Martin Williams graduated with an Honours Degree in Theoretical Chemistry & Biochemistry from the University of Sydney in Australia. Subsequently, he obtained a Master of Science in Oenology and Viticulture (Winemaking) at the University of California, USA. After returning to Australia, he was a winemaker based in the Yarra Valley for 15 years, before selling the winery he co-founded to start a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry at Monash University as a mature-age student in 2007. Currently, Martin is working as Research Fellow at Monash University, as a consultant in the wine industry and is one of the founders of the not-for-profit research association Psychedelic Research in Science & Medicine (PRISM).
How do you break the stereotypes in science?
I am a late bloomer in PhD terms, starting my PhD at 42. I have continued to study and learn throughout my life between degrees so, undertaking the PhD was not an alien experience for me. However, I certainly respect other people's situations and concerns when it comes to late starts (i.e. financial and/or family situation).
I probably also break stereotypes by having retained my broad-ranging professional interests as my life journey has unfolded. Consequently, I am still involved in winemaking and I am bringing my skills and knowledge to bear in clinical research.
In 2011, with some colleagues, we set up a not-for-profit called PRISM, with the objective to initiate an Australian contribution to psychedelic psychotherapy. There is a new recognition of psychedelics as useful adjuncts for mental health (e.g. anxiety and depression, eating disorders) and PRISM is contributing to the clinical research and the movement to destigmatise psychedelics.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
If you could have a coffee with anyone, who would it be and what is the one question you would ask them?
Erwin Schrödinger - did he ever realise just how difficult (and painful) it is in practice to stuff a cat into a box?
Hardest time in science
The hardest time was when the funding ran out while I was doing my postdoctoral research. It was in those two years I started building a plane and I just stuck with it. I had a project, an objective and it kept me going, if not I would have probably left and gotten a job elsewhere.
My greatest achievement has not been done yet!