From collecting 3D photographs to building a women's ice hockey team in Chamonix, chemistry graduate Dr Peter Blair's pursuits have been wide ranging.
|Degree Course||BSc Chemical Physics, PhD Chemistry|
|Year of Graduation||
Your time at the University
I chose Edinburgh because of the beauty of the city and the academic reputation. Two years in Pollock Halls were a gentle step towards being independent. The late 70s was a period of flux in music and there were some amazing concerts in tiny venues with some highlights being U2 at Valentino’s, The Clash at Clouds, the Ramones, Rezillos and the Two-Tone Tour at Potter Row and the Simple Minds playing Cowan House!
I still have many old friends from the Ski Club and remember the lunches of amazing fresh bread and cheese. I organised the Easter trip to Murren which was a memorable annual event.
As a chemical physicist I had to do chemistry, physics and maths in my first two years, but in third year I had a choice of outside subjects in addition to the core chemical physics course. I chose fine art. I still remember one assignment which was to present your favourite painting in the National Gallery to your study group. Just as I started up, a civic tour including the Mayor of Newcastle and the Provost of Edinburgh entered the gallery and my audience swelled to over 30 people. Probably my first public speaking experience and rather harrowing.
I was enjoying life as a student in Edinburgh so much I decided to stay on and do a PhD, which opened doors and lent credibility in my career.
As a chemical physicist I had to do chemistry, physics and maths in my first two years, but in third year I had a choice of outside subjects in addition to the core chemical physics course. I chose fine art.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
After finishing my PhD I joined a small scientific equipment company called VG Instruments. I became part of a three man development team for an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS). When it launched it was by far the most sensitive multi-element analysis tool available. I travelled the world (Japan, China, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, USA, Italy, England) installing the Plasmaquad, a two to three week job. I spent a year in Japan promoting the technique, then became Product Manager in the UK, then Marketing Manager in the US for three years.
I then chose to go to INSEAD for an MBA to further my career and afterwards made a big sideways move into financial services, first as an industrial analyst for a US Fund Manager and then as a sell-side chemical industry analyst for Salomon Brothers. My PhD in Chemistry provided instant credibility.
I chose to take (very) early retirement and went to live and ski in Chamonix, where I helped my Canadian wife, Helene, build a women’s ice hockey team (I was in charge of bus driving, score-board, music, website, social media and finance!).
In the meantime I had been collecting old 3D photographs – which were developed in Scotland by Sir David Brewster and became a global craze in the 1850s. An unexpected series of events led to a book deal and on the back of “Chamonix in 3D”, I curated a couple of antique photography exhibitions in Chamonix. A second book “Scotland in 3D – A Victorian Virtual Reality Tour” has recently been self-published and I am currently marketing this with occasional lectures and a small permanent exhibition at the Dundee Science Centre. Note that publishing a book is not lucrative and is purely a hobby.
Enjoy all the University has to offer – culture and sport in addition to academically. Enjoy the rich heritage of Scotland while you are there (see “Scotland in 3D” for inspiration). Make the most of the weekends – try not to waste them all in bed with a hangover! Do not work too hard – a happy life is all about balance.
Scotland in 3D (external link)