Reactions: Claire Hansell


1. What made you want to be a chemist?

I originally wanted to be a physicist after reading ‘The New World of Mr Tompkins’ repeatedly and thinking that physics, and specifically relativity, was the most amazing thing ever. Then I got to university, where the practical experiments for chemistry and materials science were infinitely more exciting than the physics ones. The pages and pages of maths required for the physics course were also nowhere near as interesting as making brown gloop in a flask, and better still finding out what said brown gloop actually was, so I changed tack and haven’t looked back.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

Running – as in managing, not competing in – the London Olympics; because of all the intricacies in planning such a large scale event, the amazing number and range of sportspeople you would get to meet and all the VIP tickets! Although that job no longer exists, so does it still count?

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

I’m working on making sure that high quality research continues to be published in Nature Chemistry, and that Anne is not missed too much whilst she is off having a baby! I hope it will lead, for me, to a long and fruitful career in science publishing. And for the rest of the Nature Chemistry team, not too much stress and hopefully some valuable input.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

Archimedes – but the dinner would definitely have to be set in the present day to see what he thought of the 2000 years’ worth of scientific developments that have happened since his time. And my Ancient Greek is not really at conversational level, so in this extremely hypothetical situation he would also be speaking English. And not dead.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

September, during my last week in the lab I did my PhD in – some MALDI analysis for a colleague’s project. The spectra were some of the nicest MALDIs I’ve ever seen (if I do say so myself), but showed an almost exact opposite result to the one that we thought we had achieved. Such is life in chemistry.

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

Exiled?! I would hope that stranded is more likely than exiled, although they are both far from ideal situations to find oneself in. If it were looking like a semi-permanent situation, then the Encyclopedia Britannica or a similarly weighty tome to give me plenty to learn about, and maybe even a solution to get away. I wouldn’t take just one music album because hearing it repeated ad nauseam would get irritating very quickly, and that would be a shame if I previously liked it enough to pick it over every other music ever made.

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

George Whitesides, mainly for the answer to question 3, although I’m sure the other questions would give an insight to his way of thinking too.

Claire Hansell is an Associate Editor for Nature Chemistry.

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