Russell Johnson is an Associate Editor for Nature Chemistry.
1. What made you want to be a chemist?
To be honest it was probably the cumulative effect of quite a few small things. I was always more interested in science than humanities etc… but the memories that stick out are growing blue copper sulphate crystals with my dad, and wanting to know what caused the different colours and the bang on fireworks night. I also had an enthusiastic chemistry teacher at school who encouraged me to study chemistry at university.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
I’d like to write novels – unfortunately I’m not sure anyone would want to read them!
3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?
Well I’ve just joined Nature Chemistry! The most exciting part for me is reading some cutting edge chemistry and seeing some innovative solutions to intractable problems. I can’t say where it will lead but I’m sure it’ll be interesting.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
Michael Faraday. Cooking isn’t my strong point but Faraday was meant to be a great experimentalist so perhaps he could investigate ways to improve the dinner while I question him about his research into electromagnetic induction and electrolysis.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
My last experiment would have been at the end of my PhD. I can’t remember exactly which my final experiment was, but it would have been something like confirming the formation of amyloid fibrils by transmission electron microscopy or searching for conditions to populate a partially unfolding protein state.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?
I’d need a survival manual if I was to last more than a few days! Normally I listen to guitar-based pop music, but if I was stranded on a desert island I’d need something to keep me calm so I’d choose Dvorák’s New World Symphony.
7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?
Michael Grätzel to hear his thoughts on how solar cells and photo-electrochemistry could help with some of the problems facing society, or someone like William DeGrado to hear about the opportunities for chemistry presented by artificial enzymes. If I’m allowed to choose a historical chemist I’d pick Antoine Lavoisier to find out what inspired him.