skip to content

Current Postgraduate Students


The Departmental tutoring system provides another avenue of support for our graduate students.  We have agreed that each person in our pool of Departmental Tutors will:

  • provide pastoral support to any student who approaches them, in a sensitive and confidential way.*
  • listen, discuss and where possible assist students in working out how to solve any problem or difficulty presented to them.
  • refer all cases which they are not trained to deal with to the place where there are experts available to help the student.

Departmental Tutors will not necessarily know the best answer and are not trained counsellors but they will do their utmost to help any student that approaches them.

* A note on confidentiality: in order for a Tutor to best help or advise a student, it may be necessary for the Tutor to confidentially discuss the situation that has been presented with other Tutors or colleagues, which will routinely be done with the permission of the student and without revealing the student identity.  However, in the rare case of matters where a student or others may be at serious risk, the Tutor may need to take others into his or her confidence even when explicit permission has not been given.

Meeting your departmental tutors  

We have an evening event scheduled every year in November, at which you will be able to meet your Departmental Tutors and Academic Mentors.  We strongly encourage you to attend: in the event that you need support during your time here, it will help you a lot if you know who you want to turn to before you actually need the help.

Current Departmental Tutors

Our current Departmental Tutors are:

Nick Bampos
Paul Barker
Sophie Jackson
Deborah Longbottom
Rachel MacDonald
Bill Nolan
Kathleen Pickett

Nick Bampos: I completed my PhD at the University of Sydney before coming to Cambridge to work with Jeremy Sanders as a post-doc, enthused by the opportunity of working in one of the most highly regarded chemistry department in the world.  In addition to our research commitments, working with undergraduates and postgraduates is one of the privileges that makes the department such a stimulating environment in which to work.  Our graduate training programme and pastoral support network provides a supportive structure through which we can help our postgraduates make the most of their time in the department.  Through the experience I have gained as Senior Tutor, E&D Champion and Deputy Head of Department I want to be able to contribute to the support of the postgraduate community, not only as a tutor and academic, but perhaps more importantly as colleague.

Paul Barker: I studied Chemistry and Biochemistry at Imperial College which was like Cambridge Natural Sciences except the two timetables didn’t fit together. I went to Imperial thinking I would be a synthetic organic chemist, having spent a gap year with ICI Pharmaceuticals (now AZ), but actually it was at ICI that I began to realise that the really interesting questions were at the chemistry-biology interface. So at Imperial, I developed an interest in protein chemistry and metals in biology, inspired by the great Max Perutz and taught by the equally inspirational Alan Fersht who was pioneering protein engineering at that time. I went to Oxford to do a PhD with Allen Hill on protein electrochemistry and I developed a deep interest in electron transfer in biology and how we might learn about molecular electronics from evolved systems. I got a Fellowship to go to the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, where I worked for 3 years on the engineering of cytochromes with Grant Mauk and Mike Smith; the latter later won the Nobel Prize for his invention of site-directed mutagenesis. These were also inspirational times for me, not only because of the great people I interacted with, but because Vancouver is one of the most magical places to live and work. Surrounded by wilderness it is a wonderful city that is one of those global cultural crossroads. One of the most important things as a scientist is to encounter and learn from different approaches to science.  I had developed a very broad perspective of how to do science and started my independent career with a Fellowship in Cambridge in Alan Fersht’s new Centre for Protein Engineering, at the MRC labs at Addenbrookes. I came to Cambridge primarily as a two body problem, since my wife then started the Veterinary MB here. I didn’t want to leave Vancouver. But I was lucky to get a Fellowship at the CPE funded by the MRC and Zeneca, then just spilt off from ICI. Suddenly I encountered my old colleagues from ICI pharmaceuticals again. Somehow a circle had been closed, but without any planning whatsoever. The CPE was THE place to learn about protein engineering and protein science that I thought I knew already. So while I started on my independent objectives of engineering proteins for electronic devices at that stage, I also learned a lot more about fundamental protein chemistry than I ever thought I needed. At the end of my 5 year MRC Fellowship I did have opportunities to take academic positions elsewhere in the UK, but chose to try to stay in Cambridge with another 5 year fellowship; I won a BBSRC Advanced Research Fellowship to move into the Chemistry department. At the end of that I applied for and was appointed to an academic post in the department and have been here ever since. Research wise, I have tried to remain focused on my original objectives conceived of at the end of my PhD, to engineer protein-based electronic circuits, but it has required keeping a lot of different activities going in the laboratory, which has turned out not to be easy to fund. When I took the Lectureship in Chemistry I also joined Downing College as a Fellow, having had little exposure to, or interest in, teaching. I then realised what a mistake that had been. I have learned so much more useful stuff by teaching undergraduates that I wonder how I did without it before.  Now as Director of Graduate Education in the department, I have taken a deep interest in the management and structure of graduate education and how it needs to change in the modern research climate. So, I have a broad education and a wide range of scientific interests, which is both stimulating and a problem. I am more than happy to talk to anyone about my experiences and how they have shaped the advice I can provide to young scientists starting out. As part of the Graduate Education Team in the department, I am excited by the opportunities and support we can provide you with to empower you to develop your careers. I have been married for over 30 years and have three teenage(ish) children who ensure my feet remain firmly on the ground.

