Russell Morris is in the EaStChem School of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews and works on the synthesis and characterisation of porous materials such as metal organic frameworks and zeolites, and their applications in medicine and industry.
1. What made you want to be a chemist?
I have no idea! When I was young I wanted to be a scientist but it was musical chairs as to what flavour of scientist I wanted to be. One week it was an astronomer, the next it would be a palaeontologist or a neurosurgeon and so on. Of course in secondary school I had an inspiring chemistry teacher and he shuffled me in the direction of Chemistry as my first choice for University and I have never looked back. Basically science is interesting, fun and creative – what more could you want?
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
Something physical and outside would be good. Having said above that I always wanted to be a scientist my alter ego dreamed of being a professional sportsman, and it would be great to play rugby for Wales.
3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?
Lots of things, from the use of ionic liquids in the synthesis of different materials to the disassembly and reassembly of zeolites, which I hope will lead to new materials that we cannot prepare right now. In terms of more immediate applications we are preparing porous materials for the delivery of medically active gases, and we are well on the way to developing real therapies for various diseases based on this technology.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
I like the idea of a lone genius fighting against the conventional wisdom. So I would like to invite someone like Galileo to dinner.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
Actually only a couple of months ago, checking the hydrothermal stability of a catalyst (it wasn’t very stable!).
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?
Now this is the really difficult question. One book? I think it should be something pretty useful – 101 Gourmet Meals from Coconuts would be ideal but I don’t suppose it has been written. In that case I’ll go for a book where I will learn something – A History of the World in 100 Object by Neil MacGregor would fit the bill. As for music, that’s easy, I’ll take Queen Live at Wembley Stadium.
7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?
Mmm, a big choice of interesting chemists out there. I think either Stacey Zones from Chevron in the US or Susumu Kitagawa from Kyoto would be good interviewees.