When did you join the RAU and what brought you here?
I first came here in 1992 to do a PhD in Rhizobium (nitrogen-fixing bacteria associated with legumes - peas, beans, clover). I also worked on a project looking at the genetics of native UK equine breeds before leaving to work on prawn genetics in the USA and Thoroughbred genetics in Ireland. I was also a visiting lecturer in around 2002 & 2003 running the UG & PG Equine genetics and breeding modules at that time. I started full time at RAU in October 2014 – on the same day that the students arrived!
How did you get into Food Supply Management?
When my horse project in Ireland finished, I took a post at Nottingham University developing DNA (genetics) markers for the identification of meat species. This lead to my moving to Campden BRI where I worked in the authenticity and quality group developing DNA markers for different foods including meats, fish, olive oil, Basmati rice etc. I also managed contract analysis projects relating to proteins, enzymes and antioxidants.
What made you go into teaching?
I always wanted to teach and completed a PGCE after my degree. This was the first real opportunity I have had to do this.
What do you enjoy about it?
I like the fact I can bring real industry knowledge to the students during my teaching & think/hope that they find this beneficial
What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching/learning about food supply management?
The current situation with Brexit is probably the most challenging aspect at present as no-one is sure about how this will finally affect the agri-food industry. However, I don’t think that some of the subject areas I teach (e.g. food law, safety & quality) are going to change too much as the UK is still going to be trading with the EU in some form and will need to comply with their laws in order to do this. Students on the degree courses at this time are likely to be the first to feel the effects though as they will have graduated RAU, completed their graduate training programmes and just be starting to work independently in the sector as many of these changes are likely to be implemented. An interesting time for all.
What would be your top three tips for anyone?
Consider the food industry…it is not just simply about food, but offers opportunities to those with a wide variety of different interests. For example, I like to use the analogy of an Aero bar… which many people know. To bring this to the customer requires a team comprising:
(i) technical, scientists & engineers with knowledge of bubble structure, the properties of sugar, microbiology etc to make the bar
(ii) designers, marketers, legal eagles to help produce the packaging and labelling to ensure it is attractive to customers while also being compliant with the law
(iii) salesmen, logistics, retailers who help move the product to shops so that it is always available for customers.
Many of these skills are applicable to other industries so a degree in food will open doors to other sectors outside the agri-food sector.
How would you describe life at the RAU/Cirencester?
What makes it distinctive/special?
There is nearly 200 years of history built into the fabric of the buildings, meaning it could almost be an Ox-Bridge college sited in the sticks. The campus is set in the Cotswold AONB and the original old buildings are built of local yellow stone meaning the site remains attractive even on cold & wet days. The small group size of many modules, means lecturers get to know you better and can try and advise on degree & career progression.
What’s your favourite spot on campus and why?
I don’t really have a favourite spot, but the main drive leading to the main building is a fantastic spot. This is a tree lined drive, which welcomes visitors by offering a sneak peak of the buildings and site which is only finally revealed in all its glory when you reach the top of the drive. The trees and spring bulbs planted under them offer visitors a different view no matter what the time of year. There are not many colleges or universities that can offer that.
What are your top Cirencester recommendations?
The Tunnel House is worth a visit especially out of term time when it is quieter!
Keith’s Coffee House, which has been in Cirencester almost since time began. If you can get a seat, a cup of their house blend is always worth it. If Keith’s is busy there is always one of the other 40 plus coffee outlets in Cirencester – I know this as it was the dissertation topic of one of my students!