Meet the Researchers

Peter Elliott

Peter Elliott


Research Area: Enzymology and microbiology.

What is like being a researcher?

Rewarding, stressful and enjoyable, and that is just in one day. I enjoy the challenge of trying to discover why things are the way they are and working on novel systems. It can get quite frustrating and stressful when your experiments fail and you do not seem to be getting answers to your questions. However getting a break through makes me feel very happy, especially if it is something that I have been trying to solve for a while.  

What inspired you to become a researcher?

I think it must have been when I was learning various techniques and discoveries, during lectures at university.  I was amazed by how clever people had been to come up with their ideas and the experiments they designed to prove them. It was at that point I thought that was something that I would like to do.

What is the best thing about being a researcher/your job?

The challenge and variety of work.  I would hate to be doing something where I am not being pushed and made to think why am I doing this, is there a better way, what does this result mean. I am lucky in that I am learning two scientific fields in a lot of depth so that if I am getting bogged down by one part and can concentrate on the other.

If you could go back in time which scientist/researcher/historical figure would you like to meet and what would you ask them?

I think I would like to meet Dr Jenner, who vaccinated people against smallpox. I would like to ask him, in all honesty, how confident he was in giving a young boy smallpox to prove his theory was correct.

What do you do in your free time?

Fairly normal things I hope. I spend time with friends and my partner. I go out to the cinema, bars and restaurants. When I can I like to go sailing or walking to do something a little bit different and to clear my mind of life’s little worries. I am passionate about engaging with non scientific audiences and hopefully inspiring them to look at science in a new light. On Saturdays you might find me helping out with the British Science Association at a Big Saturday event in Manchester Museum.

What is the first ‘science’ you remember doing?

I think it was in my garden when I was about 6 or 7. My dad had brought me a volcano set and I eagerly set about building it. In my haste I chose a piece of concrete that was not even so that when I mixed the ingredients instead of exploding out of the top it leaked out of the side in an uninspiring fashion.

What’s the funniest/strangest/most surprising experience you have had in your career?

I think it must have been my first international conference. Being surrounded by academics whose papers I have read and whose methods I’d used to do my own work was surreal. What was stranger was being introduced to them and trying my best to match their intelligence. At least now I can put some faces to their names.

What discovery or invention could you not live without?

I am a bit of a slave to my phone, however I lived without it once so I am sure I could do it again. I think a huge thing would be modern medicine. It has helped to cure and prevent so many diseases that were once prevalent that I wouldn’t want to live in a world without it.

What do you think is the most important thing yet to be discovered/invented?

A replacement for our dependence of oil and fossil fuels as a whole. There are several promising ideas based on similar technology but I think if we are to really see an improvement, then the previous designs are going to have to be removed and to start back from scratch. Only then will there be the possibility to generate something completely novel and sustainable.