Reactions: Thomas Faust

photo_TFThomas Faust studied in the UK and Australia before moving to London, where he was previously an editor at Nature Communications. He is presently an Associate Editor for Nature Chemistry.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

My chemistry education started at a young age, which is pretty much unavoidable when your Dad is a chemistry teacher. Take, for instance, our family summer holiday in a lovely cottage, which included an educational trip to a nearby nuclear power station. Or our kitchen, which was periodically populated with all manner of apparatus for the synthesis of home brewed beer. In this setting, it’s pretty hard not to pick up an interest in science. At age five, my favourite chemistry involved trips to the school’s prep room, where I’d insist on seeing ‘magic smoke’1 or ‘colours from nothing’2.

My Dad tells of a time when, around the age of nine, I asked what the highest qualification he held was. After finding he had a BSc in Chemistry and a Masters’ in Education, I asked what was one better than that. A PhD, he said…

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

I’m a real sports fan. Most weekends I’m at a game of some description; I’m always looking to visit a new stadium, see a new team or learn about a new sporting code. Conveniently this hobby can coexist with conference travel quite nicely. My dream job would combine this with an interest in photography. I think I’d really enjoy being a sports photographer.

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

Well I’m currently on secondment to Nature Chemistry, from my permanent position at Nature Communications. I enjoy working with a new team, and getting involved with all of the extra roles associated with a print journal. I want to bring my experiences back to Nature Communications and think about how some of the practices here might translate back into Open Access publishing.

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

Jesus, I think. He could clear up a lot of queries I have.

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

My last experiment was about two years ago and will have been performing magnetometry on some new framework materials I’d prepared. They behaved quite unusually, and a satisfactory interpretation of those results continues to elude me.

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

The book would be David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity; I’ve starting reading it twice but have yet to make meaningful headway. If you haven’t read his earlier book, The Fabric of Reality, I suggest you try. It took me quite a while to finish, and I found myself re-reading each chapter multiple times to make sure I fully understood it. I still don’t fully appreciate some of the concepts. Nevertheless, it was a rewarding experience. Music-wise, definitely something by Kasabian. It’s tough to pick one, but I’m going to go with West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum.

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

Stephen Curry; does he qualify as a chemist? In any case, he always has something interesting to say, and that’s more important, right!?


1. Bringing together stoppers wetted with hydrochloric acid and ammonia solution to generate plumes of ammonium chloride.

2. Any number of pH sensitive indicators, but adding base to a phenolphthalein solution was a winner.

[Editor’s note: Previously this article referred to the acidifcation of a phenolphthalein solution; a reader pointed out that Thomas had this backwards in his original post, and it has been modified accordingly.]