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Alison North & Kurt Anderson (Rockefeller Uni & Francis Crick Inst.)

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About this episode

#4 — Ever wonder how people end up working in a core facility? You are about to find out. In this show, Peter O’Toole welcomes Alison North from The Rockefeller University in New York and Kurt Anderson from The Francis Crick Institute in London. Alison, originally from the UK, now works in the USA, while Kurt is from the USA but now works in the UK. So there’s an interesting dynamic to this interview!

Both Alison and Kurt are internationally renowned in the world of microscopy, but neither started out with a passion for microscopes and nor did their current roles even exist when they were in their early postdoc days. They talk about their early careers, getting established, and how they balance work with outside life. They share their interests, from Kayaking to serious mountain biking, supporting rival baseball teams, and discuss Alison’s extraordinary collection of New York Yankee caps and tops.

Follow Peter O’Toole, Alison North & CALM at the Crick on Twitter!

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This is a machine generated transcript and may not be 100% accurate.

Intro/Outro (00:03):
Welcome to The Microscopists, a Bitesize Bio podcast hosted by Peter O’Toole, sponsored by Zeiss Microscopy. Today on The Microscopists.

Kurt Anderson (00:19):
If I look back, I grew up with a real, I grew up in Massachusetts. I grew up with a really strong local, Boston accent. I don’t have that anymore. So I guess my accent softened up over the years.

Alison North (00:30):
I would say it is a huge advantage in the US to have a British accent. Everyone thinks that you are supremely intelligent.

Peter O’Toole (00:38):
Welcome to The Microscopist. Ever wondered how people end up working in a core facility? You’re about to find out. In this episode, I welcomed Alison North from the Rockefeller University in New York and Kurt Anderson from the Francis Crick Institute in London, both Alison and Kurt are internationally renowned from the world of microscopy, but neither started out with a passion for microscopes and nor did their current roles even exist when they were in their early postdoc days. This episode, we talked about their early careers, getting established and how they find their work life balance. And entertaining things they actually get up to out of the lab.

Peter O’Toole (01:22):
Hello, I’m Peter O’Toole and today in The Microscopist, I’m going to be talking to Alison North from the Rockefeller University in New York and Kurt Anderson from the Francis Crick Institute down in London. Welcome both of you. This is brilliant to talk to both of you, obviously, I know you both quite well. I owe Alison a big favor because, thanks, I only have my job today thanks to Alison. I’m sure we’ll come to that at some point, but guys, you know, each other really well. So go on, do you want to just talk us through how you actually met to start with?

Kurt Anderson (01:51):
Do you want to start off Alison?

Alison North (01:54):
You start off.

Kurt Anderson (01:56):
Okay. So well we met when I, the short story is that I was a PhD student in Vic Small’s lab. And at the time that I started with Vick, Alison was a postdoc in the lab. So we overlapped in Vic’s lab by probably not much more than a year, really. But I was young and impressionable and Alison made an impression on me and we stayed friends ever since.

Peter O’Toole (02:23):
That sounds so wrong, Kurt.

Alison North (02:27):
I think I’ll add into that one. So I actually I didn’t think Kurt liked me, I thought he was like the cool kid. He was the young cool kid in the lab who’d come in who was doing all this new fancy electronic imaging. And I was the kind of old fuddy duddy electromicroscopist and it was, I only found out really that where I thought he was the cool one, he was thinking that I was the cool one was when I visited him in Dresden when he worked at the facility there and I was on his advisory board and it was when I met his wife, Anita, who became an equally good friend.

Alison North (03:00):
And she was like, Oh, but Kurt always says how cool you are, and I was like, Really! Andi think we became better friends after that actually it was, it was nicer and nicer.

Kurt Anderson (03:10):
Yeah. There was probably a time where we, where we lost touch, certainly when I was working on my PhD, but we ended up because I suppose we both ended up getting into facility management eventually, which, you know, obviously neither of us were at the time and, and that naturally, then our paths started to cross more often and that sort of stuff.

Peter O’Toole (03:31):
I think that’s really cool. So you both, so Kurt you’re obviously from the US and now working in the UK. Alison, actually looking at your biography, you were a Yorkshire lass. So you come from where I am now. And then you flipped over to the US. You kind of really switched jobs in a way. You’re kind of in the same jobs, but in different countries. So how did you get there to start with, so what, what did you start? What was your undergraduates? What was your degrees? Alison, what was your degree?

Alison North (04:03):
Me first? Okay. Cambridge, Natural Sciences, specializing in Cell and Molecular Biology. It was the first year they ever ran that option with Ron Laskey and John Gurdon setting it up.

Peter O’Toole (04:14):
So, so you were the first cohort?

Alison North (04:18):
First cohort.

Peter O’Toole (04:22):
Always the best cohort.

Alison North (04:22):

Peter O’Toole (04:23):
Kurt, what about you?

Kurt Anderson (04:25):
Em, so I went to the University of Maine and I have two bachelor’s degrees. One’s a Bachelor of Arts in German, the other one’s a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology. And it was the German degree, which brought me over to Salzburg as an exchange student. And then I had a girlfriend there and wanted to go back when the exchange was over. And that’s what brought me back to Salzburg to do a PhD. So, so originally what got me over here was the language.

Peter O’Toole (04:55):
That’s pretty, that’s quite, that’s two degrees that are quite different degrees. Why did you switch from German and then go into Life Sciences and into, well, biology?

Kurt Anderson (05:05):
Well, I was a Microbiology Major to begin with and then I went on an exchange program and I liked it so much that I went back for a second year. So I did two years in a row. And by that point, I’d had enough credits that getting the, getting the German degree, wasn’t really a big ask on top of it.

Peter O’Toole (05:24):
So you’re both in core facilities now, which is which, you know, it’s a different career job but did you ever envisage yourself in this type of role when you started out?

Alison North (05:34):

Kurt Anderson (05:35):
I never envisaged myself in science, period and to this day it amazes me that I even have a job!

Alison North (05:44):
I was agonising in my last year at Cambridge, science or music, science or music. And I was thinking of going onto Music College afterwards, but then my sister had gone to Music College and she was like, yeah, I don’t know, you might want to just keep it as a hobby.

Peter O’Toole (05:59):
So what was your music? What did you specialize in music wise then?

Alison North (06:03):
Bassoon playing, classical bassoon.

Peter O’Toole (06:05):

Alison North (06:07):
Bassoon, the long wooden one.

Peter O’Toole (06:13):
I’m just sorry.

Alison North (06:13):
Well, that’s your problem.

Kurt Anderson (06:17):
Also known as the Fagott

Alison North (06:17):

Kurt Anderson (06:17):
In German.

Peter O’Toole (06:20):
So you, so you chose the sciences over the music, and so what was your ambition? You got a PhD. You did a degree, you obviously did PhDs both of you. So what were you, so you’ve got Microbiology, Natural Sciences, was it? So what did you do your PhD’s in? What were their specialisms? Kurt?

