About CSci

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Gill Smith
Featured Profile: 
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
Scientist Type: 
First Degree: 
Product Development Director and Training and Organisational Development Consultant
Bishop’s Stortford
Works For: 
Cambridge Reactor Design (CRD) and myself!
Pet Hates: 
Positive discrimination, Travelling in the rush hour, Bad coffee
Burning Ambition: 
To find people who can answer the challenge to ‘name 10 famous female scientists’
Control the weather!
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
Firstly, an air hostess!
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
I really liked science and maths at school – and I was good at them. The practical side and application in the real world especially appealed. There was a strong Science Club where we had lots of interesting external speakers; a talk on cryogenics, where the lecturer ‘fried’ an egg in liquid nitrogen, still sticks in the mind. We had a particularly inspiring (and glamorous) Chemistry teacher, Josie Wilkinson, so Chemistry won out
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
I love the variety – the fact that being a scientist can lead you down all sorts of interesting avenues and allow you to meet a whole host of interesting people. No two days are the same
What would you change? 
Media reporting of science topics is often poor and almost always sensationalises the topic – be it the ‘miracle cure’ or, more usually, ‘chemicals are going to kill us all’! In general, it gives science and scientists a bad name. So I’d like to improve the standard of media reporting
What qualifications did you take at school? 
‘O’ and ‘A’-levels
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
Chemistry – see above – but also because of a very good short residential school held at Nottingham University, which included a memorable explosions lecture….
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
No, not at all
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
Busy, never a dull moment, lots of opportunities
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
In my work for Cambridge Reactor Design, we are involved in designing and building novel equipment for chemistry labs. We’re always looking for innovative solutions – a good example would be where we have integrated robotics with vision systems to give real-time decision making within experiments.
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
Some of CRD’s products are enabling technologies for new developments in the low carbon economy field, whilst all the projects focus on ‘doing more with less’ therefore having an impact on lowering emissions. Independently, the overall aim is to help individuals/organizations fulfill their potential, so who knows what that might lead to!
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
I’m not sure I have an average day, but some recent highlights have included: Getting a grant application accepted for a collaboration with a University. Meeting some great apprentices who I will be helping with a BTec qualification. Going to a reception at the London Stock Exchange for the launch of ‘Clean and Cool Mission’. Exhibiting at ‘Innovate 09’, with CRD featuring in the post event web highlights.
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
My role has evolved from bench chemist, to pioneer of lab automation for process chemistry, to manager of a technology group in process chemistry (partly based in Italy). It then progressed to accountability for the change management required to introduce new technologies and ways of working to a department of 1000 chemists based in 7 sites in 5 countries. Now I have a 'portfolio' career, part-time with a small company developing new technologies such as robotics and automation for chemistry labs as their Product Development Director and part-time as an independent training and organisational development consultant
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
At CRD I’m working mainly with engineers, however our customers are in the chemistry sector, so I am a link between the disciplines. It’s a small company, so we all have to ‘get stuck in’ – my job involves everything from discussing chemistry with an academic partner, to talking to designers about marketing materials, discussing strategy with a trade adviser, providing quotes to customers and giving input to instrument designs (and I’ll probably make the tea as well!). So the job needs you to have skills in, and to interact with others from, a wide range of disciplines.
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
It’s unique!
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
Pioneering the use of laboratory automation in a Chemical Development environment
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
Interesting and varied – but they think it sounds like I must work an 8-day week!
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Swimming; walking; practicing Italian (eg. Reading books or listening to CDs)
What is the value of professional bodies? 
Professional bodies provide a ‘go to’ point for all sorts of useful things. They organize relevant conferences, publish relevant journals, provide support with careers and professional development and offer great networking
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
CPD is really important – individuals must realize they are accountable for their own development and that development leads to progression. The revalidation process recognizes the breadth of activities that contribute to CPD and indicates clearly that competence is derived from progression across a broad front, not tunnel vision on one aspect to the exclusion of others. It also reflects that professional development should always be continuing – it never stops
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Get a good, practical grounding in your subject before you branch out. View change as creating opportunity. Have courage and passion, but also have patience. And don’t expect others to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself
How would you define “professionalism”? 
Doing what you say you will do, to the very best of your ability; knowing your own limitations and being prepared to ask for help; having respect for others; being honest and trustworthy
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
It’s difficult to answer that since the environment is so different now – the glass ceilings have gone and there are so many more women with careers in scientific fields. I guess I would have made a change to my career path a bit sooner than I did since I spent 18 years as a bench chemist before going into Lab Automation and beyond
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
I gave it 100%!
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