Philip's scientific curiosity started at an early age and came naturally from books of exploded diagrams, and from disassembling, then being unable to reassemble, his mother's portable radio! In school, chemistry fed this passion with thermite combustion; a metal powder and metal oxide composition which once heat is applied undergoes an exothermic reaction…BANG! “The secret to engaging teenage boys in class was to blow stuff up in front of them," says Philip.
For his A-levels, he chose the three sciences; physics, chemistry and Biology, but with no specific career goal in mind. “I really didn't know what I wanted to do, so just picked the subjects that were most fun, which I was good at."
Philip then went on to study BSc Biochemistry and Genetics at the University of Sheffield, graduating in 2014. He started working in the private sector but then applied to STFC. He was attracted by “a great mix of cool new toys – the cloud chamber outside my interview room impressed me; an interesting looking job spec, and feeling like my job wasn't just about making someone else richer but about doing real good for the world."
Now a Project Manager in SCD, Philip's role is to make sure that projects achieve the things they were set up to achieve. Within STFC, this means making sure everyone involved knows what they are doing, when it needs to be done, is spending the expected amount of money and has the right resources they need to do the work. Philip also acts as an advisor for the process of spending public sector money. “There are quite a lot of rules on what we are allowed to do with public money which can be REALLY confusing at first," he says. “I act as an advisor to help people work out the best-value way to get what they need, when they need it."
He says the best part of his job is “When I see a project we support in the news and think 'I helped make that possible', in a very small way. A good example would be hearing about some of the early stage Coronavirus vaccines in the news. It's really satisfying knowing that our datacentre at RAL was being used to help make that work happen."
Philip works in our Project Management Office, which is making life easier for people. He explains, “This involves improving processes and removing blockers so the scientists can concentrate on doing what they do best… science!" A project he is currently working on is IRIS, a collaborative project aiming to help build the digital research infrastructure that modern science needs to simulate, process, store and analyse its data. IRIS works with some exciting projects like the Square Kilometre Array and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment.
Outside of work, Philip is a big fan of all things outdoors such as mountain biking, he is a qualified mountain bike instructor and is currently working towards his Mountain Leader award. He's always enjoyed volunteering with young people like helping out at summer schools, being a scout leader, leading the Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions and he now is an Air Cadet staff member. He says, “It's incredibly satisfying seeing the personal growth in young people when you let them really push their limits". His main area of focus is adventure training, which involves giving some great opportunities for young people to get out into nature, some of which include rock climbing, kayaking, hillwalking and of course riding bikes!