Kurt Anderson (06:40):
My degree was in Cell Biology in the end. I mean, Vic, Vic was had worked for years on the cytoskeleton was really sort of an early person doing correlative, light microscopy and electron microscopy. I sort of had a foot in both areas and Alison at the time was doing mostly EM with Vic and I came in and did mostly, light micrsocopy with the Vic. And I ended up getting a degree then in Cell Biology, which was based on a keratocyte cell migration actin cytoskeleton and fish keratocyte.

Peter O’Toole (07:13):
And Alison?

Alison North (07:16):
So I did a PhD in Cell Biology, but I will admit something really geeky, which was that in my third year at Cambridge was the first time I looked down a florescence microscope and I never had any ambitious but I will say that I looked at that microscope and I was like, wow, this is what I want to do. So I took a PhD position at Oxford working with David Shotton, who was getting one of the first confocal microscopes in his lab at that time and there were two of us PhD students, me and Nick Wright, who sadly passed away last year. And Nick Nick was great, and, but he spent his whole time actually getting the confocal microscope to work. So I couldn’t spend my PhD using it cause it wasn’t yet really working properly. So I switched over to doing immuno EM, lots of gold labeling. And I happened to be at a conference, I had a, I actually had a postdoc lined up in Newcastle pretty much. And then I was at a conference and I was sitting next to somebody and we were listening to a talk and it was a bad talk. And the girl next to me was going ‘waffle, waffle, waffle’ in German.

Alison North (08:24):
And I was like, yeah, it’s pretty bad. Isn’t it? And we started talking and this turned out to be Annetta, who was a postdoc in Vic Small’s lab. And so we got chatting and she was like, Oh, you should come and work in Salzburg. And ironically, the technician in my lab in Oxford had always said, you should go work for Vic Small in Salzburg so the minute she said that I was interested and then I just went to visit and [inaudible]. And that was that. It was just a weird coincidence.

Kurt Anderson (08:51):
Can I back you up there? Alison, what was that first confocal is probably a BioRad, right?

Alison North (08:58):

Kurt Anderson (08:58):
MRC 500?

New Speaker (09:02):
Yeah, whichever was it – 300? 500? I forget that like the very first commercial ones. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (09:08):
I think it was a free few precursors before the first commercial one, wasn’t there?

Alison North (09:12):
Yeah, probably. I mean, I don’t remember at this point.

Peter O’Toole (09:16):
Tony Wilson regales good stories on, on getting that to that point and how to get it to a commercial market, which is another story, but quite interesting, nonetheless. So okay. Out of those times, and you’ve now ended up in a core facility, Kurt, I know that you weren’t heading for a core facility when you left Salzburg, you have a very academic mindset.

Kurt Anderson (09:43):
Well, I mean, I did a postdoc when I finished my PhD, cause that’s what you do. And I indeed went on to do that postdoc with Rob Cross who had been a visiting postdoc in Vic’s lab over the years. So I already knew Rob through my time in Vic’s lab. So, you know, typical kind of incestuous relationship, you go on to work with somebody that came out of your lab. And and it was there that actually I met Joe Howard who was a newly designated or, or found or whatever director for the Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden. And Joe had the remit of setting up the microscopy core. And I had actually already accepted a postdoc position to go work with Graham Dunn. And when Joe offered me the position in Dresden and I had to call up Graham who was really decent about it and say, I’ve had this other offer and I think I really have to take it. And he was, he was quite sort of understanding about it and yeah, the rest is history, I guess.

Peter O’Toole (10:57):
Yeah. But you went on to a sort of academic leading research group as well when you were up at Beatson.

Kurt Anderson (11:05):
Right. So I learned a very hard lesson in Dresden which was that they had offered me a position to run the core facility and set up a research lab. And after I’d set up the core facility, about two years later, they said, ah, actually we don’t want anybody running cores and running, you know, research groups. And so I, you know, always get it in writing is my lesson for everybody out there, right? And at that point I thought, well, this isn’t the job I signed up for. So I started looking for jobs. I went on to run a lab and the core at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow. So I sorta looked for the job that I wanted and actually Michael Way and Margaret Frame were both very kind of instrumental in me getting that job. They knew Vic and they well, Margaret was at the Beatson and you know, that, that sort of discussion or whatever, helped to get me the job there.

Kurt Anderson (12:02):
And then after, after doing that for 10 years, I thought, eh, actually running research groups, not all it’s cracked up to be, and when the job offer came along for the Crick, I thought, okay, yeah, I was looking for something different and you know, a new challenge and stuff. And so at the Crick I don’t run a lab. I run a core.

Peter O’Toole (12:19):
Good, challenging job though, but I, Alison I, you ended up in an equally powerful and influential position down at the Rockefeller again, running a core lab, which I think is huge amount of influence over loads of research. So how have you found it sort of moving into that and developing that role because these roles were new when we started out in them, how’d you find actually developing the role?

Alison North (12:42):
Difficult. So I came to it, I had, I did two postdocs and then I had a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship for five years and I was coming to the end of that. That was in Manchester and I was coming towards the end, was thinking, what do I do next? And people were saying, well, you should go for Senior Fellowship or lectureship. And I’d realized at that point, I didn’t really have any great ideas of a research plan. I never had. I liked sort of pootleing around doing lots of different things in microscopes. And I was constantly multitasking and helping other people with projects. And I had a PhD student and I remember saying to her at one point, if only there was a job where you could just be a kind of microscope consultant, but there’s no job like that, it just doesn’t exist.

Alison North (13:22):
And I seriously believe that. And that was maybe about a year before I then had a phone call from and here we get back to connections. Another of the people who was in that first cohort at Cambridge and that first year of doing Cell Biology, Mike Rout, who then moved to do his postdoc at the Rockefeller and has been then at Rockefeller ever since. He’s now Professor and head of a lab. And he had written and said, Rockefeller wants to set up an imaging facility. Why don’t you come and head it? And I was like, no way. And he’s like, why not? I said, I’m not going to work in that crazy country. They don’t take vacations. They work all weekends, they’re insane. I am not going there and I’m particularly not going to New York. And we, because I’m not a big city girl, so we argued for about six months and then he’s like, just come over and visit me.

Alison North (14:08):
We will pay, we will fly over. So I went over to visit. In the plane, I remember distinctly, I wrote a long list of all the things they would have to satisfy, or I would not go. Number one said, must have open air tennis court on campus. So I’d be safe with that in the middle of Manhattan. I arrived at the front gate at the Rockefeller. First thing I saw was the open air tennis court. And I was like, Ugh! And it went like that the whole time. Like every excuse they just like ripped it out from under me. And so I ended up coming. So anyways, so then I moved to New York, against my will and,uset up the lab. And I would say so after two years it was not going at all well, the administration at that time had this idea that they were going to set it up, but they weren’t really prepared to fund it.