Sophie Jackson: I first studied Chemistry at the University of Oxford, and undertook a Part II project in electron transfer in metalloproteins. I started the year thinking my interest was in electron transfer and then ended it knowing I wanted to study proteins for my PhD. I started in Imperial College at the University of London and then moved, reluctantly, to Cambridge where my supervisor took a Chair in the Chemistry Department a year later.  I finished my PhD on protein folding and enzyme mechanisms in Cambridge and then became a Research Fellow in Peterhouse and continued the research I had begun in my graduate studies. I moved to the Chemistry Department in Harvard for two years where I was a postdoctoral scientist in the group of Stuart Schreiber, and then returned to the Chemistry Department here as a Royal Society University Research Fellow. This enabled me to establish an independent research group and led to me becoming a lecturer, senior lecturer, reader and professor.  I run a small research group that studies many different aspects of biological self assembly. I collaborate widely both within Cambridge, UK and with groups around the World.  In addition to the lecturing I do within the Department, I am a Fellow of Peterhouse where I am an Admissions Tutor.

Deborah Longbottom is Head of Graduate Education in the Department of Chemistry, responsible for all aspects of the graduate training programme, including academic and industrial lectures and workshops, placement opportunities and this series of careers sessions with Departmental alumni. She has always been interested in teaching at University Level and was supported in tailoring her Senior Research Associate position with Steven Ley in order to develop her teaching experience at this level.  Indeed, she was a Teaching Fellow for undergraduates in this Department for several years and still retains some key responsibilities in this area. Her research background comprises organic synthesis and methodology (PhD with Steven V Ley, first postdoctoral role with K.C. Nicolaou) and experience in the pharmaceutical industry (Lilly Pharmaceuticals and GSK). Her most recent research involvement has been through a fruitful collaboration with the O'Reilly group at Warwick University, which has led to interesting investigations on the synthesis and utility of amino-acid functionalised polymers formed by RAFT polymerisation.  Deborah has three lovely children (William – 8, Alex – 6 and Lawrence – 1) and her husband co-runs his own company (Isomerase Therapeutics Ltd) so life is very busy and interesting for everybody in the family!

Rachel MacDonald joined the Department of Chemistry as Graduate Student Co-ordinator in October 2015. Before that, she was the Graduate Administrator in the Department of Psychology for three years.  Rachel first came to Cambridge in 1990 as a research assistant in the Department of Archaeology where she was working on the animal bones excavated during the development of Stansted Airport. Whilst in Cambridge she met and married her husband and moved her research interest out of the UK and into Africa, which culminated in her PhD. Rachel had her first son Iain (19) during the fourth year of her PhD (Biological Anthropology, UCL): juggling the demands of a young family and writing up a PhD was an immense challenge, but one that she managed to overcome thanks to her supportive family. She then opted to focus on motherhood, having two more children (Emma,16 and Joseph 14), and being a stay at home mum – while her husband, now an academic at UCL, continued to spend long periods in the field in Africa. Once all of their children were in primary school, she started a part time job running the office of a small local business during term time only. When Joseph was in the final year of primary school Rachel made the move to work part time at the University of Cambridge. Rachel found being at home with small children the biggest challenge of her life, and it was with great relief that she made the return to University life! Graduate students have almost always been part of her adult life, and she is acutely aware of the many challenges that they face during their studies and as they make their way into the world beyond.

Bill Nolan is a Teaching Fellow in Organic Chemistry in the Department.  He was an undergraduate at Imperial from 1982-85 during which time his Organic chemistry Tutor and final year project supervisor was a certain Prof S V Ley.  He moved to Cambridge to work for his PhD with Prof Ralph Raphael - he was Ralph’s last research student and his PhD work was directed towards the synthesis of indolocarbazole natural products.  He spent a year as a post-doctoral fellow at Parke-Davis Neuroscience Research Centre in Cambridge and then returned to Lensfield as a post-doctoral worker with Andrew Holmes.  He was appointed to his current post in 1995.  Bill is a Fellow of Robinson College and has been heavily involved in the academic and pastoral support of undergraduate and graduate students there since 1997 - directing studies in Natural Sciences since 2000, UG & Graduate Tutor since 1997 and Senior Tutor since 2010. In his spare time Bill enjoys coaching College rowing and cross-country skiing.

Kathleen Pickett joined the Department of Chemistry as Welfare, Training and Development Advisor in September 2016.  In her role, she provides personnel support across the Department, which includes the provision of advice and support on a broad range of personnel related issues: staff recruitment and selection, probation, mentoring, staff review, University policies and training, as well as facilitating a confidential advisory service for staff.  Cambridge is definitely home to Kathleen as she was locally educated in Cambridge schools until moving away to study at York St John University, graduating with a BA Honours in English Literature in 1994.  On returning to Cambridge, Kathleen completed a PGCE in Secondary school teaching and thus began her teaching career.  After a taste of the British teaching system, she migrated to live in Japan, teaching English Language for 4 years; a truly amazing experience.  For the past 12 years, Kathleen has taught English Literature and Language to GCSE level in a Cambridge Secondary school.  Her husband, Paul, is an Advanced Driving Instructor involved in driver retraining, which has enabled them to share the responsibility of looking after their 2 children (Zachary - 6 and Anya - 8).  Managing a teaching job and a young family has been challenging, rewarding and immensely fulfilling for Kathleen.  Having spent a number of years teaching and mentoring teenagers and with her own career change, Kathleen is very aware that there are times when many of us seek advice, support or just an ear.  She feels strongly that positive communication is one of the most important aspects within any workplace.