Frank Pullen: The BMSS lectureship UK tour 2010-2011

‘What has mass spectrometry ever done for us?’

tee-shirts available in the foyer

My BMSS lectureship tour of the UK is over, and what a tour it was!  During the eighteen months I presented 16 different mass spectrometry lectures in 14 different locations, all the way from Plymouth in the South West,  to Glasgow in the North; Oh and throw in my Inaugural Professorial lecture at Greenwich on the way, and you have quite a tour, probably competes with the last  ‘Status Quo’ tour.  The running title for most of the lectures was ‘What has mass spectrometry ever done for us?’ which was taken from one of my favourite Monty Python films, that being ‘The Life of Brian’, although I customised each lecture based on what the particular host thought would be of interest and most informative to their particular audience. 

As with all reports, I suppose that I need to talk about the Highs and Lows of the tour so let’s start with the Lows.  Basically there were none!   I really enjoyed each and every place that I visited,  the only low point was, when I was driving back home from my last talk at the University of Reading, it dawned on me that this whole amazing journey of lectures was finally over and my job was done.   So what about the Highs! Well let’s start with the great hospitality and courtesy that I was shown at each venue.  Basically I was overwhelmed with the reception that I received at all locations.  The hosts at each venue could not have been more helpful or pleasant, and the audiences were amazing.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you that hosted me and all of you that sat through the talks; your warm reception, and great questions were a real boost throughout the tour.

It is very difficult to single out any of the visits for special praise as they were all good, but a few do stick in my memory.  For example, I remember with great pleasure the incredible restaurant that I was taken to after one lecture, it is really true that Bradford is the ‘Mecca’ of great curry restaurants within the UK!  Another great moment was presenting a talk to the ‘sixth form’ school kids at the University of Huddersfield, where I was the ‘fill in’ whilst the scores for the grand final of the RSC Analytical Division's Schools' Analyst Competition  were added up.  Those kids represent the future of science within the UK, and it was great to see their natural enthusiasm about science, and their interest in mass spectrometry.  They really made an impression on me, and made me feel confident that the future of science is in good hands.  The lecture tour did not just focus just on academic establishments, for example I presented a talk at the Astra Zeneca site ‘Charnwood’ in Loughborough, not long after it had been announced that the site was to close.  I was staggered by the high number of people that attended my talk from that site, and their continued enthusiasm for analytical science even in those trying times.  It was especially pleasing to see that they had extended the invite to Professor Colin Creaser and his MS group from Loughborough University who came in force to see the talk.  I had a really great time there, and I sincerely hope that all the AZ people find suitable employment going forward. 

One appointment will always remain in my mind, and that was the evening lecture hosted by the North West Analytical division of the RSC at the University of Manchester.  It was memorable on many levels, the first because it was good to see BMSS and the RSC working closely together, and I hope that association continues to prosper.  The second was the number of people that attended from all walks of life, from students, people from the local mass spectrometry vendors, as well as a  number of elder mass spectrometrists who came along to renew old friendships.  It was especially good to see my old friend Dr Alan Carrick, whom I first got to know way back in the seventies when computer systems were first being linked to mass spectrometers, it took us back to the time when we were both younger and had more hair!!

It was a real pleasure to be asked to do an extra lecture at Keele to the undergrads and MSc students, It allowed me to cover a lot more of the role of mass spectrometry within the pharmaceutical industry, and hopefully gave that younger group some insights into that industry which might help them in their career choices in the future.  It was also a pleasure to present two lectures at the University of Strathclyde, one was on the usual theme and the other was on the role of MSMS in structural elucidation.  I would like to especially thank my hosts at Strathclyde who, knowing that I was only once going ‘North of the Borders’, extended the invite to all the Scottish universities.  It was good to catch up with some of the students from Edinburgh who had travelled over just to hear the lectures; good thinking Strathclyde!!

I could go on more but you are probably losing the will to live by now, and so I would like to finish and leave you with some thoughts.  Firstly it was a great honour to be asked, and I thank all those of you who nominated me for the role.  Secondly, I would like you to think about who you would like to hold the position next so that when the call goes out from the committee then you are well prepared with your nominees.  Thirdly I would encourage you not to be shy in requesting that you host one of the lectures in the next series at your institution whatever or wherever it is, and finally I would like to encourage whoever is the next recipient of this honour, to enjoy their time doing the tour and remember that you are encouraging people to share in the excitement of mass spectrometry, something that has been my life for over forty years!!

The Grand Tour Venues (in no particular order)

RSC Analytical Division's Schools' Analyst Competition University of Huddersfield

RSC North West Analytical Division meeting University of Manchester

Astra Zeneca Charnwood

University of York

University of Bradford

University of Plymouth

London Metropolitan University

Kings College London

University of Northumbria

University of Keele

University of Strathclyde

London Biological Mass Spectrometry Meeting

University of Manchester

University of Reading