Dr Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief

"I got absolutely gripped by astronomy as a seven year old after I was given a book about the stars," recalls Dr Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief of Nature, and Fellow of both the IOP and the Royal Astronomical Society.

Philip Campbell

"By the time I was in the 5th form, I'd become so fascinated by relativity and quantum mechanics that my teacher told me to stop reading books by Einstein and get on with electricity and magnetism!"

Despite taking physics at 'O' and 'A' Level the subject was not, however, Philip's first choice for University. "I nearly went to an airline training school, because my main interest was flying," he says, adding that he withdrew from the final stages of interview when he decided against becoming a commercial pilot. Instead Philip read aeronautical engineering at Bristol University from 1969-1972, and after briefly considering a musical career (he sings, conducts, composes and plays drums and piano) settled on entering physics. "For me university was about finding out what I wanted to do, and it became clear that physics was my strongest interest," he says.

He converted to the subject via a part-time MSc in astrophysics at Queen Mary College, University of London. "To understand the lectures I had to teach myself undergraduate physics," he recalls. Philip went on take a PhD in upper atmospheric physics at Leicester University from 1974-77, looking at the effects the ionosphere has on low frequency radio wave propagation. Following a two-year postdoc he "was attracted by an advert for a Junior Editor in physical sciences at Nature. I'd always read Nature, and during my PhD I'd discovered I could present scientific information in an interesting way, so I decided to make the leap and took the job in 1979. I've never regretted making that move."

"When I first went to Nature physicists weren't publishing there. Then high temperature superconductors came along, and because this was a very competitive field involving many disciplines, Nature had a role to play. We built on that and began turning Nature into a physics journal," he says. Wanting to engage even more with physics, Philip moved from his then job of Physical Sciences Editor at Nature to IOP Publishing in 1988 to become the first editor of Physics World. "The great privilege of setting up a new magazine is that you can appoint your own team and I had some really good people," he enthuses. Philip says he still enjoys reading Physics World, and also reads the physics-focussed policy articles in Interactions (the newspaper for IOP members).

Philip left Physics World in 1995 to return to Nature as Editor-in-Chief. "There was an intellectual challenge at Nature that I was keen to take on, which was biology. Some of the most interesting papers we publish both in terms of science, and implications for society are in biology and I'd never really got into the subject," he explains. His job involves planning editorial strategy, editorial content, and special topics and themes, as well as managing staff, and meeting scientists and science policy makers. Despite his new found enthusiasm for biology, Philip feels studying physics has given him an advantage - and not just when he is writing about the subject. "When you are faced by any complex situation, physics training gives you the ability to see the key elements before you set about dealing with it in detail," he says.