About CSci

  • Dr. Alistair K.Miller
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Dr. Alistair K.Miller
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
Scientist Type: 
South West
First Degree: 
BSc Chemistry
Research Chemist- Propriator of Darr House Molecular Innovation
North Bovey
Works For: 
Darr House Molecular Innovation
BSc Chemistry, PhD Syntheic Organic Chemistry
Pet Hates: 
Thankfully few, but synthesis when it doesn't work!
Burning Ambition: 
Doing it- organofluorine chemistry and earning a living out of it.
The foresight to know which conditions to adopt when performing a chemical reaction, thereby ensuring it had the best possible chance of success!
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
A SCIENTIST without question, but unsurprisingly I was not too sure what sort. Hence, I used to hop from one subject to the next. However, like any self-respecting scientist I am fascinated by all the sciences
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
Firstly, watching science fiction movies! Then meeting Dr Mike Chappell who taught me chemistry at my prep school. He was my mentor
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
As a synthetic organic chemist I love the creative ideas process and then turning that idea into reality (most of the time, but sadly not always!) and working for myself means the world’s my oyster!
What would you change? 
Chemistry can be a cruel mistress sometimes-Beautiful hypothesis spoilt by an ugly fact. Sometimes the chemistry just doesn’t work unfortunately. I’d definitely change that!
What qualifications did you take at school? 
“O” and “A” levels.
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
I read “pure” chemistry at the University of Manchester. Simple, of all the sciences, my hear belonged to the central science, CHEMISTRY!
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
I hold a Ph.D in synthetic organic chemistry
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
I can this difficult. I tell them that I am chemist (on one occasion the response was, “Oh, that’s nice. where’s your shop located?”) and I then explain that I design the building blocks of drugs and pharmaceuticals and I use the analogy, “chemical lego”, which I find really helps people who are not in the “know”
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
That’s an easy question to answer: Pushing the boundaries, making chemical compounds available to other chemists, which until now haven’t been. This is particularly exciting as an organofluorine chemist, given Fluorine’s key role in the life sciences
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
There are so many drugs/agrochemicals that contain fluorine and this number will continue to increase. By creating novel fluorinated intermediates from which these new compounds will be derived will enable others to achieve these goals
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
When you’ve had a challenging compound to make and you finally nail it. That’s definitely a “YES!” moment. That “IDEA” that pops into your head quite of the blue that is another “YES!” moment too
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
I’ve worked for Glaxo in Herts and then a number of small fine chemical business in the southwest of England with a small break in the middle to work for the MoD and then back to the southwest to work for another small business and then finally on to work for myself
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
As I am self-employed it currently isn’t
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
Being self-employed means that you pay yourself something when you can afford too!
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
I see it going from strength to strength! We have so much to do, so much to create. Roll your sleeves up and get on with it-time is of the essence and you’ve probably only got thirty years left to create those key intermediates that are going to be required to make the drugs/agrochemicals of the future.
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
Having time off, I spend most of my time in my lab!
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
Without question working for myself. Undertaking the chemistry I want to do and making a living out of it!
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
Yes, without question it is work followed by more work. You see for me chemistry is my love. My job is my hobby, I don’t think of it as work. I am very blessed believe me. How many souls out there get up every morning to do something they love and feel ultimately passionate about and then have the added bonus of getting paid for it as well?! I regard myself as an EXTREMELY fortunate human being and I try very hard not to lose sight of my good fortune
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
Simple....VERY PROUD!
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Piano, beer, football (LFC), walking on Dartmoor (not necessarily in that order). But the ultimate relaxation/hobby/ passion: ORGANIC SYNTHESIS!!!
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
I wanted to be able to show that I had been recognised by others of having attained a certain level of professional status and that I could show that to others if the need arose (i.e. job seeking). But, more importantly was the self-esteem I attached to it. I felt that is was recognition that I had “arrived” (i.e. I am competent)”. I strongly value other people’s opinion of me-it’s important!
What is the value of professional bodies? 
Providing an “umbrella” by which its/their members can assert their professional status, i.e. giving them the recognition in their chosen field in the world by belonging to a recognised professional body
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
I think it important purely from the point of view that it provides a continuing platform by which scientist can readdress their plans for their future by ensuring that they have achieved their initial goals and then by doing so lay the foundations for future ones. With the ultimate aim of improving them in their chosen field
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Firstly, be sure it is for you and that goes for any profession. Secondly, knowledge is KING!
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
Very important, you need to keep your feet on the ground and be prepared to listen to others who’ve been around the block a lot longer than yourself. I am a needy sort and I think all good scientists have had a mentor at some time in their lives.
How would you define “professionalism”? 
Simple, for me...striving the highest possible scientific standards without equivocation!
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
Worked even harder!
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
That I simply lived for what I did, chemistry...!
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