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Dr Stephen Potter, Salters' Fellow 1975 - 1977

After his doctorate at Sheffield with Ian Sutherland,  and a Harkness Fellowship (Professor Alan Battersby had had one of these earlier) at Yale working with Jerry Berson, Stephen was a Salters’ Fellow in the department from 1975 to 1977:  

Stephen had his own project trying to synthesise artificial enzymes based on macrocyclic soaps and was associated with Alan Battersby’s group (Alan Battersby recently celebrated his 90th birthday with a symposium in the department). 

Since leaving the department, Stephen has had an active and varied life all over the world as an inventor, creator of businesses, CTO, and dealer in intellectual property and patents.

Stephen says:  “I still have some regrets that I didn’t try to continue a life comprising '…a disinterested search for truth and beauty…' but I do remember Jim Staunton’s comments to me about that on a walk on Kings Parade that there were plenty of other things to be done…"

Time in the Department

“Mike Turnbull, Alan Percival, Ewan Chrystal, Andy Hamilton, Finian Leeper, Jeremy Saunders and the late Rob “Jasper” Martin and Dudley were good friends and I used to enjoy spending time talking to Roger Tsien, who later won the Nobel Prize for his work on visualising transport channels in biological membranes, as he indulged in 19th century syntheses of dye molecules.
As a post-doc I was also fortunate to have dining rights at Cats when Peter Swinnerton-Dyer was the Master, just prior to him becoming the Vice Chancellor, and I enjoyed learning from him about the 'Microcosmographica Academica', his drinks evenings with the students, dinner at High Table and subsequent jaunts with him to local pubs.

Meeting Kerstin

Perhaps the most important event to me during my time in Cambridge was meeting my wife, Kerstin, who was studying with “Prof” for a doctorate in porphyrin biosynthesis: I remember the day when she came to the Department with Dudley Williams - very excited about the arrival of a glamorous Swede!  - passing on news as to where she was in the Department…I also won’t forget her attempts to kill me when I did a little operation for her involving cyanogen bromide late at night when the fume cupboard seemed to have been switched off….”
Stephen and Kerstin were married in 1978 in Cambridge and had their reception at St Catharine’s College. They have lead a very mobile life since then.  Their four children are all currently living in London while Stephen and Kerstin are spending most of their time in Dubai with their start-up, Visual Metaphors at Work.

Start-ups and SMEs

Stephen says he is keeping in touch with the technological world through business development for a number of other start-ups and SMEs, one of which, Iprova sarl, is providing disruptive inventions to Philips and many other major companies using a novel big data software platform.

Get in touch

Stephen would be delighted to hear from any other students, post-docs or staff who were in the Department at the time.  For more information, or to provide your own reminiscences, please contact Diane Harris at

Photo courtesy Dr Stephen Potter.