JANUARY 2010

DAVID WILLIAMS

1995 German and Chemistry

How did you get to where you are now?

I was brought up bilingual from birth, learning to speak German from my Hungarian mother – who had been an English/German bilingual secretary at a Hungarian patent office before marrying an Englishman and moving to England in the mid-1960s – as I grew up in the UK. My father was a chemist by profession, but became a missionary involved in student work in Eastern Europe around the time I was born in 1972. This gave me a very diverse upbringing, with a lot of international contact from an early age as well as an interest in science and a generally multidisciplinary outlook on life. While taking A-levels in maths, physics, chemistry and German I visited Keele for an open day in late David Williams January, having previously been to a few other universities, and I was sure right away that it was the perfect place for me to study, with the opportunity to combine science and languages with a joint honours degree. Having taken a year out to gain experience and work abroad, I thus embarked on my degree in chemistry and German, combining my parent's backgrounds, with the idea of later filling a niche  as a scientific translator, since British scientists rarely have much if any foreign language skills, while linguists rarely have a scientific profile. The year abroad during my degree was especially useful, as it gave me the opportunity to work as a trainee at a major German (and global)  chemicals company, providing a great boost in my experience in both of my degree subjects That was probably what helped me obtain such a good degree, which in turn led to me being invited to stay on at Keele to do a PhD, as well as being that crucial period of my life when I met my future wife, who then accompanied me back to England and also became a Keelite, embarking on a perhaps even more exotic although in fact thoroughly logical and useful subject combination of biology and classics. During my time as a postgrad I again had the opportunity to spend time in Germany, working as a visiting researcher at a Max Planck Institute, which was a fantastic experience. Despite the fact that I was unable to complete my PhD due to a road traffic accident in what should have been its final stages, I was then able to compete on the German jobs market even before BSc degrees were introduced here in Germany, and found almost exactly the job I had had in mind upon commencing my degree a decade earlier, becoming a scientific and technical translator working in the beautiful city of Heidelberg, despite arriving here at a tough time, just after 9/11.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Obtaining a 1st class honours degree with distinction.

And your biggest mistake?

Buying an old(ish) house - and leaving the UK to live in Germany. Not that it's all bad, but there are certainly more drawbacks than with the house....

What are your ambitions now?

To set up as a freelance translator rather than an in-house translator.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?

Be armed with a broad range of skills and experience, don't just focus on one special or favourite area. It always pays to be open minded and take the opportunities life throws at you, rather than simply pursuing one goal, even though it is very important to have an ambition. Even if it seems like one door has slammed shut, there is always another that opens. As the Sneyd family motto says: Thank God for all!

What made you choose Keele University?

The fact that I could combine two (apparently) completely unrelated subjects 50/50 and have the opportunity to add one or more subsid subjects for a truly multidisciplinary education that was unrivalled by any other British university, as well as the campus and the friendly staff and student guides and the entire spirit of the place on the open day, even though it was a dreary January day.

How has Keele influenced your life?

Keele has had an immense and long-lasting influence on my life. It transformed the way I look at life and the world and gave me a truly rounded education, far more than just an academic qualification. I am still in regular contact with many friends from Keele days and have many happy memories, in addition to the many useful things I learnt there, whether in the lecture theatre, the lab, the kitchen, or even the students union, be it from lecturers and tutors or  from friends and fellow students.

What is your favourite memory of Keele?

Popping round to other people's rooms or having them round to mine for a cup of tea and a chat.

And your worst? Hearing a cow giving birth in the field right outside A Block in Lindsay Hall.

Anything else you would like to add? The multidisciplinary nature of Keele's courses, especially with the Foundation Year, and the fantastic campus, with its facilities and community spirit are an unbeatable combination for giving any student an excellent education and the skills they need for life after university, be it in academia or not. Keele University really was "the most original innovation in British university education in the 20th century". And, as the Sneyd Family motto has been reworded so often: Thank God for ale!