Interview with Dr. Andrew Lerwill

Dr. Andrew Lerwill, Research Scientist, joined IPI in July after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles which he entered after working in research as a scientist at the Tate Gallery in the UK. 

Dr. Andrew LerwillWhere are you from?

I am from Devon in the southwest of England.

What was your very first job?

I worked at Arlington Court, a National Trust country house close to where I grew up.

What is your professional training?

I have a BSc in Physics, an MSc in Applied and Modern Optics and my PhD dissertation "Micro-fading Spectrometry: an Investigation into the Display of Traditional Watercolour Pigments in Anoxia" was published in 2011.

What drew you into conservation science?

I like that it is problem-based research and requires diverse learning and perspective to appreciate a problem adequately.

What particular conservation topics are currently of greatest interest to you?

My interest has always been to use optical techniques and analysis in conservation to measure, predict and control damage, as well as in testing environmental controls and limitations.

What do you think is the greatest need of the field?

Broadly to create experiments to bridge the gap well between the experiment and reality. For example understanding an object in terms of the components and then combined as a complete interacting system is difficult.  Conversely conducting experiments on real objects and applying those findings to all objects of that type is equally questionable as components can subtly vary leading to big differences in behavior.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in this field?

It depends greatly on what path and what type of research. As a foundation however I would suggest getting a sound scientific education while exposing yourself to as much cultural heritage as possible.

What drew you to IPI?

I feel I can help the research goals and provide ideas as part of the IPI team and make a big contribution.

What was the most surprising thing about IPI for you?

IPI spans the gap between scientific rigor and the necessary relevance in conservation; this is combined with education and outreach. Not many places can do that.

What hobbies or other interests do you have?

Snowboarding and I like to travel. Fortunately I am also very interested in cultural heritage.