St Andrews University mourns leading scientist

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St Andrews University is mourning the death of one of its leading young scientists, Dr Nigel P.Botting, who has lost his battle with cancer. He was 48.

Fellow academics, staff and students both past and present have paid warm tributes to the popular and respected senior lecturer and research scientist, who joined the School of Chemistry in 1990.

Described as “an outstanding teacher,” Dr Botting was born and grew up in London and studied chemistry at Imperial College in the capital where he graduated in 1983 with a First Class degree. He continued at Imperial to carry out research under the supervision of Professor Brian Challis and he graduated with a Ph.D in Physical Organic Chemistry in 1986.

That same year he moved to Southampton University for postdoctoral research with Professor David Gani and it was during his four years there that he met his wife to be, Catherine, a Ph.D student in the Gani research group.

The couple both moved with Professor Gani to St Andrews, where Dr Botting was appointed to a lectureship in organic chemistry and they married shortly thereafter.

During the three-year period to 1996, he also held a Royal Society of Edinburgh SOED Fellowship.

Promoted to senior lecturer in 2002, Dr Botting had research interests and published original articles in enzyme kinetics and mechanism, and the chemistry and metabolism of food natural products (flavonoids and glucosinolates). He maintained an active research group throughout his time at St Andrews and was an important member of its world renowned Centre for Biomolecular Sciences.

His research work received funding from various sources, including the Food Standards Agency where he was in demand as a chemist who could synthesise and supply plant metabolites carrying multiple isotopic labels, for metabolism studies. Such chemistry is demanding and a unique skill and, ironically, as it turned out, he had also developed a research and teaching interest in cancer drugs.

His excellent teaching qualities were recognised on numerous occasions and he won many Best Teacher of the Year awards within the School of Chemistry.

Dr Botting was also an advisor to undergraduates for many years and assistant director of teaching, and was well known to all of the students as they passed through the school. He also had a passion for outreach activities and worked closely with Scottish schools and the Scottish chemistry teachers community, carrying out a diverse range of activities including ChemBus, where each year a minibus of staff and students visited secondary schools all over Tayside with exciting demonstrations and experiments.

He also hosted the annual national Scottish meeting for Teachers of Chemistry at St Andrews, which he inaugurated and had operated for 15 years attracting around 200 chemistry teachers from secondary schools across the country and, until very recently, he was the chair of the Royal Society of Chemistry Tayside Local Section, which also organised the annual Top of the Bench competition for schools in the region, in which he took an enthusiastic interest.

St Andrews principal and vice-chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, said she was deeply saddened at his death and added: ”I know that colleagues across the university will join me in extending our deepest sympathies to his wife Catherine, who is a member of staff within the School of Chemistry.”

Fellow chemistry lecturer and friend, Joe Crayston, said: ”Nigel was a close colleague and friend who will be greatly missed by all. He was one of the most intelligent, gentle, warm and open people I have ever met.

‘‘He had amazing energy and ability to organise and achieve his goals, not only in his research, but also in his weekend pursuits with Catherine of hillwalking, canoeing and gardening.”

One former student added: ”Nigel was always supportive. I’m now a teacher who owes a lot of my enthusiasm for chemistry to him and will never forget the impact he has had on my life,” while another said,”Dr Botting was one of my tutors during my time as an undergraduate at St Andrews and he was always approachable and enthusiastic, genuinely caring about the students under his mentorship.”