Interview: DSA recipient Steve East

08 July 2019

8 Jul 2019

Dr Steve East is one of this year’s two recipients of SCI’s Distinguished Service Awards. He has sat on the Fine Chemicals Group (FCG) committee since 2001. Here, Steve describes his involvement and experiences at SCI.

(L-R): Chair of the Membership Committee, David Witty, Steve East, and fellow FCG committee member, Simon Pearce. Image: Andrew Lunn for SCI

When and why did you become a member of SCI?

I joined SCI in the autumn of 2001. I had been organising an internal seminar series for the company I was working for at the time and my line manager was an FCG committee member. He encouraged me to get involved in FCG activities and take his place on the committee. I jumped at the chance and I am indebted to him for suggesting it to me.

Why did you decide to get involved in committee work?

I think there were several reasons. One was the philanthropic aspect of working for a charitable organisation in a purely voluntary capacity. Another reason was that it provided me with a forum to connect with and work with colleagues outside of my organisation. Additionally, I recognised that it might help to accelerate my development both scientifically and personally.

What has driven your continued involvement with SCI?

A major part of my work with SCI has been to help assemble the scientific programme for high-quality scientific conferences and it has always been stimulating to work collaboratively with so many creative people to achieve this goal. The variety of conferences that I have been involved with has afforded me with different experiences and each experience has improved the design of the next conference, which has kept my interest.

Further, my role with SCI changed as I became an FCG Officer and SCI mentor. I have contributed to SCI Group Strategy Days and connected with other SCI Groups, all of which have been exciting. A crucial part that has facilitated my involvement with SCI has been the encouragement and support that I have received from my company, Evotec.

How has being involved in SCI activities had an impact on your professional career?

This is probably quite tricky to measure. I would say that my involvement in SCI has helped me to build my soft skills such as communication, team-working and consensus decision-making. From the scientific perspective, several of the meetings that I have organised and attended over the years were directly related to projects I was involved with at Evotec, so I would like to think that the science I learned through my SCI activities was disseminated to colleagues and has influenced project progression.  

How do your SCI activities reflect your person/professional interests?

For the majority of my working life I have been involved in pre-clinical drug discovery at Evotec. Working with SCI has contributed to me nurturing my scientific curiosity. I am also interested in Change Management so during the past several years it has been fascinating to be part of a both company and a Learned Society that are undergoing rapid development.

What motivates you to participate in SCI activities?

I always liked the idea of connecting with scientists and inviting them to communicate their work for the benefit of an audience. SCI and FCG have enabled me to take this to the next level in terms of scientists I could reach out to, the variety of science they were researching, and the scale of the event that I could help to create. I guess what it boils down to is being part of something from design, through development and onto delivery and feeling like you have contributed to all parts of the process.

How do you think that your contribution has helped shape SCI?

That’s a hard question. I am not sure that my specific contribution has helped shape SCI, rather that the team I have been a part of, has evolved during the time that I have been associated with it. The FCG has always been self-sufficient and productive, and now we are more connected and integrated with SCI culture and goals – hence, able to contribute and influence. I would like to think that I have been a strong supporter and participant of this evolution.

What are your thoughts about receiving a DSA?

Have I really reached an age to be associated with the word distinguished? Seriously, it is an incredible honour to be recognised for something that you just enjoy doing. I can honestly say that in all of the years I have worked on SCI activities I have left every committee meeting, conference, training, AGM or one of the numerous other events I have attended with a positive glow, knowing that I am part of an organisation that has supported my development and at the same time welcome and valued my contribution.
For that, and for this DSA Award, I am immensely grateful. Thank you, SCI.

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