Alison North (14:56):
And more to the point, the Professors and Heads of Labs, were all used to having their own microscopes and their own lab and God forbid they should be asked to share their toys. That was not really in their mindset at that time. So after two years or so, I was pretty down and feeling like it was a failure and never going to succeed. And at that point I started looking at other jobs, including the new up and coming job at York University, running a facility, which I interviewed for. And they offered me the job. And for some bizarre reason, I just thought nup this isn’t right. So I turned it down and then they readvertised and Peter got it. Just to make that clear, it was not that Peter and I were in competition. He applied after I had turned it down.

Peter O’Toole (15:42):
Yeah but I’d have lost it if it was

Alison North (15:42):
Nah you wouldn’t, I don’t think so, but I would like to have gone there, it would have been, I mean, it was a really, it was a tough decision. I don’t know why I turned it down. I think it’s cause I had felt it would have been admitting kind of failure. I don’t know. Anyway, I stayed. Luckily the administration actually changed over, around that time. And about a year later our new president was Paul Nurse, who had come over from the UK and being European was much more into the idea of core facilities and encouraging faculty to use core facilities. And so it began to really pick up. But yeah, the first two years was a real challenge. Honestly.

Kurt Anderson (16:24):
Are you allowed, Alison, I don’t know. Is this a family podcast? Are you allowed to comment on the value of an English accent in America?

Alison North (16:33):
No, I don’t think so. That comment might be a little risky. Peter, next question.

Peter O’Toole (16:44):
Actually, I’m going to reverse that question. How much of a handicap is it having a US accent in the UK?

Kurt Anderson (16:50):
Um well Winston Churchill, right, said two nations divided by a common language. I mean, for sure it comes up sometimes that yeah, it was less of an issue. For example, going to, going to Austria speaking German, there, they speak with a very strong accent, but because my native language is English, I learned the Austrian accent speak that fluently. I had no desire to pick up the English accent when I moved to the UK because you know, I already had my own version of an accent. If I look back, I grew up with a real, I grew up in Massachusetts. I grew up with a really strong local Boston accent. I don’t have that anymore. So I guess my accent softened up over the years,

Alison North (17:33):
I will say it is a huge advantage in the US to have a British accent. Everyone thinks that you are supremely intelligent. That’s what Kurt is getting to in a that quote from someone. But it’s a little rude so I won’t say, but I will say that, and he might kill me if he ever listens to it, but Paul Nurse, so while he was President, his secretary used call me up and ask me the meaning of words, because he would use these British words. She wouldn’t know what they meant and she didn’t like to ask. So she would call me and say, what does that mean, Alison? Well, one day Paul calls me up and he’s like, Alison, is there such a word as blah blah blah? I said, I don’t think so, I’ve never heard that word. And he goes, no, I don’t think it exists either. But he goes, I used it today in the academic council meeting. Everyone was very impressed.

Peter O’Toole (18:21):

Alison North (18:21):
You can make up whatever you like over here. It’s great.

Peter O’Toole (18:22):
That’s genius. So I was interested actually, so you said you wanted open air tennis was one of your five things that they must have. Do you still play tennis?

Alison North (18:32):
Not really. No, sad.

Peter O’Toole (18:34):
So what do you do?

Alison North (18:37):
I work. And then?

Peter O’Toole (18:44):
I know, that’s not true.

Kurt Anderson (18:45):
Well she does work in a..

Alison North (18:48):
I do work. I do work in addition to other things. Yes.

Peter O’Toole (18:52):
I definitely know that’s not true.

Alison North (18:54):
Yes. Sadly, that is not my own kayak. Cause I was on a holiday up in the best place for kayaking in the universe, I think, which is the Pacific Northwest. That’s off Vancouver Island where I had a humpback whale pop up 20 feet from my kayak last year, which was awesome. I love kayaking. I now own my own kayak, which is up the Hudson River, which I love off. I go biking. I go hiking. I am the queen of escaping New York City. I go, Oh, you’re hiding me, you’re so hiding me! Yeah, that was one winter and my sister took that picture of me being along on the lake. So lots of, lots of outdoor stuff. Bizarrely actually, I mean, I am in a ski club that goes up to Vermont. You can go up every weekend and go skiing there. So that’s cool throughout the winter and then summer, as I say, I’m usually straight out and onto the water either up the Hudson or around Long Island Sound or further around.

Peter O’Toole (19:50):
Actually, actually, I thought of one other thing that I know that you quite enjoy as well, because every time I’m trying to talk to you, you say, Oh, I can’t meet until later in the day. And it is isn’t it? It is birdwatching, yeah?

Alison North (20:04):
Summer Tanager this morning before work, see the Waxwings bathing in the pools. Yes, Central Park, thank God has been saving me through this pandemic. I go up every morning before work and the bird watching has been amazing because there’s no tourists. Usually you get thousands of tourists flying in from all over the world for the migration season and this year they haven’t. So actually we’ve had the park to ourselves, it’s quite nice.

Peter O’Toole (20:27):
See the Waxwing, there has been UK record of that, but that was before my twitching days. So, so it’s not on my list, actually seen.

Alison North (20:40):
Very pretty.

Peter O’Toole (20:40):
Envious of that one. And Kurt, so that’s a pretty eclectic mix. You do lots of physical outdoor type of things, but Kurt you’ve each equally got some interesting hobbies out there. So actually I think this picture now is a view on your off course mountain biking?

Kurt Anderson (20:58):
Yeah. So that was in Dresden. I mean, I have to say of the places that I’ve lived you know, the mountain biking has always been an important aspect of it. Dresden certainly in the years that I was there, which was kind of early two thousands was a fantastic place for mountain biking, the Heidi, which is the sort of local massive forest comes right down into town basically. And we had a hardcore bunch of guys there, the mud honeys who used to go ride and that was really, really good, fun. And Glasgow also really fantastic mountain biking. The only problem in Glasgow was typically the weather. You know, I have a very distinct memory of mountain biking in Glasgow and being out in the middle of a gorgeous sort of natural landscape, but the rain was coming down and the wind was whipping and it was just like, am I really enjoying this? So moving down to London is, you know, the mountain biking is not quite as good. It’s not bad. There’s not, certainly not as good, but the weather’s a heck of a lot better.

Alison North (21:59):
Do you think the mountain biking as well, that also came from Salzburg, I think? So when I moved to Salzburg, Vic Small, our boss, went with me to help me buy a bike. He wanted to choose a bike with me because he was a huge biker. And when I left my, part of my leaving gift, I know it was one of these devices to put around your bike chain and clean it and all kinds of other stuff to do with bicycles and also cross country skiing of course began for me in Salzburg. So it’s a great place to be for that. Wasn’t it Kurt?

Kurt Anderson (22:28):

Peter O’Toole (22:32):
So what else did you get up to?

