My UEA Story: Ron Hargreaves
Ron, BSc and MSc Chemistry graduate, on being one of UEA's first alumni, and where this has led him
“life should be a continuous learning experience, and for me, that process began at UEA”
What have you been up to since you graduated?
I graduated from UEA twice, once in 1967 with a BSc and then again in 1968 with an MSc, both in Chemistry. I continued graduate school in the US, studying for a PhD at the University of Rochester and then did a post-doc at the University of Illinois. After that, I went into the pharmaceutical industry and worked for four companies for a total of 37 years. I am now retired but I undertake some consulting work, which occasionally turns out to be pretty much like full-time work!
What was your ambition for your career when you started at UEA? Did you have a specific career path in mind?
I wanted to have a career using my degree in chemistry, and I guess I assumed I’d be working in a lab, probably forever. It started out that way, but opportunities came along and the field I went into eventually was regulatory affairs. I never regretted that move because there is always something happening that is new and interesting.
"Opportunities came along and the field I went into eventually was regulatory affairs. I never regretted that move because there is always something happening that is new and interesting"
Tell me about your experiences studying at UEA…
UEA was a new University in the ’60s, and to me, that concept was very appealing. UEA also had new teaching ideas and that attracted me. I think I benefited from this as we had many young, enthusiastic lecturers with fresh ideas and who gave us individual attention. The seminar system was particularly useful.
I played football for the undergraduate team and for the graduate team, ‘Earlham Village’ (does the team still exist?). With Earlham Village, we played local teams on Sunday mornings and as an undergrad, we played other University teams. Coverage of football (soccer) in the US has increased in recent years, so I watch games on cable TV whenever possible. I still support Manchester United.
In your career what key tasks & skills are involved on a day-to-day basis, and what have been the most rewarding/challenging aspects?
In any career, it is important to pay careful attention to details but at the same time be aware of the big picture. In my career, I was fortunate to have great bosses who would share their experience. I had a feeling of success when we received approval for a new product that would then come onto the market, was helpful for patients, and contribute to the company’s growth. Not long ago we brought a prostate cancer drug to market. The work Professor Colin Cooper is doing at UEA is so important because there is still an unmet need in this area.
"When I worked in industry, even in later years, I was able to apply concepts that I learned in lectures and seminar rooms at UEA"
Has your degree influenced your career?
Graduate school would have been much more difficult had I not had the good foundation that UEA provided. From time to time when I worked in industry, even in later years, I was able to apply concepts that I learned in lectures and seminar rooms at UEA.
What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?
No doubt, having a good family is first – having two lovely children, watching them grow and now building their careers and families. Our daughter has a career in biotech in Boston and our son has a career in television in Washington DC.
What were your experiences of Norwich as a city? Is there anything in particular that you miss or have fond memories of?
We used to go to Indian and Chinese restaurants fairly regularly, and to a pub called the Raven, somewhere near the market if I recall correctly. Norwich was very pleasant – not too big, not too small, and easy to get around (unlike Manhattan!). When I first came to UEA there were no permanent buildings, just temporary ones in the Village. It was only in our final year that we moved to the ‘Plain’. At that time there were new buildings for Chemistry, Biology, Social Studies, English and some residences. Many more buildings were being added when I left in ’68. The campus must now be many times the size it was then.
"UEA has always been an innovative university. I was in the first class of chemistry undergraduates - everything was new! UEA was doing things differently right from the start"
Would you recommend studying at UEA?
Yes, I would. It’s always been an innovative University. I was in the first class of chemistry undergraduates – everything was new! One of the innovate ideas was that your final degree depended on coursework grades as well as final exams. That might be standard practice at all or most universities now, but UEA was doing things differently right from the start.
Is there any advice you would give to current students, wishing to follow a similar career path to you?
Get as broad an education as possible – major and minor in different subjects (that was not possible back in my day!). As you develop your career you will need to innovate, learn new concepts, gain new skills – so start now!
What is next for you?
Travelling – Florida, and maybe a trip to the UK to attend a UEA lecture!
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself or your UEA experience?
The individual attention and advice I received from the faculty at UEA, especially my undergraduate and graduate advisors, have benefitted me for many years. Life should be a continuous learning experience, and for me, that process began at UEA.
Ron studied BSc Chemistry and then MSc Chemistry at UEA, graduating in 1968.