Page 23 - PERIODIC 2017
P. 23

days cycling to and from the lab with a tracksuit over my
                                                               pyjamas!  My work in this area eventually earned me a
                                                               BSc – I was the only recipient at the time and had to be
                                                               slotted in between the BAs and MAs.  BScs were later
                                                               discontinued by the University and I was given an MSc.  I
                                                               enjoyed my Part II and moved to a career on the marketing
                                                               side of ICI, where my chemistry background came in useful
                                                               when dealing with researchers and technical people since I
                                                               ‘spoke the language’.


                                                               Phil Gamlen (St John’s 1968)

                                                               I chose my Part II project (studying the dynamics of
                                                               adsorbed molecules using cold neutron scattering) because
                                                               my supervisor, John White, was an inspirational scientist of
                                                               the first order, and I thought the topic would have practical
                                                               relevance for my future career.

                                                               It turned out that the science was less relevant than the
                                                               experience I gained - what the Part II really did for me
                                                               was open the door to ‘Big Science Projects’.  I spent
                                                               most of my career at ICI in a mix of technical, production
                                                               and commercial roles, and it was during my Part II year
             lab very late in the evening, setting up the apparatus and   that I began to learn the skills of team working, effective
             walking to the far corner of the lab, counting my footsteps,   negotiation, time planning, and the importance of always
             until I reached the light switches. Then I had to return   having a Plan B and a Plan C for when things did not go as
             in the darkness and try to find by touch the hypodermic   hoped!  In essence, the Part II started to develop project
             syringe containing a saturated solution of potassium   management skills, and in particular the crucial ‘soft’ skills.
             cyanide, without actually touching the point of the needle.  I   Companies will formally train staff in these competencies,
             subsequently abandoned a career in chemistry for a safer   but having done a Part II gave me a head start.
             one in economics.
                                                               Martin Blaiklock (Keble 1962)
             Barbara Young (nee Clifford, St Anne’s 1957)  After Oxford and a brief spell at Shell, I began a career in

             The reference in the last issue of Periodic  to the DP’s   project finance.  I quickly found that the analytical skills and
             nickname being ‘the firehouse’ did not surprise me as   attention to detail that I learned in Chemistry came into their
             smoking was (amazingly) allowed in the labs in spite of all   own, and I have enjoyed a rich and diverse working life that
             the flammable liquids around. It also reminded me of the   allowed me to travel the world.
             day when one of the Part II students threw his fag end into   Looking at my current College prospectus for Chemistry
             the bin under the sink. Unfortunately the bin also contained   I note that it says that: “choosing to study Chemistry at
             a quantity of used filter papers soaked in organic solvents.   Oxford is not a vocational choice.   Importantly, Chemistry is
             Inevitably these immediately caught fire and flames leapt   a numerate discipline and use of computers and IT skills are
             up his front to considerable consternation and not a little   of core importance.  More than this, the course at Oxford
             amusement of those of us working nearby. Luckily he did   provides a general training and the development of a wide
             not come to any harm but neither did he give up smoking!   range of key skills including writing, interpreting data,
                                                               and constructing and presenting arguments; this allows
                                                               graduates to enter a huge variety of professions”.
             Bill Ferguson (Keble 1952)
                                                               For those like myself, how true this has been. The
             I went up to Keble after my National Service and did my Part   underlying education process, as presented by the staff
             II with Harry Irving in the ICL, looking at the isomerisation   in the Chemistry Department, is second to none, and the
             of S-methyl dithizone.  As I needed to take readings every   range of experiences and successes of the alumni are proof
             4 hours over a period of 120 hours I spent an exciting five   of that.



                                                                                                                23
                                                                                                 Periodic
                                                            The Magazine of the Department of Chemistry
   18   19   20   21   22   23   24