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Alan Taylor (BSc Chemistry & Microbiology 1959)


After leaving Reading I worked as a research chemist at the Ministry of Aviation developing a process to make Silicon nitride for use in rockets. In1963 I joined WRGrace as a research chemist but my microbiology took me into other areas of the business. After working in Paris I returned to the UK to become Research Manager in 1967. Then in 1972 I became Managing Director of Baxenden Chemicals. In 1997 I was awarded the Medal of Merit by the Institute of Materials for meritorious service in material science. In 1998 I returned to university to do a PhD on "Mechanistic studies on the enzymatic synthesis of polyesters" using microbial enzymes. I was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in this year. This work reawakened my interest in the biochemistry of proteins in particular microbial proteins. In 2003 moved to Oxford University to do a MSc in Bioinformatics and then stayed on doing research on viral envelope proteins and in particular on the fusion peptides that enable a virus to enter the host cell. Also in this year I was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society which was awarded because of my explorations and research in the deserts of the Middle East.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

Chemistry was always my first love but by the age of 17 I was more interested in Biochemistry and Microbiology. I was accepted by Liverpool to read Microbiology and Leeds to read Biochemistry but Reading allowed me to study both.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

Living and studying in St. Patricks. I gained colours in Fencing the only sport I was good at. I was leader of the University Arctic Expedition to the Vatnajokull in 1958. Meeting people from all over the world who had diverse interests.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

Its the best three years of your life and the most interesting. Work very hard play very hard, don't waste any time. It is the fastest three years of your life. Take advantage of all the facilities that you can that are not commonly available outside of university.

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

Happy and prosperous retirement. Well earned!

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

Make yourself special, work harder than everyone else. If you are a scientist always remember the words "Why" and "What if".

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

The breadth of knowledge gained by the broad syllabus at Reading meant that I was different from the pure chemists. I could contribute in many areas of the business. Easily become expert on a topic as and when required

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

Show that you are special and are not a narrow subject person. My leadership of the University Expedition was as important as any specific bit of learning. It showed that at 20 I had leadership and management talents. You are special show it!

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

I loved Reading and I am very pleased that my grandson is now there reading Computer science.Having tea with the Vice Chancellor after returning from the Vatnajokull. Sir John Wolfenden had a cushion in one of his desk drawers so he could put his feet up when having a meeting.

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