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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Interview With A Scientist

It is with great pleasure that I present to you: the first Fresh Brainz interview with a scientist -
Dr. Andrew Thomson.

A real scientist, my friends. Not a wannabe like me.

Andrew did his PhD at Aberdeen University in Scotland. He is legendary for his distinctive chuckle and his upbeat attitude. Did I mention his knack for double-entendre jokes?

I often feel encouraged by his sunny disposition in the lab, so I decided to chit-chat with him to learn more about his secret of happiness!

Unfortunately I caught him in a sleepy mood after lunch, kept barely awake by a large mug of coffee. Will this interview score or end up as a total snore? You'll soon find out!

Me: What was your original reason to do science?

Andrew: It's a long story. As a kid I was always interested in how things work. In high school I never wanted to work in a lab, but that view changed when I learnt more about science at the university. It was either research or forensic biology, and I chose research.

Me: What is your reason for continuing to do science now?

Andrew: Well, that's because it still excites me... despite the politics and massive egos that can get involved. I believe you should be true and honest to your research.

Me: Was there ever a time in your scientific career when your morale was less than zero?

Andrew: Quite a number of times actually... *chuckle* When I was one-and-a-half years into my PhD I asked myself - do I really want to do this? I think you have to see pass that and appreciate the significance of your work. Sometimes your bosses will try to pummel your integrity into the ground. Should you do science to promote yourself as a supreme being? I think that reduces the nobility of the field.

Me: What was the happiest day in your career?

Andrew: A few instances. Six months into my PhD I solved a research problem that an American group couldn't solve for ten years - that gave me no end of great pleasure! *chuckle* I could do it because I came from a different background and used a different approach. My supervisor was not supportive, but I went ahead and published the results. Also, when you see your students start to achieve and push forward their own projects. When they can assess their own results. That gives me the greatest pleasure.

Me: What would be the best place for a conference?

Andrew: Cancun, Mexico. I'm from Jamaica originally, and I think some mountains in Jamaica are also great places for a conference.

Me: And the worst place?

Andrew: New Orleans. I went there once, there was no atmosphere - all hype. The conference building was concrete and foreboding.

Me: I see that you're happy everyday. Do you have any advice for students regarding longevity in doing science?

Andrew: At the end of the day, keep your integrity intact. Try to be positive. Especially a positive attitude with your co-workers. Try not to get bogged down - tomorrow is another day.

Me: Any comfort food? Like chocolates?

Andrew: Not really. I'd just be less likely to eat.

Me: And now for my last question. What is it about Life, the Universe and Everything - excluding 42?

Andrew: I don't know *sneaky voice*... I guess that's why I keep going and stay excited about trying to find out.

Me: Thanks Andrew!

Andrew: That's OK, I needed a break anyway. *chuckle*

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Distinctive chuckles are very important.