Seven questions with Vaseem Khan
9 December 2015
This week, we put seven questions to Vaseem Khan, Business Development Director at UCL Security and Crime Science.
1. What does your role involve and how long have you been at UCL?
I spend my time tormenting and torturing academics, i.e. I 'manage' my brilliant academic colleagues on major research projects. Officially, I am the Business Development Director at UCL Security and Crime Science.
The job has many facets, which keeps life interesting. Mainly, it involves getting the boffins around a table to bid for large grants, then managing some of those projects to ensure that we deliver what we promised we would, in budget and on time.
I also try to teach our doctoral researchers the meaning of life - or at least how to work with industry and other members of the 'real world', which is the same thing. I am also the department CCO - Chief Cake Officer.
I celebrated 10 years at UCL in June. Prior to that, I spent 10 years in India working as a management consultant to a group that built environmentally-friendly hotels across the country called ECOTELS. It was an amazing time and I got to see the subcontinent in all its glory as India began her march towards global superpowerdom.
2. What achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Seven years ago I bid for (with colleagues) a Doctoral Training Centre in Security Science - UCL SECReT - the first of its kind in Europe. Since then we have enrolled almost 100 PhD researchers. Our graduates - who have worked on an astonishing range of topics including landmine detection, airport scanners, sex trafficking, cybersecurity, terrorism and forensics - are finding stellar positions in the world of law enforcement and crime reduction. We are immensely proud of them!
3. Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
With Christmas here, I will be on extended leave, during which I must complete the third novel in my fiction series about the Baby Ganesh detective agency (see below).
When I get back to work, my priority is the final year of the £3m 'What Works in Crime Reduction' project, which I am currently managing. So if you want to know whether Neighbourhood Watch schemes or CCTV really work then check out our findings on the What Works website.
4. What was your first job straight out of university?
Let's talk about my first job, first. Three months one university summer spent in a cash and carry warehouse lifting large crates of soft drink cans, then putting them down again on a pallet. Taught me a lot. Namely, don't drop a large crate of soft drink cans on your foot.
My first proper job was as a lowly accounts data inputter with a large audit firm. My soul was destroyed within two weeks. I left the glamorous accounting profession behind and became a management consultant instead, joining a small company in Stratford, which eventually took me to India and the best years of my life.
Moral of the story - don't settle for a job that makes you unhappy. Get out early. If you have self-confidence and a decent education behind you, you will be fine.
5. What is your favourite and least favourite thing about London?
That I can step out of my house and literally not know whether I will come home alive, dead or somewhere in between. London is an exciting place to live - part of that excitement is the pace of life, the neurotic stress, the gung-ho Chuck Norris attitude, the bohemian vibe, the risk analysis that you have to conduct each time you go down a dark alley, the fact that there is a place for everyone here, no matter how weird or wonderful. That's democracy. That's freedom.
My least favourite thing? That guy who charges onto the tube train like a rugby back row screaming, "Can you all move down?" when there isn't enough space between our crushed atomic structures to slide in another electron. Sorry, guy, but sometimes the answer is "No. We can't."
6. Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Michael Connelly (crime author), Sachin Tendulkar (cricketer) and Rachel Allen (TV chef). And Sauron from Lord of the Rings. I want to put my arm around him and ask him why he's so angry all the time.
7. What would it surprise people to know about you?
That I write novels, specifically a light-hearted crime series set in India. The first in the series was released on 13 August 2015 by Hodder and called The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra. It follows a very rigid and honest police officer in the Mumbai police service who is forced into early retirement and, on his last day in office, inherits a dead body and a baby elephant...
This is the first in a series about the Baby Ganesh detective agency and it has been really heart-warming to me how people have taken to the novel. I guess everyone loves baby elephants!
I've been writing for 20+ years so it's nice to be published finally - I have a four-book deal with Hodder. My aim with the series is to take readers on a journey to the heart of modern India, to bring to life the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of the subcontinent.
In the future, I'd like to set up a writer's circle for staff and students at UCL who are serious about writing fiction - if interested drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.