1. What made you want to be a chemist?
I didn’t. I wanted to be a scientist, probably a particle physicist but I’m not really sure I knew what that was! I turned out to be particularly bad at classical mechanics, actually all 1st year university physics except the quantum stuff but fortunately was much better at chemistry so decided to stick to that. By the time I did my final year project on dendrimers, I was hooked.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
A particle physicist, with things like the LHC that area of research sounds very exciting at the moment. For a non-science job I’d go for running a good wine shop and start importing Canadian wine to the UK.
3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?
We are working on new kinds of hybrid materials, combining dendrimers with other classes of materials, that will hopefully lead into a number of applications such as catalysis and drug delivery.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
Someone like Marie Stopes or Emmeline Pankhurst. It would be quite fascinating to get their take on today’s women’s rights and issues, particularly those related to science.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
A couple of weeks ago I had to run through an experiment for a first year teaching lab, a form of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction that oscillates through purple, red, blue and green. It’s very pretty and satisfying to see spontaneous colour changes like that.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?
Phillip Pulman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy – I think that could do with a couple more readings, and for an album, probably the Bach Cello Suites.
7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?
Some of the chemistry staff up in St Andrews would be good. Perhaps Russell Morris or David Cole-Hamilton? I’m curious about their desert island reading habits!