Currently working at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio Texas, Old Blue Gordon Bartley from the Class of 1981, conducts catalyst research and development for a variety of global companies, including car manufacturers Volkswagen and Ford. With twenty-one patents to his name, Gordon continues to enjoy a very successful career.
How would you describe your time at The Blue Coat School?
I was a boarder during the 1970s and 1980, at a time when only boys attended the School. Roughly one third of the school was boarders and the rest day students. I would not say that being away from home for seven years was great, and I can say I had some tough struggles, but it all prepared me for life in the real world, and I hit the ground running when I left.
I have many fond memories of playing squash on the courts after school, singing in the School Chapel with the choir, playing violin in the orchestra and pantomime orchestra (I was leader of both for a little while), and running for the athletics team, 800m mostly.
How did your experience at The Blue Coat School prepare you for your career?
Physics teacher Mr Dai (Taffy) Davis helped me to secure a place at Reading University. I was very fortunate to get an up and coming catalyst chemist as my supervisor (Professor Robbie Burch), who himself went on to great things at the University of Belfast before his retirement.
What has been your path since leaving?
I spent three years at Reading University working towards my Chemistry degree, graduating with an upper second class degree in 1984. For the next three years I worked on my PhD, specialising in catalysis.
On completing my PhD I went to work for Johnson Matthey in Royston, researching and developing vehicle emissions catalysts (catalytic converters). They were used by Volkswagen in Germany, but were not introduced into the UK until 1993.
In 1991, I was offered a three year contract in Wayne, Pennsylvania to further develop catalysts for the world market. I actually stayed there for 4 ½ years, finally moving to my current job in 1995 in San Antonio Texas, (home of the Alamo). I have worked at the Southwest Research Institute now for over 21 years, and perform contract R&D for numerous companies, including all the major car companies, oil companies etc. I am still testing emissions catalysts for cars and trucks etc., with a little development work here and there. Most of my 21 patents involve different ways to improve engine emissions and catalyst durability.
What do you do now?
Recently I worked on an accelerated catalyst aging protocol for recreating hundreds of thousands of miles in just a few hundred hours in the lab. The protocol was adopted by California in their regulations and the European Union in their aftermarket diesel product regulations. I continue to test catalysts for clients, and try to find new and novel ways to make things work better.
What would be your advice to students today?
The Blue Coat School today must be quite different to my experiences. One big difference is Girls! Boy I wish there were girls there when I was there (although the distraction would have been horrendous!). Advice is hard to give. Everyone is such an individual, that what works for one person is not right for another. I would tell them to study hard because you will reap the rewards for the rest of your life. Try different things. Play an instrument. Join a sports team. Try archery on the west wing lawn (but try not to hit the windows like I did). Chess if that is your thing. Play football on the yard during lunch and breaks. Read books. Have fun while you study, and always remember that you do not have to be like anyone else. You are you, so be the best you that you can.