Kurt Anderson (22:34):
Uh well, yeah, that’s Dresden again, that’s me. And Marty Straiko who is in Calgary now. We used to play bars and stuff around Dresden. I think that was my leaving do, if I remember correctly, that was sort of our final gig just before I moved to Glasgow. And yeah, the, the, the, the take home message about that whole situation was always play with people who are better than you and Marty was really better than me. So we had a lot of fun.

Peter O’Toole (23:04):
This was all on the guitar, yes?

Kurt Anderson (23:04):
Yeah. That’s me on the guitar, Marty, on the mandolin. And basically he played like, hell and I just got to coast along behind him. So those were good days.

Peter O’Toole (23:12):
So if you’re playing gigs in bars, you play for money or just playing for your beer?

Kurt Anderson (23:15):
Mostly just playing for our beer. Yeah. Yeah. Which would have been, which would have been the cheaper option because it, you know, I’m a bit of a lightweight, so a couple of beers would be a lot less than if they had to pay me real money.

Peter O’Toole (23:27):
So you’ve both got musical backgrounds. I think it’s cool though, because we always seem so studious, so we, everyone sees us at work, but very few people see us out of work and what we get up to outside it. And I think it’s good to see that the re you know, we do balance that with hobbies outside of it.

Kurt Anderson (23:43):
I would say a lot of, sorry. I would say a lot of scientists have kind of second things that they’re really quite passionate about and really quite into, I mean, in Dresden, they had a chamber quartet, you know, lots of classical musicians you find hill walkers, hikers, skiers. I, I think it’s quite probably a bit of a phenotype that if you’re, you know, crazy into one thing, it’s probably more likely to be crazy into other things too,

Alison North (24:10):
But is it then a a phenotype, that’s interesting because then I was crazy into music, but now I still sing in a choir, but I’m actually unusual, in a sense in my choir community, because most of them just do singing and music, and I’m doing all of this outdoor stuff as well. And I’m really much, I’ve become a real Jack of all trades. So now I’m just thinking, does that match the core facility personality that we’re more of a Jack of all trades, like the variety.

Kurt Anderson (24:37):
Yeah. That could be like, I’ll go with that.

Peter O’Toole (24:39):
Yeah. But is it? Cause, cause I’ll, I would challenge that actually, because you’re passionate about your microscopes and it wasn’t necessarily the science questions that I think any of us found the most fascinating bit. It was the application and the methods around light microscopy, we’ve been enabling that for so many users that I think is our passion. And I think we are not necessarily a Jack of all trades. We are a real specialist of microscopes and microscopy itself

Kurt Anderson (25:06):
Technology, I would say. Yeah, very, very kind of, you’ve got to have a bit of a kind of technology appreciation, technology affinity in some level. Yeah. Be interested in technical things.

Alison North (25:16):
I think that even it didn’t hit me until bizarrely about five years ago when I’ve been doing the job for an awfully long time already. And I didn’t really work out why I enjoyed it so much. And then I was sitting in, I developed this old age habit of falling asleep in four, four o’clock seminars. You know, it’s a little bit of a problem, but then I realized one day I never doze off in the ones that are about techniques and applications of techniques. I doze off in the ones that are following one protein through cells or something, you know, whatever. And so suddenly it hit me. I’m like, Oh wow. So interesting. So that just engages my mind. So it’s like you say, it’s more of the problem solving kind of side of it I think that appeals.

Peter O’Toole (25:56):
What motivates you? One, which you, Alison you must be an early bird on presuming. If you’re getting up to look at the dawn birds that are coming through and migrating through. Kurt, are you morning bird or NightOwl?

Kurt Anderson (26:08):
So I’m a morning person and I would have thought I was an early bird, Pete, until you told me about going out for runs at four in the morning,

Peter O’Toole (26:13):
Maybe once or twice a year.

Kurt Anderson (26:13):
That much of a nut job.

Peter O’Toole (26:19):
I combine two hobbies at once. Cause I don’t have time for too many. So I actually do my birding on my runs. So morning birds, Alison? Morning bird, I presume?

Alison North (26:31):
I wasn’t. I became, now, I would never have said I was an early bird. And then the first time I went to the Galapagos, that sounds terrible. I’m actually lucky enough to have been there twice. I went again this past Christmas. So I went in first time was in, the first time was in the year, 2002 when I went on a holiday with the British company, Explore. And there as I landed in Peru and met my group there in the amongst the group of 16 people were, Paul Nurse and his family and this was the year before he came to the Rockefeller. That’s complete coincidence. That’s the weirdest thing ever. And I didn’t know why he was asking me all these questions about the Rockefeller, but anyway but yeah, on that holiday we would get up early, get off the boat, go and see things and I just suddenly realized that actually you could get so much done in a day and you could see so much if you were up and out early. And after that, I started getting up early and going out to the park, it totally changed my life. That one holiday, it was really bizarre. I never used to do that.

Peter O’Toole (27:31):
Yeah. Well I know both of you from conferences and actually it’s important bringing Paul up again at this point. Networks are really important and networking. All our career seems to have been through networking and following opportunities and playing to our strengths and not just following the vision of what you think you’re going to do when you do your PhD and postdoc, but actually seeing what you’re good at and where the opportunity to apply that and moving through those networks have really enabled both of you to move your careers upwards. It’s not favors, it’s just being in the right place, knowing the right people and seeing the opportunities. I think it made a big difference to you both. I know from that network and that can go on to quite late in the evening as well. So you might be morning birds, but I know you can be nightowls as well, quite successfully.

Kurt Anderson (28:13):
Well, yeah, I mean, I think you really have to recognize the opportunities that are in front of you as they come and go as they change. I mean, as I mentioned going to do a postdoc with Graham was, you know, a really good opportunity and then something else came along and you’ve got to stop and think, okay, you know, that’s a slightly different direction than I thought I was going in. But all these people coming from EMBO setting up a new Institute. I mean, just the excitement around that venture probably would have pulled me away from any number of postdocs that, you know, I thought I was going to do otherwise. So I think, I think there’s an awful lot in recognizing an opportunity when it comes along and saying, actually, maybe I should do this instead.

Peter O’Toole (28:57):
So I’ve got a quick one. What motivates you to get up in the morning? You know, you don’t, morning birds generally have quite big motivations. They look forward to getting up out of bed. So go on Alison, what, what?

Alison North (29:12):
Oh, I like to get out and exercise outdoors and get some fresh air before I go to work. What’s on my mind. I find it gets me thinking right, when I’m walking around the park, it’s that and in the shower is where I have all my best ideas for work. If I just walk straight into work, sit at a desk, I do not come up with good ideas or plans with talks. I’ve actually planned so many papers or presentations in my head before I’ve even got to work. Sadly, by the time I sit down, then they all go straight back out of my head

Alison North (29:42):
Again. But I have brilliant ideas while I’m actually walking along. Just get go again,

Peter O’Toole (29:47):
And in the showers, did you say?

