Interview: Keith Fox

2 Mar

interview: Amberley Stephens                                                    text: Alex Oldman

Keith Fox: a self-portrait

According to the man himself, Keith Fox was ‘crap at everything’ when it came to school work. From being placed a shocking 28 out of 30 in his chemistry class at the age of 13, it is hard to believe that he would go on to become a highly learned scholar and well respected scientist. However that all changed due to his Chemistry teacher, who ignited his keen interest in the chemical world and instilled in him a great scientific passion. Needless to say, he excelled during his A level years and climbed the 28 places to the top of his class.

Keith read Natural Sciences at Cambridge and originally intended to focus on Physics. However, he rapidly changed his mind and took Chemistry as his main subject, which subsequently morphed into Biochemistry in his final year. Keith is still clearly a devoted Cambridge alumni, telling us he that he rejected Oxford for no real reason, only stating that ‘Cambridge is better than Oxford’. He stayed in Cambridge for his PhD which he did in the department of Pharmacology; during this time he took undergraduate supervisions in Biochemistry and Pharmacology, which helped pay the rent. In order to understand Pharmacology, which he didn’t study as an undergraduate, he read ‘Bowman and Rand’ Pharmacology, often taking this to bed with him to keep one step ahead of the students!

His love for DNA stemmed from his PhD work, declaring it as ‘the world’s most exciting molecule’. As with a lot of researchers Keith’s primary interest in research is for knowledge, not just for the need to rid the world of cancer, which in his eyes won’t and can’t happen. Having first hand experience of cancer, Keith is quite sure that ‘there is no magic bullet.’

Keith claims to have had no knowledge of or a background in Physiology when applying for a lectureship in Pharmacology in the department of Physiology and Pharmacology in Southampton 22 years ago. Throughout his years here he has worked his way up the ranks and is now in charge of the Pharmacology and Biochemistry degrees, as well as being one of our most loved lecturers, where many students feel he is a legendary figure of Boldrewood.

Delving into Keith’s scientific mind we discovered that he was influenced by his favourite researcher, Fred Sanger, one of the ‘brightest and best of British science’, the only current living scientist to have received two Nobel Prizes. He was the first person to determine the complete amino acid sequence of two polypeptide chains of insulin and successfully sequence the genome of Phage Φ-X174, the first fully sequenced DNA-based genome.

Trying to indulge in Keith’s culinary past times we discover that he doesn’t have a favourite food and claims to be ‘totally cosmopolitan’, he does admit, however the he is a ‘foodie’ but doesn’t mind what and where he eats….needless to say we, find this hard to believe!

A closing note to all biological science students, Keith recommends us all to read ‘Bad Science’ by Ben Goldacre. This book ‘trashes quackery’ showing the misinformation and lies that we are fed by the media and by cranks with little scientific understanding.


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