About the faculty
Lecturer in Biochemical Toxicology
Could you please describe yourself in a few sentences?
I am extremely energetic and passionate about everything I do, I tend to move at 100 miles an hour between projects. I’m also loud, when lecturing I’m very loud and I try and get everyone (even those hiding at the back) involved in a conversation about the topic. I have an acquired humour, in that sarcasm is probably my default position, and I think I’m funny.
What is your area of academic interest and which courses are you involved in?
I’m the course leader for Biological Sciences, academic Liaison tutor for the Science Without Borders scheme and module leader for first year Biochemistry and Molecular Biology plus final year and Masters modules in Drug Metabolism and Toxicology. I would describe myself as a molecular cell biologist, pharmacologist and toxicologist. My research passion is in nuclear receptor biology, and I have a number of projects on the go at the moment.
Could you please tell us a bit about the courses that you are involved in?
Hard questions, how do I summarise the above. Well, Biological Sciences is the queen of degrees here at Westminster. We offer every student on the degree the flexibility to pursue their interests within the biosciences, and we encourage them to broader their horizons to make them the best graduates and help them secure their future.
The first year module I run in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is a big challenge for the students. It is almost the module which is the most fundamental to everything else the student will do at every level. We try and support the students through the chemistry and biochemistry of life and we aim to given them a good understanding of how the body (and indeed we as scientists) access and store inheritable information.
Drug metabolism and toxicology are hugely important to pharmacologists and to anyone working to help support the human body through health and disease. We introduce students to the mechanisms by which the body disposes of drugs and to the toxic effects seen on the major organ systems of the body.
Science Without Borders is an initiative run by the Brazilian Government, in which students are funded for one full year to study scientific subjects abroad. We currently have around 45 very enthusiastic and capable students in the faculty, who are studying a range of modules.
What was your first job? What did you learn from it?
Wow, ok, my first job was in a toy shop in my home town of Weymouth. Not lofty or academic, but I did learn the importance of teamwork, money handling and patience.
What did you do in your career before coming to Westminster?
My PhD is in Molecular Toxicology and is from The university of Surrey, where I also studied for a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry (Pharmacology). Before moving on to a postdoc I spent a semester teaching physiology to students of Medical Engineering at Surrey, where I really got the bug for teaching. I completed a post-doctoral position researching the immune response to cancer with Dr Edd James and Professor Tim Elliott at the University of Southampton. After this I took a brief break from academia and spent a year working in industry as a Science writer for a fantastic marketing firm. This was a big eye opener and taught me a lot about the world I hadn’t yet experienced in academia. Then I was fortunate enough to be offered the position at Westminster.
What advice would you give to the students during their studies and after graduation so that they make the right decisions for their career?
Embrace the moment. Stop worrying so much about what you are doing, and focus more on doing it. Take the opportunity to experience as many of the extracurricular activities as possible. It is your academic record that will get you an interview, but your wider experiences and ability to converse about other topics which will land you a job.
If you were asked to give one piece of advice to students who are considering going into postgraduate study what would that be?
Choose carefully. Be self-aware. Consider your reasons for choosing the course and prepare an explanation to give to anyone who asks you “Why that?” because they will ask.
If it is postgraduate research, then be prepared for the long haul and some seriously testing times. Research isn’t about finding the easy answers, it’s about asking the hard questions and most of the time you don’t get answers, you get more questions.
How do you relax out of work? What are your interests/leisure activities?
I gym five times a week, I love to lift weights and cycle, it’s a great way of shaking off the stress of a busy week. My wife and I live in a very old house with a lot of land, which means I spend a lot of time mowing the lawn and keeping everything together. I also love to cook, which is really the most practical use of biochemistry, to take seemingly disparate ingredients and create something which is satisfying and tasty is a great way of keeping your hands busy and leaving your brain to click over the problems of the day. Let’s not forget the television, we might as well be honest, I have about an hour a day of down time to watch TV, and we enjoy a lot of American series such as the West Wing and the Good Wife.