Dr David Stock on driving formulation
18 June 2012
What does your current job involve?
I've been a Science and Technology Fellow within
the Formulation Technology Group of Syngenta for
six years. My role is to drive the science around
formulation effects on the bioavailability of crop
protection compounds. Some of this is around
adjuvant technology but essentially it can include
any aspect of active ingredient (AI) delivery, in
order to get the right amount to the right place, at
the right time, whilst minimising off-target loss.
Did you have an interest in science
I was always fascinated by the natural world as a
young boy. My primary school teacher said he could
envisage me running a biochemistry lab when I was
older. He wasn't far wrong. Whilst I'm in a chemistry
environment, it is with a biological emphasis.
How did you decide that you wanted a
career in science?
I always knew I wanted to work in an area which
involves investigation and answering questions,
preferably in the life sciences. I didn't pursue any
career options when preparing for finals at Oxford
as I was too busy studying. In the end my college
tutor passed on a PhD advertisement from Shell
for a project at Long Ashton Research Station on
surfactant effects on plant uptake, which I applied
for and was successful. It wasn't really planned!
What are the most important things
you've learned in your career so far?
Always expect change, and try not to resent it. I
have been through several company mergers in
short succession and have seen the impact it can
have on people. However, when the dust settles,
nobody has died, and most people take up new
opportunities, which they are happy with. Continual
change is a feature of modern life, so you have to
be prepared to re-invent yourself and adapt.
Would you have done anything
Doing things differently implies regrets, and life is
too short to brood over what might have happened.
Obviously, I sometimes think about what would
have happened if I went down different paths.
For example, I turned down a job in Berlin when I
worked for Schering. My life may have turned out
very differently, but not necessarily more rewarding.
What have been the significant
milestones in your career?
Being offered a position at Schering Agrochemicals
after my PhD. The job wasn't advertised, and I
never expected to see something that fitted with
my PhD. I wrote a speculative letter to Schering
after meeting a formulation scientist during a
conference as a student. In the end, I was offered
a job as a biologist in a formulation department to
help them work out why well-formulated AIs did
not often work well biologically.
Identifying new adjuvant technology in
this role and patenting new chemistry was a
breakthrough, in particular around the fungicide
field, as adjuvant chemistry was wrongly
considered a herbicide-driven field of interest.
Any crop protection compound can respond to
What key things would a young person
need to do to get to your
It is a good idea to study for a PhD as it will be
your only opportunity to devote 3-4 solid years
to scientific investigation without the distractions
of employment. However, once entering the
real world of employment you should keep
challenging ideas and practices. I have often found
that conventional wisdom is unsubstantiated
assumption from so far back in time that nobody
can remember its origins! Also, make an effort to
work across traditional boundaries. It was helpful
for me to be a biologist in a chemistry world, as
have a different view of problems, and this gave
me some of my best research ideas.
How did you first become involved with
SCI and what has that involvement
meant for you?
I joined SCI as a graduate member during the
early stages of my PhD. I found it invaluable as it
gave me an opportunity to make many important
industrial contacts early on in my career. This has
been useful over the years in terms of networking
opportunities and introductions to new research
opportunities and collaborations.
What have you enjoyed most about
Technical Interest Group?
It has been a great opportunity to meet a diverse
range of people who have similar and overlapping
interests, usually working towards similar
end goals/effects but for completely different
commercial reasons. Broad interactions across
disciplines are a very appealing aspect of this
technical group and the events organised.
How do you achieve a work/life
Earlier in my career I was probably too workoriented.
However, as my grandmother used to
say 'You are a long time dead!', and having two
young children makes you stand back and think
about what you want to be remembered for. The
responsibilities of being a parent mean that you
manage your time far more effectively. In fact
once you have children, you are amazed at how
much time you must have wasted through being
disorganised in the past!