Alison North (29:49):
In the shower, definitely in the shower?

Peter O’Toole (29:52):
And Kurt?

Kurt Anderson (29:52):
Yeah. I I did a seven minute workout Johnson and Johnson app every morning and that does get me out of bed. So I need a few minutes. I like to get up early, but I also like it partly because I have quiet and you know, nobody else is awake yet. You’ve got that time to yourself, read the news, think, you know, do my little workout and stretch and stuff. And I would say what Alison said a little bit of exercise in the morning or in my brain is in a much better place than if I than if I don’t.

Peter O’Toole (30:23):
No, I’m totally with you. I think first thing in the morning gives me time. It’s the time I actually have to myself and can think and can concentrate. You said you get your best ideas for your publications and so forth. So really nice question. What’s your favorite publication you’ve actually authored or coauthored? What is your favorite publication? Well, I’ll start Kurt this time? Um well, publications, I’ll let you have two, go on.

Kurt Anderson (30:45):
Okay. If I, if I have to, I suppose one would be a Journal of Cell Biology paper from when I was in Vic’s lab Anderson et al. So was, you know, that was a big deal for me at the time. And eh, where we described how the cell body of the fish keratocyte rolls behind and we investigated sort of linkage between protrusion at the front of the cell and how the cell body moves up behind. And that, that was for me, that was just, you know, sort of pure discovery. It was really basic science and Vic was, Vic was really a proponent of, you know, research for its own sake. I mean, he was completely and utterly not concerned about translational research, which at the time, I suppose, going back, you know, it wasn’t really a big topic then. And, and the other one probably would have been cancer research paper. I think it was the first big paper we had in, in Glasgow where we did photo activation, photo bleaching in living mice, so it was a sort of Invivo FRAP and photo activation. And I think that was pretty much the first time that had been done. And so, you know, we got the, got to be there first and do things that people hadn’t done before. And that, that definitely was part of the excitement on that.

Peter O’Toole (32:01):
It’s a nice method tech.

Kurt Anderson (32:02):
Yeah, it was very methodological. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (32:06):
Alison, same question. If you all your publications, which is your favorite?

Alison North (32:10):
I’m going to come up with two again. So the first one was my first JCell Biol paper from Vic’s lab. Also my first paper also my first cover photo ever. And it was looking at it was showing that you get stripes of spectrin and dystrophin around the membrane of smooth muscle cells. I think one of the reasons I’m still proud of it is because the immunofluorescence images showing these stripes. So you would take it in one color and then in the other, and this was in the days, it was all on real camera film.

Alison North (32:40):
So you had to, you know, wind back the film and then shutter down the exposure and get the balance exactly right. And it was so much harder to do that than it is nowadays where you just take pictures on a camera and just alter them. And then it also had electromicroscopy in it and it was using Vic’s crazy method, that he invented of embedding in polyvinyl alcohol, bet you’ve never done this Pete, as an electron microscopist, your you embed your tissue

Peter O’Toole (33:05):
I wouldn’t call myself an electron microscopist.

Alison North (33:08):
Well, you have it in your life, but anyway, you embed it in 20% PVA water, you leave the dish sitting on the window cell to dry out for days. And then you take this little slab and you would section it and float it onto a bath of glycerol. And if the glycerol was touching the edge of the knife, the whole thing dissolved the block. And as the sections came off, they crumpled. Totally. So you thought that you weren’t cutting properly and then they became invisible. So you didn’t know where to pick them up. It was the maddest technique you could ever have invented. Kurt will agree with me, right? Only, only Vic could have come up with this. I mean, Vic was in, he was so inventive, and he was such fun to work with. We always used to, I would say, Vic, we have something to look at.

Alison North (33:48):
Let me show you, Oh, let’s go take a quick blip down the microscope. I still take a quick blip down the microscope always and we run to do it and he would just make it such fun. So I love that paper. The second one that I I think probably more recently I’ve transitioned into more educational papers. So my 2006 JCB feature article on, on Seeing is Believing? The Beginner’s Guide to Image Acquisition. And that came about actually through Mike Rossner, who worked at the Rockefeller University Press. He was running JCB, which is at the Rockefeller University. And we’d been out one day. He was big into the whole problem with image manipulation. And he asked me to write a feature article about image manipulation and its prevalence. And I said to him, I don’t feel most people are deliberately manipulating the images.

Alison North (34:38):
I feel most people just are getting it wrong when they’re acquiring it because they haven’t been taught the basics of it. So he said, fine. Would you write an article on that? So I did and it was painful. It was a painful process, but it was really valuable. And people said they loved it. And since then I’ve then got involved in various other educational ones, like one that arose from going to the OMX user group meetings. And that became a collaboration with [inaudible] and Oxford and all of his team. And that was huge fun to get involved. And then the latest one, which is our latest confocal review article that Kurt and I are both co-authors on, which is from five core facility heads.

Peter O’Toole (35:19):
Which was published in?

Alison North (35:21):
Nature Protocols.

Peter O’Toole (35:23):
You got to get the plugin properly, Alison, if you’re going promote it, get a proper plugin. Yeah.

Alison North (35:27):
Second cover photo.

Peter O’Toole (35:31):
That’s great. That’s a really great paper. Actually. I shared that with my lab. As soon as it came out on the pre pre print, it was brilliant.

Alison North (35:38):
That was all came about through networking. So I know Claire Brown quite well from networking, Claire knows James very well because they’re in Canada. So James decided to write it here. He asked Claire, who else should he invite? She suggested me. He was thinking about Kurt. He called me up. What do you think? Should I invite Kurt? I said, absolutely personal friend. Do you think anyone else, he said? And I said, yeah, how about Graham Wright, Singapore? And then we’ll make it really like around all of the continents. But Graham, I met through ELMI meetings just like I met you, Peter at an ELMI meeting.

Peter O’Toole (36:10):
Do you know like, like my biggest grant was also from an ELMI meeting and talking to Lucy Collinson and yeah, just, just drinking, talking and the idea came up and we had about three weeks to write it up. Submitted it. And it was yeah. A real success

Alison North (36:27):
Best meetings in the world. ELMI.

Kurt Anderson (36:30):
ELMI. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (36:31):
ELMI Definitely.

Kurt Anderson (36:33):
I was there for the first one.

Alison North (36:34):

Kurt Anderson (36:36):
In fact, Vic sent me, Vic sent me in his place. Rainer Pepperkok had invited Vic to go to the meeting and Vic sent me in his place and said, this is something you should get involved with.

Alison North (36:50):

Peter O’Toole (36:51):
Interesting. So we’ve got all these virtual meetings at the moment and we think, Oh yeah, we could do more virtual meetings for sure. More virtual conferences. But actually those physical networking meetings makes such a difference. Cause you wouldn’t get the same, the same frame groups, the same network, the same support group, which, which they ended up being, unless they were really, you were physically there and eating and drinking together.

