The Power List 2020 – Europe
Professor of Drug Metabolism and Molecular Toxicology, Imperial College London, UK
Greatest inspiration: There are many scientists that have inspired me over the course of my career – far too many to list – but the person who has undoubtedly had the most influence on my research is Jeremy Nicholson, with whom I have collaborated for nearly 40 years.
Future of the field: In 20 years’ time? I think the field will be getting on fine without me…
Dinner party guest: Ernest Shackleton, a remarkable explorer who wrote, “I believe it is in our nature to reach out into the unknown,” which applies just as well to research. The impressive thing about him was that, unlike many explorers of the day, he knew when to turn back. He might have been the first to stand at the South Pole; he and his two companions got close enough to know they could complete the journey. But he also knew they would die on the way back, so he turned them around and they all survived. All his trips were ill-fated but, as a result of good management, great courage, and true leadership, he never lost a man. Who would you want to have as your manager – a hero who kills everyone trying, or someone who can balance risk?
I think that knowing when to stop is one of the most important things in research (and life) so, in his honor, I have devised a new management term that I call the “Shackleton Point,” where you stop wasting effort on something that will inevitably fail.
Advice to younger self: Don’t let your ego get in the way of the ideas of others; often, they will be better than yours!