Professor James Warnock
MSc Biochemical Engineering, 1999; PhD Chemical Engineering, 2002
School Chair and Professor, University of Georgia
Originally from Bristol, UK and now based in Athens, Georgia in the USA
As Chair of the School of Chemical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Georgia, my time is split between teaching, research and administrative duties. I teach a course in Animal Cell Technology and use problem-based learning to introduce students to real-world engineering problems.
My research is related to cell manufacturing and gene therapy; during the summer I run a research program for undergraduate students to give them experience working in a research lab.
What’s the best thing about what you’re doing now?
I recently led a study abroad program in Valencia, Spain. We had 16 students that took a course in International Engineering Project Management. The program included a number of cultural visits to local attractions and visits with various Spanish companies.
How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham?
After getting my PhD from the University of Birmingham, I moved to the US to do a post-doc in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. During my two years at Georgia Tech, I realised that I loved working with students and decided to pursue a career in academia. I subsequently took a position as an Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University. I developed a successful research program and became an effective teacher, winning several awards. I was promoted to Associate Professor and then Professor, and eventually was appointed as the Associate Dean in the College of Engineering. In 2017, I moved to the University of Georgia to take my current position as Professor and School Chair.
Why did you originally apply to Birmingham?
I ended up at Birmingham by chance. After completing my BSc degree I was looking for a job and interviewed for a research technician position at Birmingham. I didn't get the job but I was asked to apply to the Biochemical Engineering MSc program…so I did. The interdisciplinary nature of the program, combining the life sciences with engineering, really captured my interest so after completing my Masters program I stayed to do my PhD.
What are your fondest memories of the University?
As part of my MSc course we had to participate in ‘Pilot-Plant week’. Our cohort comprised 12 students and we were split into two groups. Each group then had to manufacture as much yeast as possible from a small vial using a series of different size fermentors. My group was able to grow the yeast in an 800 litre fermentor but it took several days of non-stop monitoring. I remember taking the graveyard shift and having to check on our progress every hour from midnight until 7am the next morning. It was challenging but this was a great experience and something that I would not have been able to do anywhere else. This was just one of the many things that made our course unique.
“I made some great friends during my time at Birmingham. Without them, I probably would have not made it through my degree program. My advice to current students would be to develop those relationships; help one another and lean on one another and make memories together.”