George Graham is a senior Research and Development (R&D) executive. Working in the fields of plant science, food safety and personalised nutrition, he is skilled in translating scientific breakthroughs into commercial products and services. He has recently embarked on a new adventure after spending over 20 years working for multinational packaged food products manufacturer, Mars Inc.

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BSc (Hons) Applied Physics & Microelectronics alumnus, George Graham, didn’t have a career plan in place when he enrolled at Edinburgh Napier. All he knew was that he was interested in the various fields associated with physics, and the University’s emphasis on applied learning appealed to him.  

“I remember well the lead-up to exam times, studying with my classmates in Merchiston Library then heading to the student union, all of which created really great memories.   
“In particular, I remember a fantastic mentor called Dr Keith Turvey. He is one of the people who changed the trajectory of my life and will always play a special place in my life.” 

A packet of sweets in a clear box with 'George' written on it After finishing his studies at Edinburgh Napier, George initially explored a career in academia. He was part of a research programme sponsored by Nestle where he built 3D interferometers to study modes of failure in mechanical equipment used in the food industry. George was asked to speak about his cutting-edge research at a forum which had associates from Mars Inc in attendance. This led to him being offered a job at the company in January 1997. He has never looked back!  
“It was an outstanding organisation, and I was blessed to have a very rewarding career with them.  I had no idea my choice to join ENU would result in this path opening up for me.” 

George's 23 years at Mars took him around the world, building new products, teams and businesses in Dubai, USA, China, Singapore and London. It has presented him with many highlights. 

“In New Jersey, USA, one of the roles I had was leading an R&D team for Mars Health and Nutrition.  It was one of the best teams I have ever worked with. We had a clear mission and worked with some amazing people – one of whom was Muhammad Ali to build a range of nutritious snacks!   
“In China, one highlight was inspiring the team to develop ‘the best chewing gum in the world’.  
“Out of all these wonderful times, it’s the great people that I’ve worked with that I remember most. I still keep in touch with them today.” 

There were challenges too, of course. These required George to use his strong leadership skills to steer the team through any tough time

George offers his advice to anyone wanting to follow in his footsteps

Find subject areas that you are intrinsically interested in, explore them thoroughly, and work with people you enjoy being with.

George Graham

BSc (Hons) Applied Physics & Microelectronics, 1992

His final role at Mars was Vice President of Mars Advanced Research Institute. Here he was charged with setting the 5-to-10-year technology strategy for all strands of the company.  

This role also allowed Geroge to support up-and-coming scientists. Mars Inc sponsors a number of the world’s leading young scientists through their partnership with the Lindau Nobel Laureate Foundation. The Foundation hosts an annual event in Lindau, Germany where over 600 junior scientists are able to mix with Nobel Prize winners.  
“I had the chance to be with 39 living Nobel Prize winners in Physics!  It was a profound week in my life having studied physics at ENU to now be in this forum.  The most engaging part of all of it was mentoring the young scientists of the future.” 

George Graham planting a tree in Sulawesi, Indonesia The pandemic has been challenging for everyone. George has used this time as an opportunity to reminisce about university life and reconnect with old classmates. 
“In recent Covid times I have reunited with two prior classmates, John Gilhooly and Godwin Osigwe. We host a virtual bar once a week and it has really helped us all deal with the effects of lockdown. We often reminisce about the great times we had along with our other classmates. One of them was a bit of a chess genius and probably the smartest guy in the class, but I do remember fondly a time where I surprised him with a move that set up a win for me!” 

George left Mars Inc in July 2020. Since then, he has focused on doing what he loves – helping others think through their business strategies and the impact their plans can have on the world.  

He has been offering his expertise to companies in Scotland, Singapore and California who work with microalgae. This has led him to the world of personalised nutrition. In the near future, George plans to build a business addressing the grand challenge of metabolic health. He has recently started a new role as Group Vice President of R&D for The Beachbody Group based in Santa Monica, USA. 

Looking back, George admits Edinburgh Napier was the stepping-stone to his career

On reflection what it did provide was a brilliant foundation of how to think and how to work with others.

George Graham

BSc (Hons) Applied Physics & Microelectronics, 1992

Published May 2021