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Nathan Brown
Featured Profile: 
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
Scientist Type: 
South West
First Degree: 
Senior Scientist
Works For: 
Dyson Ltd
BSc chemistry PhD in Inorganic Chemistry
Pet Hates: 
Burning Ambition: 
Be a bass guitarist in a rock band or lead a successful start up company
It would have to be the power of flight
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
I have always wanted to be a scientist; at primary school my teachers said I’d be a professor one day which may still come true, who knows!
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
All the obvious stuff like chemistry kits, microscopes, dead insects, Heinz Wolf….
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
The variety; I get to be involved with product design, engineering, prototypes, university projects, consumer research and much more.
What would you change? 
I’d like to have even more influence over what we develop in RDD and do much more research with people outside Dyson to expand our opportunities.
What qualifications did you take at school? 
I did sciences and languages when I was 16 and then A levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
Chemistry – I enjoyed the mixture of practical science and calculation. Also it needs a little intuition or feel as experiments don’t always turn out the way one intends and that suits my style.
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
Yes, a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
I’m a scientist working in R&D for Dyson
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
All of our efforts are about trying to make great products and usually that means we have to solve difficult problems in a commercially viable way; often that can lead to a solution that no-one has thought of. I am also involved in a project at Cambridge University which is breaking new ground.
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
Well, Dyson is about making great products so it is likely that thousands of people are using a product I have worked on right now. If they work well then they might buy another and that will mean I get to continue to do interesting things at Dyson in years to come!
Describe some of the highlights of your average day. 
Most days I get to work in the lab and discuss results and problems from the latest prototypes and experiments, talk about how to get our research working in the developing projects and quite frequently review new ideas with Sir James Dyson.
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
I started off working in the chemical industry taking lab scale reactions to full scale plant manufacture, I then moved to work in R&D on household and personal products for Unilever, leading a science area involving human underarms and getting some project leadership experience. I moved to Dyson in 2003 to work on laundry machine projects there and now lead a research team which is a mixture of scientists and engineers. We have a very wide remit from vacuum cleaners to washing machines to hand driers
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
I am the only practicing chemical scientist at Dyson and one of a very few scientists on site. I lead a small microbiology team and an engineering team and work with 250+ engineers therefore all of my work is cross disciplinary unless I’m working on my own! My team tends to deal with idea that involve chemicals, water, biological science etc.
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
There is a big variety of roles in my field and so the range is huge. The bottom line is that one can make a good living and get a lot of mental stimulus out of it.
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
There will be huge opportunities for Chemical Scientists in the next decade as all of the big problems and big solutions are physical science related. Energy, fuels, materials, biotechnology, water supply, climate change etc. There is also a big recognition that it’s at the boundaries between disciplines where some of the biggest breakthroughs occur
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
There is almost no experiment or idea that we don’t consider trying, just in case it works or leads us to an interesting result
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
I’m most proud of the Dyson Airblade™ which I’ve played a part in over many years. It’s a really good product; it works better and is more environmentally friendly than the competition.
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
Yes, it’s good and improved in recent years now that I have three children to get home to see. Too many hours working dulls my ability to think clearly
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
They always ask me about what I am up to and are very curious about what the next Dyson product will be. I never tell them of course!
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Spending time with my children, playing golf, watching cricket
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
I applied at the very start as I am passionate about improving the perception of science and scientists. CSci is one way of saying to the world ‘I am a professional scientist and proud of it’. I have the certificate on show at work
What is the value of professional bodies? 
As a minimum they show you are serious about your career in that subject area. In engineering being Chartered is very valuable and viewed as a real achievement and this should be the aspiration for CSci.
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
CPD is important and it is a good discipline to plan and record learning events whether you are CSci or not. I think there should be an emphasis placed on demonstrating that one is practicing science effectively. This would fit with my view of CSci as a sign of professionalism and competence.
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
Focus on learning, development and doing interesting things. Use these to set your goals and ambitions and don’t let yourself get too comfortable
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
Personally I have found it very valuable in short doses and for specific reasons. I’ve not had a formal mentor and don’t feel that one person could really provide all the advice one needs.
How would you define “professionalism”? 
The dictionary says ‘using professional methods’. Professional scientists are accurate, honest and live by the scientific method. In commercial R&D one also has to be focused on the aim of the business (to make money) and act accordingly. Professionalism has nothing to do with wearing a tie; no-one does at Dyson
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
I’d follow my own advice earlier and not get too comfortable in one role, that’s when you stop learning and run the risk of getting bored.
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
That I did interesting science and engineering and that resulted in innovative and useful products
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