrangements ahead of the handover to move to Sydney from Hong Kong, where Ho-Baillie was born, they sent teenaged Ho-Baillie ahead to continue her education.
“My parents didn’t go to university,” says Ho-Baillie. “But my mum said, ‘do a ‘PhD ‘cause you’ll be Dr Ho and I can tell my friends. And she does.’”
Set up in a flat on her own and knowing no-one, Ho-Baillie navigated her new country and excelled at her studies, despite her isolation. “I also cooked a lot of spag bol,” she says now, not really enjoying the memory.