1. What made you want to be a chemist?
I enjoyed chemistry at school and was fortunate to have an inspirational chemistry teacher, Mr. Cullingworth, who always showed that there was something more, something new, something unexpected to be discovered and learnt. My parents were also very committed in enabling me to go to university and I, therefore, received a lot of support from home.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
I have never seriously thought of doing anything other than what I do. If I had not studied chemistry at university I might have applied to study medicine, but I suspect that I would always have been drawn towards teaching and research. Second guitarist with “The Best Band You Never Heard in Your life” would have been fun and profitable, but I have shown no evidence of any musical talent so I guess that has passed me by, for now.
3. How can chemists best contribute to the world at large?
Chemistry is highly multi-faceted, impacts across many disciplines and is relevant to so many of today’s major problems in health, energy and sustainability. Obviously, chemists contribute by carrying out front-line research in their chosen areas, but it is also vitally important, especially for academics, to retain their enthusiasm and commitment to undergraduate teaching. It is in our undergraduate teaching that we inspire students to take up the challenge and be the scientists of the future.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
Charles Darwin. A very, very clever theory which has as much impact today as it did when it was first published.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
About 20 years ago! One of my PhD students was having problems isolating and purifying a functionalised aza crown and I showed him how to recrystallise this material properly. The student had been struggling for many days and, as I recall, I solved the problem in about 5 minutes. I decided to leave experimental work on a high.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one CD would you take with you?
I would cheat: I would sell the CD and book to someone else stuck on their island, and buy a hard drive for music. First would be live opera recordings of Parsifal, Ring Cycle, Meistersinger, and Tristan and Isolde (Wagner), Marriage of Figaro (Mozart), Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Shostakovich), Khovanschina (Moussorgsky) and Palestrina (Pftizner), followed by the collected works of Todd Rundgren, Frank Zappa and Jorma Kaukonen, with a smattering of Van der Graaf Generator. Is this enough?
OK, if I had one CD “Hot Rats” by Zappa; book “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. Since the latter would be highly depressing reading on a desert island I would probably have to change this to “Hard Times” by Dickens.
Martin Schröder is in the School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham and works on metal coordination chemistry with particular emphasis on metals in unusual oxidation states, assembly of porous nanostructures, and metal cation and anion complexation.