Alumni Career Stories: Dr Nick Gosman, My Scientific Family

In a recent call for John Innes Alumni Mentors, we were delighted to hear from Dr. Nick Gosman, who offered to mentor current staff and students, and to share his own experiences of how mentoring and ongoing support has been key to his own career successes.

As we launch the Alumni Mentors on the NBI Coaching and Mentoring pool, we caught up with Nick to find out more about him, his career and why he wants to give back to the John Innes Centre through this initiative.

From an early age, Nick remembers having an interest in the natural world, but he says it was his school Biology teacher who inspired him to pursue a career in science. His early career path saw him become a plant breeder, specialising in cereals and worked at Twyford Seeds Ltd (now KWS UK Ltd).

Having enjoyed a successful and fulfilling eight-year career as a cereal breeder, Nick felt he wanted to take his contribution to science to another level, and so in 1997, at the age of thirty-seven, he enrolled as a PhD student at the John Innes.

During his studies, Nick focused on Fusarium head blight in wheat, working with Paul Nicholson and Tony Worland as his joint PhD supervisors.

From the offset, Nick felt that he was a welcomed and valued member of the team;

“What I didn’t realise when I entered the Crop Genetics department on my first day, was that I’d not only started a PhD, but that I would become part of a family. The Nicholson group bustled with friendliness, and Paul became a trusted mentor.”

After many years of employment in breeding, Nick and his young family struggled financially to make this shift back into University life, but thanks to the friendly support and encouragement from his Group Leaders and mentors, Nick was able to persevere.

Their patience and kindness at a difficult stage in my life, gave me hope that I could turn my stumbling career into something more rewarding.”

In Nick’s final year of studies, his supervisor Tony sadly passed away. At Tony’s funeral, he was touched by the many tributes from scientists in the UK and overseas. Many of them were in attendance at the church, and this left a lasting and unforgettable impression that the scientific community really acted like an extended family.

In the same year, shortly before he completed his PhD, Nick was offered an amazing opportunity to work as the head of a new plant breeding company in Perth, Western Australia. This opportunity had come from his PhD’s industrial partner and opened up a new path for Nick and his family. A new role, and a big move to Australia. Unfortunately, the company did not work out and Nick and his family returned to the UK three years later.

On his return to the UK, Nick sought out the comfort of the familiar, and was welcomed back into the Nicholson Group as a post doc. Nick told us, “At this turning point, Paul (Nicholson) was there for me, and I will never forget his help at the time.”

“My post doc at the JIC then lead me into science leadership at NIAB in Cambridge, Bayer Crop Science in Ghent and Azotic Technologies in Nottingham.”

Now in the autumn of his career, at sixty-three, Nick works as a Freelance Consultant contributing to government agencies on reducing pollution in agriculture and advising DEFRA and Natural England on plant breeding and genetic approaches to reducing nitrogen inputs.

His fond memories of his time at the John Innes remain clear, “I will always remember my time at the JIC, it was the best place I ever worked in over thirty-seven years in science. It was pivotal in reconfiguring my aspirations and ultimately led me down the path to a rewarding career in plant science project management and leadership.”

“I now feel that it is time for me to give back to the community and I am passionate about helping others, including early-career researchers and scientists at the John Innes Centre. So, if you think I can help you navigate a career cross-roads, or to think about your future, please get in touch via the Alumni Mentoring Pool”

Nick is one of our many experienced colleagues keen to offer their advice to anyone finding themselves at a crossroads in their careers. JIC employees can click here to find out more about our current Alumni Mentors.

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