Tue 19 Oct 21
Former Head of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering Professor Anthony Vickers is retiring at the end of this month after 36 years at Essex. We caught up with him to ask about his career at Essex.
My earliest memories at around five years old are from watching and learning from a neighbour who was an engineer. His garage was a wonderful cave of discovery, a bit like mine now.
I am still a physicist at heart and after an early career studying organic crystals for their electronic and optoelectronic potential I migrated through to the study of properties of two dimensional semiconductor structures, and eventually through high speed laser work, to the generation and use of Terahertz radiation.
In 1985 I applied for academic posts whilst working as a research assistant at Lancaster University. I had offers from Oxford and Essex but decided Essex was a better fit. I resonated with the meritocracy and the chance to join a university that was small, around 2,500 students, but with ambition to grow. I started in September 1985.
The biggest change is in the student and staff population. The “nature” of campus has not really changed to my mind. You can still walk across the squares and bump into people you know and have a chat. It still has a community feel and I hope that comes across to new staff. Of course, the change in population has meant a lot of changes in terms of how the whole complex process of education, administration, and research is completed, and some of these changes are still occurring. The last 18 months have proved a stressful time for a university with a strong sense of physical community, but our community has got us through the worst of the pandemic.
I am proud of all my research achievements and will continue with that as an Emeritus Professor. I am also proud of my contributions to education and my support of colleagues through my two terms as Head of School. I will continue my work as an international higher education consultant and as I live close by will be around campus to help out where possible.
As a scientist, a dreamer, a risk taker, and a fan of almost all science fiction I have to say I image most things will come to pass and so the current level of technology is not a surprise. At the age of 11 I went to see the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I didn’t really understand it all, but I felt it was all possible. We still have lots to work on, including preserving our planet, delivering cheap drugs to everyone, keeping everyone on the planet healthy and safe. The list is sadly long and with some elements that have been with us as problems for a long time.
Working with students at undergraduate, masters, and PhD level has always been a pleasure. I enjoy everything about the role, even when it gets tough, as this is when your experience helps you find a way. I enjoy seeing students develop from the start to the end of their chosen degree course, and then into their career and life. It’s so wonderful to see how students can learn to utilise their creativity and imagination.
The main thing I will miss is the daily interaction with colleagues and students. The working community here is fantastic and super charged with individuals who are dedicated to their role. This will be hard to leave behind.
The room numbering! I was asked today by two students for directions to room 2.404. I had to give my best guess, even after 36 years. On checking later on 'Find Your Way', I discovered my advice should have got them to the room with a bit of adjustment.
I will move to an Emeritus Professorship and will remain in contact with colleagues, even coming to campus regularly to give a hand. I will get back to my physics research with an old PhD student based at Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications, going there each year to help develop new research laboratories. I will continue working as a higher education consultant with universities around the world with their development of student-centred learning. On quiet days I will work on my wooden yacht, work on a novel, continue to restore my MG Midget, and get back to seeing parts of the UK and the world I have yet to experience.