Kurt Anderson (37:13):
So I think you can, I think you can work and use your network virtually, but to build it is, you know, you build it on personal interactions. Discussions had, you know, either passionate discussions or listening to somebody else have an argument or, you know, there’s the unique, yeah. I agree, Pete, you need that kind of, sort of physical something to really be the foundation of a, of a, of a friendship or an interaction. And after that, you know, you can get together like this and because you already know each other, you can, you can go from there.

Alison North (37:45):
Right. I think I’ve seen more of you Pete in the last three weeks than I’ve seen you ever which is really nice.

Peter O’Toole (37:52):
I’m glad you said that,

Alison North (37:55):
Great, but it’s good. I mean, if we hadn’t met at ELMI meetings, it wouldn’t have been happening.

Peter O’Toole (38:00):
I would say my wife would utterly disagree because she keeps saying every evening, all I am is talking to Alison North on, on, on Zoom about different meetings we’re setting up.

Alison North (38:10):
Oh, that’s pretty funny.

Peter O’Toole (38:13):
She doesn’t get to see me.

Alison North (38:13):
Does she complain? Well, I can’t blame her but I’ve just, Oh no. Where is it here? I have to just quickly do this. There we go. This, this is at an airport on the way back from ELMI. Pete impressed me because he is such a chocoholic. Let me just repeat. This is on the way home from ELMI. So this is the remainder of the chocolate in his luggage that he did not eat during the conference. There was a lot more I think with him over there. Is that not correct Pete?

Peter O’Toole (38:47):
There’s always plenty of chocolate in my bag. If I go in my bag now, which I do carry, I just have it next to me. Cause there’s always chocolate to be had no matter what, even though I’m at home, I still need it next to me just in case. But it’s rescue. We were at the airport. Flight was delayed. We were hungry. Everyone had it. Everyone had something to eat. Oh,

Kurt Anderson (39:09):
Oh, it’s now it’s my turn. In terms of meeting. This, this photo was actually taken exactly one year ago today in Belgium for the VIB course there that Pete and I both taught on and I had to take this picture to prove to my daughter that I have friends. She, my daughter knows that I’m a scientist. And she, I think she takes a rather dim view of that. And basically kind of feels like I have no life. I have no friends. All I do is go to work. And this was me, my effort to say, no, look, I really do know people and we actually have fun together.

Alison North (39:45):
So I just want to point out there. You’ve got next to you over your left shoulder as we’re looking, is another fabulous Karen [Inaudible] from Vienna, who we all know and love. Now, Karen, I’d met her occasionally ELMI, but didn’t really get to know her until I went to the OMX user group meeting. Now here is something I find bizarre. The OMX is an instrument made in the US but the US does not have user group meetings of people using that instrument. All of the user group meetings were held in other parts of the world. So it took me going to Europe, like Karen’s facility, to those user group meetings to really find out how to get the best out of my microscope. And that’s how my collaboration really started with Louther was after he presented at one of those meetings. So yeah, traveling around the world and attending other meetings, it’s just so important.

Kurt Anderson (40:40):
Well, I think you could, you could probably go off on quite a tangent around why it is that they don’t have, you know, facilities and the same kind of support in the US compared to Europe, right? I mean, there’s a, there’s a difference in approach. The, I suppose my reading of history certainly would be that the kind of core facility movement came out of, out of Europe and is, you know, sort of slowly migrating its way over into North America.

Peter O’Toole (41:09):
Well, like I said, I think the core facilities in the UK and Europe are not competitive against each other. It’s a really tight knit community of supporting each other, you know? Yes, we compete to a degree, but we’re not competing. We always support each other in, in big ways. The meetings in January, the meetings at ELMI are terrific.

Kurt Anderson (41:26):
Yeah. So the facility managers meeting, the UK facility managers meeting to which Alison still comes as a, as an honorary UK member. Um that’s right. That’s a very fraternal, is that the wrong word? You know, very community supportive. Everybody’s there to help each other out, sort of type of meeting. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (41:45):
Yeah, and commercial companies really help kick that off as well. Cause they’ve just supported it financially. It cost us nothing. Can they, they sponsor, it really is a way to enable us to come together. Cause it’s equally, they’re part of our community. Aren’t they? We quite often see that the dark side and our side and the commercial side, but actually the commercial side is very much, you know, in these, in your jobs are very much part of it. Community, they are equals and very important.

Alison North (42:06):
Very important. And I mean, that, that is an interesting difference. So, so first of all, I don’t want to give the impression that core facilities in the US, we don’t compete against each other. We all get on really well. We just haven’t really got to know each other. There’s so many of us and they’re so spread out. And the people from them tend to have their own pet meetings. They go to Cell Bio, or they go to Neuroscience, or they go to M&M or they will have their own ones. So there’s been no equivalent to an ELMI meeting, which has been a lot of the motivation behind me setting up together with my colleagues, BioImaging North America, we’ve been trying to create something similar. And and also Gary Lacefield, Princeton set up this North Atlantic Microscopy Society meeting recently, which again is to bring together core facility managers in a way like the FMM.

Alison North (42:55):
Now what we’ve noticed. So ELMI, one of the things that’s great about ELMI is the relationship between the companies and the, and the core facility heads. And that’s pretty unique the way they actually they’re treated very much as colleagues. You’ve got the football match, you’ve got the whole, everyone really feels that you’re working together and that’s something I think we have not really done so well in the US people see them more, a salesman trying to make you spend the money now. So interestingly, one of the things I loved about the UK FMN meeting, is the techno bites. So the minute I’d seen them, I introduced those to the Woods Hole Course that I direct. Faculty love them. Absolutely love them. Gary saw them first time when I did them for the NABS immediately, he’s been repeating. Everyone is not copying this one because it’s a way for the commercial guys. They got a chance to talk about their products without feeling guilty, because we’re asking them to, we get a chance to learn about their products, but in a really quick, efficient, informative way. I love it.

Peter O’Toole (43:52):
Yeah. I think for the facility meetings, it’s really important when we set the techno bites up, what we didn’t want was an exhibition. Cause then they have to stand behind the stand. We want them to close the door that we had. We wanted to keep it going so we could talk to them freely and they could talk to us freely.

Alison North (44:10):

Peter O’Toole (44:11):
What worked so well. But actually, talking about getting on well? You too, when it comes to supporting teams, don’t you oppose supporting teams? Go on.

Kurt Anderson (44:22):
Oh, Oh, Oh I would have to have my [inaudible] to do that, wouldn’t I?

Alison North (44:25):
My goodness me. Oh Kurt.

Peter O’Toole (44:32):

Peter O’Toole (44:36):
Oh, he’s let the team down there, hasn’t he?

Alison North (44:39):
Oh, he calls himself a fan.

Peter O’Toole (44:41):
So brilliantly, Alison, there you are. New York Yankees?

Alison North (44:46):
New York Yankees. Yep.

