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Jonathan Cox

What are you doing now?

I am a Research Fellow in the Institute of Microbiology and Infection (IMI) at the University of Birmingham. My research focuses on the discovery of new antibiotic compounds and the identification of how they work, primarily by elucidating the way in which bacteria become resistant to them. This work has enabled me to publish a constant stream of high impact scientific papers and given me the opportunity to present my work at scientific conferences all over the world. I also deliver practical instruction and lectures to students who are completing a Master’s degree in Microbiology.

What route did you take up to this point?

After completing my GCSEs and A levels at Devonport High School for Boys, I went to the University of Birmingham to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Biochemistry (BSc Hons). It was during that time that I discovered my interest in microorganisms, specifically bacteria and the way they adapted to cope with antibiotic stress. I decided I would go on to study for a PhD in Molecular Microbiology and Drug Discovery at the same university. My PhD was very successful and resulted in five publications, one in Nature Microbiology, and the identification of a clinical candidate (an antibiotic that is able to be tested in humans).

Any significant crossroads?

You encounter crossroads at every stage in your life. Often it’s choosing between the ‘easy’ path and the ‘right’ path. I believe that anything worth doing is hard work. Opportunities are very rarely handed out to people. I have had to find the right opportunities and fight to get them.

What have you learnt most about yourself?

I have learnt that I enjoy challenges, either in my work life or personal life. (At the time of writing this, I am 35 hours into my private pilot’s licence and I fly most weekends, often solo). I have learnt, most surprisingly of all that I am strong willed and very imaginative (attributes which got me in no end of trouble at school).

Finally, I have learnt how to appear confident. A very senior Professor once told me that ‘Everyone is pretending’. I try to keep this in mind when I am presenting data to a room full of experts in the field looking to scrutinise my work.

What words of wisdom would you give to a student joining DHSB in Year 7?

Enjoy yourself. Have fun. Make friends for life. Do your best in your exams, but don’t take it personally.

Not everyone is good at retaining information for exams, but not everyone can think independently.

Enjoy DHSB and help the excellent teachers to help you by listening to what they have to say.

And for a Sixth Former leaving DHSB?

It doesn’t matter what you go on to do, follow your passion or something that interests you, or try something completely different. As long as you are prepared to work hard, you will be a success in your own right.

Any fond memories of school you can share?

DHSB gave me the opportunity to travel the world. I went to Uzel in France, the Black Forest in Germany, Italy, Holland, Austria, Kenya and China while I was a student there (possibly other places too).

These experiences are invaluable as voyages of personal discovery and development.

Do you have a message for any of your teachers?

Thank you all for making me interested in the world. Richard Penrose especially, who with the bang of a hydrogen bottle rocket, sparked an interest that would lead to an exciting career in science.


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