Welcome to the hotly demanded spin-off of The PhD Playlist – The PI Playlist! The format is similar, with the spotlight being put on a group leader here at the Norwich Research Park to pick three songs: one song for their current research/job, one song for their life as a PhD student and that final much needed motivational song. So turn the volume up and discover the soundtrack to a science career.


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I had a fairly traditional upbringing in Kent. Although not musical myself I have always enjoyed a diverse range of music. If I remember correctly, the first band I saw was Lindisfarne (ca. 1973) and the first festival experience was ‘The Picnic at Blackbushe Aerodrome’ in 1978 when, amongst others, both Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton performed. In Cardiff, where I got a BSc (1980) and PhD in Chemistry (1983) at the age of 23, there was an active music scene. One of my flat mates was in the Screen Gemz, this band metamorphosed into Freur (initially identified only with a symbol, long before Prince did the same), two members of which, Karl and Rick, went on to establish Underworld. I’m fortunate to have seen many great acts over the years and still get out there when I can; the latest event was the Hot 8 Brass Band in Sheffield, a highlight being bumping into them in KFC the afternoon before the show, and this summer it will be Elbow and The Killers in Hyde Park.

The PhD Song – Legalize it by Peter Tosh

“Recollection of my PhD days might best be described as ‘hazy’. To begin with, I was living in a shared flat that seemed to be the hub of Cardiff social life, attracting all sorts of interesting people, and on occasion bands that had been playing at the Student’s Union. It was also the time for protest: CND, Anti-Nazi League, Anti-Thatcher, amongst other causes. Later my girlfriend, Paula, (now my wife of 34 years) came down from London so we moved into our own flat that was a little calmer. As was expected in those days I submitted my thesis within three years. This was before word processors and email. The thesis was written longhand and then a secretary typed it up. Diagrams and other images were drawn using Rotring pens, stencils and Letraset (you may need to Google this). My supervisor had returned to Australia for the last six months of my PhD so drafts were sent and returned by post. However, I also had the time to marry and spend three weeks Interrailing/backpacking around Europe for the honeymoon. Seven papers were published from the thesis: one not being published until thirteen years later! On completion of the thesis, it was off to Tucson, Arizona for the first of two postdocs, the second being in York, before my career with the AFRC (later the BBSRC) began.”

The Current Job Song – Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash

“Having an enjoyable, reasonably comfortable yet challenging job as the Head of School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences in a University, should I stay or relocate back to Norwich to head up Postgraduate Research for the NRPDTP and NBI? A no brainer, it’s good to be back.”

The Motivational Song – Born Slippy by Underworld

“Screen Gemz, Fleur then Underworld: an example of if you have a passion and persevere then great success can come and wonderful things can happen. The lyrics may not be motivational but the beat sure gets me going!”


The PhD and The PI playlist is the brainchild of Millie, whose obsession with making playlists is almost as great as her obsession with science. Follow her on twitter: @milliestanton and drop her an email if you’re interested in being featured!

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