Peter O’Toole (44:46):
So basically

Speaker 2 (44:49):
Absolutely, are we there now. I would put it on except for my stupid headphones.

Intro/Outro (44:53):
So Kurt, who’s your team? Go on.

Kurt Anderson (44:56):
Microphone back in the right position here. Yes, that’s right. So I have to say, Alison is an honest to God Yankees fan, whereas I grew up in Massachusetts, so I’m kind of a Red Sox fan by default. For me, the B probably has more to do with Boston, but Alison, Alison knows her Yankees.

Alison North (45:21):
I was going to say, because Kurt was like, Oh, I’ve lost my, my baseball cap. I’m going to have to buy a new one for the interview. I’m like, really? Because I have that one and I have that one and I have that one. And then I have my this and then I have my shirt and then I have the best of the lot, Number 42 Mariana Rivera. Greatest closer of all time. I mean, come on.

Peter O’Toole (45:48):
There’s no bias there is there Alison?

Alison North (45:51):
I mean, what can I say?

Peter O’Toole (45:52):
That, I’m amazed you’re not wearing, you’ve got so many of those clothes I’m amazed you’re not just wearing them today. You can’t have room for many other clothes in the wardrobe, surely.

Alison North (46:00):
You told me I should look presentable.

Peter O’Toole (46:03):
So say you oppose, oppose, you support opposing teams, very different teams and you still get on well. Kurt, you always refer to Alison as EDM.

Kurt Anderson (46:16):
Ah, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Peter O’Toole (46:17):
What’s EDM, what’s behind that?

Kurt Anderson (46:20):
As in, as in my dearest EDN, blah, blah, blah. An email. Yeah, that would be the Evil Dr. North, which is not a nickname I made up for her. But is one that is, I certainly found fitting, what can I say?

Peter O’Toole (46:39):
Okay, I see Allison’s going to kill me though.

Alison North (46:41):
I am going to kill you. Annoyingly, that came from Manchester. And it started out as a joke. And then when he used it in America, someone overheard it and they actually took it seriously, but they also got it wrong and started calling me Dr. Evil, which was, it was really nothing to do with Austin Powers. It was just, yes, Evil Dr North.

Peter O’Toole (46:59):
I realize that we’ve been rambling on for ages, which is just, it’s just so natural to talk. I’ve got a few quick questions, like a, TV or book? What’s your favorite book Kurt? Alison?

Alison North (47:17):
Crappy TV. When I get home from work,

Peter O’Toole (47:20):
I like it so go on, Kurt what are you reading at the moment?

Kurt Anderson (47:23):
So at the moment I’m working my way through William Gibson‘s back catalog, the guy that wrote Neuromancer and coined the term cyber punk. And I’ve just finished a book of his called Idoru and it was fantastic. Really, really, really blew my mind. Really good stuff.

Peter O’Toole (47:43):
And Alison, what is your really bad TV that you like to watch?

Alison North (47:46):
Oh, at the moment, it’s really good TV, but I’ve got one episode left and I’m going to be. Tonight, I will be watching the last episode of the third series of Broadchurch, which I only discovered a few weeks ago. Someone recommended it. David Tennant, and Olivia Colman, I mean you cannot beat all of the British detective things, Morse, Endeavour, Lewis, all of these things. I love them all.

Peter O’Toole (48:11):
Good plug. Kurt all know that you’re a bookworm. I also know that you like Gogglebox.

Kurt Anderson (48:19):
Yeah. Gogglebox is one of those things that should not work, but it does for people in the US I don’t know if they even know what this is, but it’s a TV show which where you watch people watch TV. Right. So the, the thing is you’re watching the response. It’s like, it’s like sitting in a room with a bunch of your mates and they’re all chatting about what’s happening on the screen. And when I first heard about it, I thought, Oh my God, why would I want to watch that? But yeah, it’s, it’s quite amusing.

Peter O’Toole (48:49):
Yeah. I gotta say, I heard about Gogglebox and I I’ll reused to watch it and I recorded it by accident it once, I must’ve been at the end of something, and I start watching it? Emma was out and I’m like, I was in tears, tears laughing at it, it was so funny. And we got home, I watched it again. And I said, you’ve got to watch this. So yeah. I, I rubbished the idea and then watch it and thought, Oh my goodness. That works, so, so well,

Kurt Anderson (49:15):
It’s been particularly good during the whole COVID, you know, issue thing, because you’ve got politicians on TV saying stuff that is just blowing everybody’s mind. And the people who are watching TV are saying exactly what everybody is thinking. And it’s kind of reassuring to hear other people saying, you know, what’s on everybody’s mind.

Alison North (49:37):
So, but Pete, so here’s a detective. Do you know the show, Bones, about the forensic anthropologist?

Peter O’Toole (49:45):
I’ve heard of it. I’ve not actually seen it.

Alison North (49:48):
Okay. So she’s like completely geeky, but she would appeal to you. There was one episode I’ll never forget. Someone said to her, what’s your favorite color? She said, I think that would be 450 nanometers. This why this show appeals to me.

Peter O’Toole (50:05):
Was her name Violet?

Alison North (50:05):

Peter O’Toole (50:13):

Alison North (50:13):
Moving on, moving on.

Peter O’Toole (50:15):
And it’s really revealing about people as well is what car they drive. So Kurt go on, what car do you drive?

Kurt Anderson (50:24):
Aye. You can give me a hard time about this. I don’t understand, I love my car. I drive a 2011 Honda Civic. It’s a brilliant car

Peter O’Toole (50:33):
It’s very practical, very functional and I’m sure it’s still an old man’s car.

Kurt Anderson (50:36):
Yeah. Okay. And in defense, it’s different than the American Civics. The European Civic has a different shape. It’s kind of, it’s like a silver bullet. I love that car. I don’t understand what’s wrong with it.

Peter O’Toole (50:46):
Yeah. I used to have a, yeah. I used to have a Civic once, but I didn’t tell you that before. Okay. Okay. So the Civic is I, okay. You got a really racy version, which when you get boy racers in, Oh, probably 50 year old boy racers now. But then you get the other classic one, which is definitely an old man’s car, but

Kurt Anderson (51:07):
That was my baby. Yeah. I had the way you can see in the license plate, the DD that was, I had that car in Dresden. Yeah. And, and there’s a beautiful story on that. My wife and I were thinking about buying a car and we didn’t want to spend much more than, I don’t know, like 2, 3000 Euros.

Peter O’Toole (51:24):
What car is it?

Kurt Anderson (51:26):
It’s a BMW, 635 CSI. It’s got a sunroof. You can see, ah gorgeous leather interior. So, but the point is we were going to spend like about two or 3000 pounds. And for that kind of money, you can get like about a five-year-old golf or you can get like a 15 year old BMW like that. And that was a no brainer. And when I put that choice to my wife, she was like, Oh, let’s get the BMW. And I knew, I knew I’d made the right choice.

