Robert Williams

Favourite Thing: I work with chemicals in bulk as part of my job making key intermediates for drugs that are used in a wide ranger of therapies, from treating eye disease to pain relief. When I am not at work I enjoy observing the Sun [safely!] and the constellations of the night sky



Dalton County JS [1972-76]. Almondbury HS [1976-81]. Huddersfield New College [1981-83]. Sheffield Hallam University [1983-87]


8 O levels, 3 A levels, B.SC [Hons] Applied Chemsitry

Work History:

Oxford Organic Chemicals, Mitchell-Cotts Chemicals, Ascot Chemicals, Dow chemical UK Lts, Dr Reddy EU Ltd,

Current Job:

Manufacturing Chemist Technology Advancement Team


Dr Reddys EU ltd

About Me

Been there, seen and photographed it – sometimes bought a T-shirt

I enjoy working with chemicals to manufacture the starting materials for very complex drugs. Not only does this involve me handling chemicals but I drive a fork lift truck and I am a St John First Aider.

I began in stargazing some 20+ years ago and this has taken me on some wonderful holidays all over the world to see 3 total solar eclipses [so far with one more in the pipeline], The Aurora Borealis – from Iceland and the UK twice, The transit of Venus [twice] and of Mercury [once].

I enjoy going to places where I can stargaze free from light pollution but also countries and places in the UK that have interesting natural beauty, special animals and/or the Wonders of the World – natural, technological and man-made; such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Mauna Kea

My Work

Manufacturing advanced intermediates for specialist drugs

I have worked on the same site for 25 years with 4 different employers.

My work involves the handling of challenging chemicals in bulk and ensuring that they are mixed in the right quantities and in the right way to get the desired product.

I sometimes work shifts and I work with a wide range of other functions on the site where I work.

In 2008 I had an article about the Chinese 2008 Total Solar Eclipse published in the work’s magazine and this led to an invite to Hyderabad in India to meet a group of amateur astronomers. This led me to do a very special vacation to visit the Taj Mahal and much more.


My Typical Day

Interesting, challenging, varied, teamwork

My day starts with checking out any emails from my boss about the tasks for the day. This is followed by a Team briefing to plan what needs to be done, in what order and if there are any special activities that need to be planned in on behalf of other people.

Then its in the manufacturing areas to order materials and check the availabilities of supplies and consumables.

We are then given an operating manual that details the steps to be taken to do the work for the day. Each step of the manual needs to be read through so we know what the manufacturing activity is and where we have to get do during my shift.

Then its on with the process which involves charging and discharging materials, taking readings, taking samples for testing, monitoring progress to make sure that we stick to the operating parameters that are defined in the operating manual – otherwise that could compromise our safety and adversely affect the quality of the product.

What I'd do with the money

I will use the money to buy some new props for my work with Schools

I have been a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry since I joined while at University – in 1988.

Since then I have held various categories of membership – currently I am a MRSC.

Over the past 20+ years of membership I have attended quite a few presentations organised by the RSC [nothing to do with Shakespeare!] which were given by high-raking University of Professors.

My favourite was Fun and Games with Liquid Air – just Google it!

I started doing events with Schools many years ago when I signed up for a Mentoring activity – organised by my local Education Authority. This involved me linking up with a schoolchild who needed some guidance about how to get on in school and find a summer job. I did this for 3 years.

From this I was ‘head-hunted’ by a School in Wakefield to do an evening class with the School-kids – as part of a National Science and Engineering Week activity.

I joined up with a NSEW scheme along similar lines and I visited more than 6 schools across Yorkshire – to give talks about stargazing and ‘The Universe’, including demonstrating how telescopes work and doing some ‘pop-bottle rockets’.

I did get an invite back to one school three times and when the science teacher moved schools they invited me to the new school too [twice].

I have also done more than 20 events with Schools including activities organised by and through my local amateur Astronomy Society – of which I am President. In total I have probably some over 100 evenings – in more than 10 years – with locals schools visiting the Observatory that I help to run as a volunteer.

I would use the money to buy some more meteorites to show school kids what they are really like and also some pop-bottle rocket launching kits to give to the schools as well as Planispheres to help them navigate the night sky.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Quiet, Thoughtful, Adventurous

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Carl Maria von Webber [18th Century Classical composer!]

What's your favourite food?


What is the most fun thing you've done?

Shotover River Jet Boat – also include most scary!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Yes – once – when I faced up to a bully

What was your favourite subject at school?

Science / Chemistry

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Been part of the manufacture of a drug to treat cancer

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Sir John Harvey Jones

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

An Astronomer

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Build my own Observatory in a Dark Skies Location, See an active Volcano at fairly close quarters, Help to cure Cancer

Tell us a joke.

How many Hippos does it take to change a 13-amp plug. None – they are not trained to do that job

Other stuff

Work photos:


myimage1 was taken during a classroom session that I did with some amateur astronomers when I visited a site in India operated by the parent company that I work for. I was standing up in front of about 50 people and during my day with them I got to do a live interview with one of their public relations people.

I toured their facilities and I also planted a tree – which is a great honour for any special guests to any Company in India.

myimage2, myimage3, myimage4 and myimage5 show some of the activities I get up to during a typical day.

myimage2 is of a very special orchid. From 2001 until 2012 I was involved in doing some checks on a historic land contamination and clean-up scheme that was a legacy of tar distilling done on the site I work on, but during the last half of the 19th and early 20th Century. Because of the type of soil on the site of these old works, sometimes quite exotic orchids and other interesting plants appear for a year or so then something else takes their place.

myimage3 shows me checking a glass column of a reaction vessel that I use almost every day – it is very versatile and is just a scaled up version of glassware that you can find in a lab.

myimage4 shows me driving a fork lift truck – a Big Boys Toy! – something that I do almost every day – I have a special licence to do this – and I could only get this by having a clean driving licence when I applied for the job that I do now.

myimage5 shows one of many tankers that we get on site during a typical working week. We also use liquid nitrogen in bulk to ensure that large quantities of flammable solvents are handled in the safest possible way.

As you can see my office is mostly outside