What is your role within MC²?
I’m one of three NMR Spectroscopists, and Deputy Head of MC².
How long have you worked here, and what did you do before this?
I’ve been here 16 years. Before that, I was a post-doc at Oxford, using NMR and its sister technique – MRI – to study brain disease and injury. It was a fascinating job, but to be honest I never quite got to grips with the intricacies of biology. I remember sitting in meetings with brain surgeons, not having a clue what was going on! So it was a relief when this job came available and I could return to my roots (my PhD was in organometallic chemistry).
What happens in your typical workday? And what would you say is the best bit of your job?
One of the best bits of advice I received as a PhD student was to rigorously plan each day ahead, but then be flexible enough to adapt as daily circumstances change. (The only other PhD advice given by the same person was to make sure you don’t fall asleep in a kabab the night before you’re demonstrating, so not really sure of the wisdom of this chap.) I still try to follow that advice every day at work, but nowadays it seems that so much unexpected crops up in a typical day that I rarely get any of the planned things done. I probably spend half my time dealing with day-to-day NMR questions and trying to solve NMR problems for people, which is good as that’s the part of my job I like best. I will often spend an hour or two on an NMR spectrometer doing some “complicated” stuff or method development, and then there will normally be a couple of meetings to go to, for example with Anneke or some of the students I co-supervise.
What is the worst part about your job?
When something goes seriously wrong and you don’t know the fix for it.
Tell us about a recent proud moment you had at work. Why was this special?
I’m really proud of what we’ve done to set up the DReaM (Dynamic Reaction Monitoring) facility, the work we’ve been able to do there, and the external reputation it has quickly built up. But in general I get most pride just from the times when I use NMR to solve a problem for someone’s research.
Who inspired you as a child, and who inspires you now?
Parents aside, I can’t really remember anyone who particularly inspired me as a child. So I’ll take the liberty of extending those years a little, because the person who really inspired me was my PhD supervisor, Dr Roger Mawby. He was an exceptional scientist, but he seemed to spend most of his energy on making students’ lives as fruitful as possible, and going many extra miles to help them achieve their potential. The people who inspire me now are like that – those people who somehow have the ability to do great science while still having time to really look after their students or work colleagues.
Do you have any hidden talents, and anything specific you still want to learn?
Closest thing I’ve got to a talent is the ability to be able to play the piano and organ reasonably well, so if you see me dressed up smartly at work it’s probably because I’m off to accompany a choir concert in the evening. And I would like to learn some Rachmaninoff piano music, normally I give up after page 1!
If you could choose anything at all, what would your Friday evening meal consist of? Would you cook it yourself?
Fish and chips, from a fish and chip shop!