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ChemistryOur alumni

Colin Bird BSc Chemistry & PhD Chemistry, 1969

Consultant, SKUA Projects Limited

Colin Bird's Photo

“After studying for my first degree at Southampton, I decided to stay on for a PhD. For my thesis, I looked at small molecules, in particular at the rearrangement of cyclopropyl carbenes. My first year was successful and I got a lot of good results, but I wasn’t as fortunate in the second year and seriously thought of giving it up. However, even then, I realised that I needed a higher degree to get a good job so I kept on going and eventually it started to go right again. Whay was to prove a turning point in my career came when a colleague suggested that I should set up a computer simulation of a reaction.

I enjoyed being at Southampton for my PhD very much, I made lifelong friends from around the world that I am still in touch with today.


“I enjoyed being at Southampton for my PhD very much, I made lifelong friends from around the world that I am still in touch with today. I still remember a story from those years - I needed to do an experiment that used a lot of cyanide but knew that the fume cupboards in the lab weren’t up to the job so I climbed onto the roof with two colleagues and conducted it there! Another fond memory was organising an annual cricket match between the staff and postgraduate students in Chemistry.

“After graduating, I had planned to go to Florida for a postdoc but the funding fell through. As one of the alternatives, I was offered a probationary period with the journal Nature, possibly as a consequence of having edited the Southampton Chemical Society’s magazine, but I decided instead to take a job with IBM and develop my interests in computing. In the end, I stayed there for nearly 40 years in various roles, 17 of them as a chemist. In 1999, I was given the opportunity of a sabbatical year in Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton to improve the links between IBM Hursley and the University.

“I took early retirement from IBM, having worked as a technical writer and information architect in period following my secondment. I’m now delighted to be back at Southampton on a part-time basis as a visiting consultant. Coincidentally, I work with Professor Jeremy Frey, having earlier had links with his father, who is now an Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Reading.”


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