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Author Q&A Session: John R. Helliwell


CRC Press is pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with John R. Helliwell, author of Skills for a Scientific Life and Perspectives in Crystallography.

John R. Helliwell is Emeritus Professor of Structural Chemistry, University of Manchester. He has a DPhil in molecular biophysics from the University of Oxford and a DSc in Physics from the University of York. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Royal Society of Biology and of the American Crystallographic Association. He was recently elected an Honorary Member of the British Biophysical Society.

Q&A with John R. Helliwell

Congratulations on the publication of your book Skills for a Scientific Life. What led you to writing it?

Following my role as Senior Mentor for New Academics for the School of Chemistry at the University of Manchester, and my long time Manchester Gold experience as a mentor, I decided there was a useful role for a book on Skills for a Scientific Life. My conviction was reinforced by my long time Scientific Civil Service experience based at Daresbury Laboratory, not least as CCLRC Director SR Science, where I took a close interest (and had to!) in annual appraisal for a staff member’s objectives setting and career development. Indeed, in the Scientific Civil Service, skills training and development was compulsory. As a Director I of course attended standards of management excellence training, experience which I have treasured ever since. The University of Manchester also has a staff development unit and runs excellent training courses, various of which I attended.

Can you describe your book in one sentence?

My book provides my career long insights and case studies into the skills needed by a scientist as a researcher and educator.

Who would be interested in reading your book?

My book is aimed at several groups of people:-

  • Scientists engaged in research, development and discovery

  • People considering starting 'Science' as a career.

  • School pupils and students deciding whether to study science subjects versus arts and humanities subjects, and likewise their advisors and their parents.

My book describes what science is like, including the successes, as well as the challenges, and yes, some trials and tribulations. The book will be valuable to people at all stages of their science careers.

Are there any relevant world issues that your book relates to at the moment?

My book invites the reader to consider how to best make their own global impacts in science, consider how to change the current organization of science and aim to make a contribution to world peace and to sustainability. The societal impacts that a scientist can realise can be achieved via their lectures and press releases to the Public, and which are both satisfying and needed also by the funding agencies that scientists receive their research grants from. This links with my other recent book, Perspectives in Crystallography, which offers a threefold look into the past, present and future of crystal structure analysis. Crystallography is one of the most multidisciplinary sciences, with roots in fields as varied as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, computation and earth and planetary science. The structural knowledge gained from crystallography has been instrumental in acquiring new levels of understanding in numerous scientific areas. This book resonates with the 2014 United Nations and UNESCO International Year of Crystallography, a celebration of its achievements and importance, undertaken with the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr). Crystallography in both its organisation within IUCr and in its discoveries offers major contributions to sustainability including within the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals.

What is your academic background?

I have a first degree in physics from the University of York, a DPhil in Molecular Biophysics from the University of Oxford and a Doctor of Science Physics degree again from the University of York. I am the recipient of the Patterson Award of the American Crystallographic Association and the Perutz Prize of the European Crystallographic Association. I am a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Royal Society of Biology and the American Crystallographic Association. I have recently been made an Honorary Fellow of the British Biophysical Society. I led a research group at the University of Manchester for over twenty years which has comprised scientists from many countries worldwide. I worked also at the Daresbury Laboratory up to department head level supervising around 240 staff. I have served the International Union of Crystallography as their representative in several global organisations such as ICSTI and CODATA. Also I have chaired Science Advisory Committees in the UK, across Europe, in the US, in Japan and in Australia. I am now Emeritus Professor in Chemistry of the University of Manchester, UK.

Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your teaching.

I have an unusually wide experience teaching physicists, chemists and biological scientists at undergraduate and postgraduate research levels.

Since 2005 John has also been the Editor for the Crystallography Reviews Journal Please click below links to view John's top downloaded and citied articles:

Honouring the two Braggs the first X-ray crystal structure and the first X-ray spectrometer

Some historical extracts relevant to the discovery

The evolution of synchrotron radiation and the growth of its importance in crystallography

Hilary LaFoe

Senior Editor

Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Science

Science and Medicine

Hilary LaFoe commissions titles in organic, green, medicinal and inorganic chemistry, environmental chemistry, sustainability, pharmaceutical science, drug discovery and delivery. She works with authors globally on a range of titles including textbooks, handbooks, encyclopedias, authored and edited volumes exploring the latest research, as well as books for professionals. Hilary has a long career in academic publishing and is always pleased to hear from new authors.

[email protected]


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