As busy as ever

Despite retiring from the University in 2009, life hasn’t slowed down for plant biochemist Professor Alan Crozier. He is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing and has been named a Clarivate Analytics Global Highly Cited Researcher for 2018, one of ten Glasgow researchers recognised as being in the top 1% for citations in their academic field.

Tell us a bit about your career this far.

I obtained a BSc in botany at the University of Durham and a PhD in plant biochemistry at Bedford College, University of London. After that I worked in Canada and New Zealand before moving to the Department of Botany at Glasgow in 1973. When I retired in 2009 I was Professor of Plant Biochemistry and Human Nutrition.

For many years my research focused on plant hormones. However, in the 1990s, I became interested in the biosynthesis of caffeine and related purine alkaloids in tea and coffee. In 1995, Mike Lean (Professor of Human Nutrition at Glasgow) and I began applying my analytical skills and his expertise in human nutrition to investigate dietary polyphenols.

What is the focus of your research, and what inspires you?

My research focuses on the identification and quantification of metabolites which appear in the circulation after the ingestion of dietary polyphenols. I find it a fascinating area of research as it is one of the keys to elucidating mechanisms underlying the protective effects of fruit and vegetable consumption.

When I retired in 2009 I used the freedom from administration and teaching to concentrate on research, principally with industrial funding, on compounds in raspberries, green and black tea, cocoa, grapes, coffee and a novel, low-calorie polyphenol-rich drink.

What drives you to do this research?

An interest and a curiosity that was shared by my group and my collaborators in the UK and overseas.

How do you feel about being featured in the Highly Cited list for a fifth time?

I am flattered. If, through pure serendipity, I had not moved into research on human nutrition in 1995, this would not have happened. I hope that being a highly cited researcher is beneficial to the development of the careers of the postgraduate students and postdocs with whom I have worked in recent years.

Tell us about the research you have been highly cited for.

I think my work on dietary polyphenols is highly cited because of the application of analytical skills we developed in Glasgow, much of it with its origins in my earlier research on plant hormones. This has generated a wealth of accurate and important information around metabolites that appear in the bloodstream following the ingestion of polyphenol-rich fruit and vegetables, as well as teas, cocoa and red wine.

One of the goals of such research is being able to produce more specific dietary advice that could result in reductions in chronic diseases, which would enhance longevity and improve quality of life. I hope that being a highly cited researcher is beneficial to the development of the careers of the postgraduate students and postdocs with whom I have worked in recent years.

What keeps you at Glasgow?

For me, Glasgow is a good place to do research, principally because of the people with whom I have had the pleasure of working, especially Mike Lean. Since moving into human nutrition research, a number of really good and dedicated postgraduate students and postdocs have passed through my lab and this has certainly helped maintain and indeed increase the impact of the group’s research.

What’s next?

After spending the last four years at the University of California, I have returned to Glasgow and spend my time advising on projects with colleagues here and abroad.

Since retiring in 2009, I have published more than 130 papers. In 2018 I had 14 papers published or accepted for publication and I am now in the process of co-authoring a book on purine nucleotide metabolism.

I continue to travel extensively in pursuit of research: a very convenient way to see the world.