Dr Quillon Harpham is a Technical Director in our Floods and Water Management group. He has more than 25 years’ experience in the water sector and joined HR Wallingford in 2004.
What made you want to work at HR Wallingford?
I wanted to be part of a water industry centre of excellence that made a difference to the world.
What is your background?
I’m a mathematician by background – maths is, in my opinion, the king of all the sciences and I think I was always going to do something in mathematical sciences. I did my Masters in Numerical Analysis and that led on to a career in computational mathematics and information systems. Working in the water sector felt like a very natural choice for me. The water cycle touches so many areas of life and I like the applied nature of the research.
How has your career progressed since you joined us?
I started in 2004 as a senior scientist in the Informatics group and my career has developed in all sorts of directions since then. One thing I particularly enjoy is the opportunity to engage with science communities around the world and work on projects across lots of different sectors. As an informatics person you’re not pigeonholed so I work across all the physical processes that we study.
What’s your day to day?
There’s no such thing as a typical day – that’s why we do this! It could be everything from looking forward, developing ideas from the ‘twinkle in somebody’s eye’ stage right through to completing applications for research calls or implementing solutions. There’s also lots of relationship building and client management, lots of writing and talking. The job has taken me all around the world as a guest speaker. Combining travelling and talking about the work we do suits me down to the ground.
How would you describe your team?
The team I currently work with – and indeed all the teams I’ve worked with here – have been a continual inspiration. I’m constantly inspired by the people around me. The talent, professionalism and dedication they apply to our work is fantastic.
Which projects have you found particularly rewarding?
Looking at the projects I’ve been involved in, there really aren’t many that haven’t been rewarding. Most recently our D-MOSS project, which is now being used in South East Asia to predict outbreaks of dengue fever, has been a real highlight.
I’m constantly inspired by the people around me; their talent, professionalism and dedication are fantastic.
Going forward what do you anticipate the new opportunities are likely to be in your group?
I think there are clearly opportunities in Earth Observation and that will express itself in a myriad of niche applications. It’s up to us to find the ones that work and that we can add value to. There are also lots of opportunities in numerical environmental modelling, the technology behind environmental modelling and how it’s applied in practice. Each discipline of environmental modelling has slightly different issues. If you are a meteorologist you are modelling very large areas with a lot of data, so your issues will be around getting the models to run on time. Some of our models here will run on a laptop in an hour, so the issues are different. The move towards standardisation and harmonisation is going to make a huge impact, but it’s something that is fraught with potential problems – what I am interested in is coming up with sensible solutions.
What’s the best thing about working at HR Wallingford?
Being on the leading edge and making a different to the world.
What do potential clients need to know about us?
We’re innovative, dedicated, creative, thorough, professional, and good value for money.
What do people need to know about working for HR Wallingford?
Expect to be working on lots of things at the same time, to be challenged, and expect to make a difference.
Do you have any advice to people looking to pursue a career in STEM?
Spend as much time as you can understanding the problem before trying to devise a solution.
Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?
I help to lead a church, I play the guitar, I like board games and spending time with my family.
Can you remember the first music you bought?
Yes, it was a vinyl single called 'Angelo' by Brotherhood of Man, in 1977. I took it to school and the teacher refused to play it! I probably still have it somewhere…
Do you have a signature dish?
I make a good chilli con carne, although my wife and I always disagree about how spicy it should be.
Quillon out and about
At the IET Awards 2021, winning for the work on D-MOSS
With D-MOSS team colleagues, at Howbery Park
Presenting to colleagues in Vietnam during a D-MOSS training session