Alison North (51:52):
Sorry. In car or wife?

Kurt Anderson (51:55):
Yeah. Wife and the car. Yes.

Peter O’Toole (51:58):
I think he got lucky. Cause I’ve noticed here. And on the previous picture, when you’re playing a guitar, your facial hair has been interesting over the time. Hasn’t it?

Kurt Anderson (52:08):
I had, yeah, I’ve had some dodgy facial hair over the years. When I was in Glasgow, I had a pink goatee. And that was a function of A, my goatee comes in gray now and B I told my daughter, she could pick a color and I would dye itdye We went to the, we went to the store together and she picked out this fluorescent pink guy. And because it was white to begin with, it took the dye really well. So I had a very bright pink goatee for awhile. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (52:35):
And Alison, what are you driving?

Alison North (52:38):
My legs and my kayak, which is British by the way. Yes. I have a British kayak PNH. Fantastic. Gorgeous.

Peter O’Toole (52:50):
What would you have?

Alison North (52:51):
If I could have a car? I want, yes. I want a nice little,uu mini, I want a Mini Cooper so that it’s, it’s low. It’s got a long flat roof. I could lift my kayak up on top without needing help. And it’s cute. And lots of them have British flags on them

Peter O’Toole (53:10):
Car that is actually BMW. So actually a, quite a nice against between the two. Just finally, you both switched countries and working in a different country, would you recommend it?

Kurt Anderson (53:27):
Yeah. Well, I mean, maybe it made I’ve made the better move, I don’t know.

Alison North (53:32):
I was going to say right now? Right now? Tricky to recommend it.

Kurt Anderson (53:40):
Well, I mean, the first thing you have to say, which is really part of the attraction of a career in science. I mean, typically salaries in science are not as competitive compared to say if you’ve gone into the pharmaceutical industry. But one thing that is a fringe benefit is the travel and the idea that actually you’re supposed to move around. You know, I mean, during your, you know, you’re, you’re supposed to go to different labs, learn new methods, learn new techniques, expose yourself to different things. And if you can do that internationally, then that’s, that’s just, you know, one more kind of boost one more plus. So I absolutely would would recommend anybody take it as an opportunity to live in another country at the very least. And you can see from there, whether you like it or not.

Alison North (54:23):
Absolutely. I agree. A hundred percent. I would say there’s a misconception or people who say they want to go and live somewhere abroad for a year or two and it’ll get it out of their system. No, no, no, no, It won’t. After I lived in Austria and I moved back to England and then I was like, Nope, I’ve got itchy feet again now, I want to go somewhere else,

Peter O’Toole (54:43):
You’ve been there 20 years.

Alison North (54:44):
Yeah. Well, that’s not intentional. I meant to stay for two. I mean, I don’t know these things just, you can’t control them. I would say by the way, I don’t live in America, I live in New York. And that there is a big difference where I work at the Rockefeller. I mean, I, all my staff are from different countries. At the moment my staff are from Greece, Mexico, Poland, China, and me from Britain.

Alison North (55:06):
So I mean, four of them have got citizenship, three, three of them. But you know, it’s, it’s a really nice international multicultural place to work, which I think is important. I think I would struggle being somewhere where I was the only one from that, from abroad places on it. But I mean, clearly, yeah, I did not want to come here. I did not want to pick America clearly. I don’t hate it. Or I would have left a long time ago. I’m struggling with certain things to do with certain aspects of living in this country at the moment. But in general it’s been great opportunity. Absolutely.

Peter O’Toole (55:41):
I’ve got one final question. Do you have aspirations to change your jobs or you actually quite happy and just want to drive that forward for longer? I’ll go, Alison, first on that one,

Alison North (55:56):
I keep thinking about maybe it’s time to change to a different job. I mean, as you say, I’ve been in it 20 years and that sounds really boring. I’ve lived in the same building here for 20 years now. I’ve worked in the same place for 20 years. It should be boring. It’s not because it keeps changing. So the equipment keeps changing. The people keep changing, the challenges keep changing. And now in the last few years, even though my job has technically stayed the same, I’ve got involved in all of these other things, like being, and running the Woods Hole Course and all these things. That just mean actually I’m just so busy. It’s hard to even think about moving. I did think about moving last year because I just felt like a change in New York. And I ended up turning it down again because I was just like, there’s so much happening. I don’t even have time to move. So I’m kind of torn. It would be fun to try something else, but I still love what I do. Basically. I still love being at the microscopes and that I’ve realized I do not. The next step up is pure administration. And I still love sitting at the microscope and helping the users. That’s why I still do the job.

Peter O’Toole (57:01):
Yeah. I can hear my team now thinking. Yeah. But all he does is admin these days. Kurt what about you?

Kurt Anderson (57:10):
So I spent, I spent five years in Dresden and I spent 10 years in Glasgow. And if I spend 15 years at the Crick, I, I think, I think I can call that a career. And in, in, in all three of those places, really, they were all startup opportunities. You know, the MPI CBG was a new Institute starting up. I would’ve stayed there longer, except as I mentioned earlier, the kind of expectations were slightly different. It turned out about the job in the end, which moved me on sooner than I probably would have otherwise. The Beatson and was also a very much in transition. They were building a new building, moving out of a, kind of an older mishmash of stuff into a brand new facility. And the Crick is a very big undertaking. And I think it’ll take a while before it reaches steady state. And I suppose maybe, maybe looking back on it all, you know, when things get to steady state, that’s when I start to get restless and I think it’ll be awhile before I get restless here, but you know, who knows?

Peter O’Toole (58:16):
Yeah. I think microscopy is just an awesome place to be. Cause it has developed so much and still developing that actually our jobs have not got boring. They’ve just got more challenging, which is a good thing. So it keeps you on edge. It keeps you current,

Alison North (58:31):
But also getting back to what you were saying earlier, I feel like it’s not going to be a case of just saying, right. I’m deciding I’m now going to look for a job. It’s going to be a case of something just comes along unexpected out of the blue someone, you meet something, some opportunity comes up and then it will be right. Alright. Maybe now.

Peter O’Toole (58:50):
So be interesting to see where you both end up in another five to 10 years. Anyway, guys, thank you so much for agreeing to talk today and have a chat. It’s been brilliant. It’s been interesting. Interesting, great to hear how those careers developed and the, yeah, just how your tracks are really moved between, it’s a cool dance move. Isn’t it for ELMI guys next year. Okay.

Alison North (59:14):
ELMI disco, Okay. Thanks Pete

Kurt Anderson (59:14):
Alright. Thanks a lot, Pete. Thanks Alison. It’s been good fun.

Alison North (59:18):
Bye Kurt, thanks

Intro/Outro (59:20):
Thank you for listening to The Microscopists, a Bitesize Bio podcast, sponsored by Zeiss Microscopy to view all audio and video recordings from this series, please visit

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