About CSci

  • Dr Philip Murphy
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Dr Philip Murphy
Featured Profile: 
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
South East
I wear many hats! Technical executive
Works For: 
Self-employed consultant
HND (High National Diploma), LRSC (analytical chemistry), MRSC, PhD (organo-phosphorous molecules)
Pet Hates: 
Administration and over-monitoring
Burning Ambition: 
To make a difference
To help someone to understand with ease
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
I was a scientist from an early age but I never decided anything. I just knew that I wanted to sort out problems. I knew that I liked problems and making things work. When around five or six, I did things like build periscopes and dams and tunnels under the road. At six, I designed a trap and caught my first rabbit. I was lucky enough to live in a rented house backing onto a landfill and I spent a lot of time playing with rubbish. I also spent time picking and selling coal to make money. I needed to support myself. My mother was blind and had five kids. She worked two jobs and I never saw her. So we had to support ourselves. I couldn’t speak until I was five years old, and I couldn’t read until I was 12. I had a lot of disadvantages. I remember coming home from school one day and just deciding it was time to learn to read.
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
Science is just so easy for me. Science is common sense. Science is not so much about the truth as it is about models and how you make models to describe how things work. You can use any model you like to describe anything you want. If it doesn’t quite work you simply adjust it. I never worked on subjects like physics, chemistry and mathematics at school because my English skills lagged so far behind. The areas where you don’t need to work are the ones you’re naturally gifted in. I believe the person you are is not built on your strengths, but on your weaknesses
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
Making a difference, solving problems, creating elegance and models. Not accepting that there isn’t an answer
What would you change? 
Unavoidable time wasting, like travelling. I hate sitting in the airport but I love to travel. I especially hate it when some big guy sits next to me on the airplane!
What qualifications did you take at school? 
I got one grade E ‘A-level’ in Chemistry because I was still catching up
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
When I asked my school for advice to see which university I could get into, I was laughed at. They said, “How can you be thinking of going to university? Pull your socks up and get on with your life!” My mother told me at age 13 that there was nothing more she could do for me. So I wrote to universities and polytechnics and got five interviews. I went to three of them which was a horrible week because I was working 12-hour nights and going to interviews during the day. I got three offers and ended up going to North Staffordshire University to do chemistry. The first day of the course they told us “35% of you will pass, the rest of you will not make it”. That first year I was at the top of my class. I turned everything around. The second year I got a huge compliment when my professor asked me which book I used for my revision on the morphology of plates (the way crystals grow when you’re firing a plate) because my answer was first-rate. I told him I’d never used a book, I’d invented it
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
I did a post-doctorate in organic synthesis at Keele University
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
I try to make a difference where I can. I deal with a product from Japan which cleans thin liquids by taking the denser materials out. It has no moving parts, no media, and requires no maintenance. It last 150 years. End of story
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
One of my key phrases I invented is “tomorrow’s filtration today”. Essentially where other media fails, Filstar is at its best. When you force liquid through holes, eventually the holes get clogged up and you have bad filtration problems. You don’t have that problem with Filstar. You just put it in and it instantaneously takes contaminants out. It instantly responds to dirt loads and changes of speed, and requires no monitoring or use of computers
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
My work/Filstar is bringing very low energy, very low CO2 emissions, and very low resource solutions to very high energy resource sectors.
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
I love sorting out problems! That flash in the dark – how can I do this? I think it’s impossible and then I wake up at 2 or 3-o-clock in the morning with a solution and can move on accordingly
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
After my PhD I came into the workforce during a massive recession. I wanted to be a lecturer but it was impossible. So I was forced to become a science teacher at a secondary school. I enjoyed much of it and became Head of Year with a plethora of responsibilities. I did that for 23 years and moved around. I got to the stage where I was no longer allowed to make difference because of the national curriculum. I didn’t agree with differentiating between boys and girls in the classroom because of an underperformance of females. I didn’t have boys and girls, I had pupils. After I left teaching, I worked alongside the guy who invented the clockwork windup radio (Trevor Baylis) to identify people for the BBC’s inventors show. He concentrated on UK inventors, but I started looking outside the UK and developed phenomenal links with Japan. This led to a natural career progression. I discovered that the number of people I find intellectually challenging in the UK is not enough. Europe is living on yesterday while Japan is living for today. We don’t have enough determination, whereas Asia has tremendous drive and energy. When I have a meeting in Japan and am brainstorming ideas for a prototype, it will be built the next day. If you do that in the UK people don’t engage…and two years later people are still finding reasons not to do it.
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
I take every Microsoft product and work it to the extreme. I’m involved in how graphics and colours work on websites. I invented a system of multi-layered graphics. I like combining my artistic/creative side with science. You don’t go to a website for information; you go there because you want to be there. Every page of a website you should want to open. It should be artistically appealing regardless of the content. I’m involved with lots of IT
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
When you actually talk to somebody about something and they don’t want to really look at the problem. For example, I’ve got a customer who is a UK car manufacturer paint shop. They want to buy my product but I’ve told them it won’t work for what they want to use it for. But they still buy it because they’ve decided it will work. Science in the UK is appalling, especially in physics. People decide something and whether it’s true or not they believe it. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy working abroad more.
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
It’s seeing the look in somebody’s eye when you finally make it possible for them to understand something. Every time it happens I think of it as a great achievement.
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
No on both fronts. If people were to look closely at what I do they would say, “Wow, how do you do it?” I work many hours, eat too much, don’t exercise or have interpersonal relationships. But I’m happy with who I am and what I’m doing
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
My mother never understood who I was and I don’t think any friends do either. I’m not offended by it; I don’t even think it’s important. Everybody you meet only touches a part of you
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Design gardens to flower every day of the year, cycling, travelling, cooking and dinner parties. I like to invent dishes
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
Because you said I could! For me, qualifications mean nothing but they do to other people when they try to judge who I am. Having letters behind my name helps
What is the value of professional bodies? 
They offer mentoring as well as opportunities for journals, magazines and other communications. Professional bodies are a way of feeding back developments from industry back to the grassroots level through the individual. They have a very good framework for some things and are necessary for your development
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
I find courses tell me what I need to learn rather than giving me the information. Formal courses are a total waste of time for me. It’s far better to be in a meeting with engineers and learn from their experiences
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Basically decide on what you wish to be and make it happen
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
When I was a teacher I was mentoring 24/7. I have also been mentoring the Japanese, helping them to develop better testing facilities and philosophies and making their results more meaningful. And in China, I’m mentoring three women and helping them with their language skills.
How would you define “professionalism”? 
Being a professional is doing the best you can in a recognized and structured way.
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
Nothing. Why should they be remembering me? I would like them to be using things I have discovered. Why should they be associated with me? I’d like my work to be part of a greater body of knowledge
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