Professor Ron Denney

Ron started out as a research assistant for a pharmaceutical company. He completed his doctorate in synthetic organ chemistry, and then became a lecturer (eventually principal lecturer) and reader in organoanalytical chemistry at the University of Greenwich. He is now running a private forensic consultancy.

"I am Professor Ron Denney, I actually run a private forensic science consultancy now, but originally I was a, I led a major life in the academic field. I worked for 27 years as a lecturer, eventually a principle lecturer and reader in organo-analytical chemistry at what became Greenwich University.

"And during that time I built up a great deal of consultancy within the university, and this is what I've developed further since I left the university 14 years ago. I actually left school at 16. My parents couldn't afford to keep me to go on to what would have been the technical college, and I went out to work for a pharmaceutical company as a research assistant for three years, and I learnt an enormous amount of pharmaceutical chemistry while I was there. And I did my A-levels by evening classes. I went back to college to get a Bsc degree in chemistry with ancillary physics, biology and mathematics. And this gave me the complete background, which was necessary to develop later on in pharmaceutical and chemical and forensic science er skills.

"I then went to the Sir John Cass College in London to do a PhD and I worked on synthesising potential drugs for the treatment of cancer. And I followed that with another year in the pharmaceutical industry where I was a consultant and adviser, before I went back to lecture for three years on organic chemistry. Following that three years I then spent two years in America, working on drug developments and drug structures, before I came back to England.

"You find a professor who is particularly keen on a, his own personal area of research and he will say, ‘Oh you must do this, it's an expanding area.' Well make sure it is an expanding area, and that it's going to give you scope to learn and to travel, and to publish. Whether it's a review article or just an article you write for a magazine, or a proper research paper. You are showing your skills, it's important in probably getting your first job after you've got a PhD if you're going into private business of some type.

"We are tending to assume that, because someone's got a PhD, it's been a progressive thing through the university without any real hard work and that they've been given guidance and fed everything by their supervisors. That isn't the way it works, that isn't the way it works at all, because if you are a person of real metal, you put your life, your soul into that PhD. And we do, we undervalue people. The whole of a scientific career is really research, or should be research if it's in a practical sense. And I think one of the values of me being in an academic area for 27 years was that I had the flexibility and the opportunity to use a very large number of different scientific techniques, and to develop those and to go on courses and attend conferences where I could share ideas and concepts and develop my own ideas and write books as well.

"If you produce a worthwhile PhD, you will work very, very hard indeed and the value, your value to the employer is not the fact you got a PhD – it's the fact that you have learnt for three or four years or even more to apply yourself, to dedicate yourself, to organise your own life and to organise the material you've obtained and create a successful PhD at the end of it."