- Dr Frank von Delft
Frank is Principal Beamline Scientist responsible for MX beamline I04-1, and jointly also Principal Investigator of the Protein Crystallography group in the SGC at Oxford University. Read more about his work here.
1. How did you first become interested in science?
I was never not going to do science. I blame my oldest brother who wanted to be a physicist. He's 8 years older and had undue influence: I just took it for granted that I’d do the same. Which is why I was also going to a physicist, until he pointed out that he'd have liked to do molecular biology instead: so now I'm stuck in biology. So much for fraternal love.
2. One of your key research areas is chemistry in biological science. Why do you find this area of science so fascinating?
Chemistry as a tool for biology is enormously powerful. Any sort of medical treatment involves interactions between atoms, and my field is all about understanding these reactions. If we understand the chemistry, we can develop specific compounds that are terrifically useful for medical and biological research. Even when chemistry doesn’t lead to new drugs – which it mostly doesn't – it helps to grow our understanding of biology in new and fascinating ways.
3. Do you have a scientific hero? Who and why?
I don’t actually. Not just one anyway. My hero is anybody that can navigate the complexity of performing modern science and still emerge with amazing results; anybody that can stay the course and keep focused on the big questions, while being utterly chaotic. But to manage that you have to be a bit weird – so I admire but don't necessarily aspire.
4. What advice would you give to young people who are interested in a career in science?
Science isn’t hard – it’s fun! If you don’t find it fun, you're doing something wrong – probably trying too hard. Science is not a career: it’s a state of mind, and it’s confidence, not intelligence, which stands in our way. You only have to learn to trust yourself and realise that you too are smart enough to come up with good opinions.
5. If you hadn’t been a scientist, what else would you want to be?
I’d have said engineer, but I already get to do that since moving to Diamond (talk about geek heaven)! My other job would be an economist, because that’s all about how society works: how humans interact and what makes society tick at the humanistic level. I find the mechanics of society fascinating.