• Question: What made you want to be a scientist when you were young and what did you most enjoy when doing science?

    Asked by jonnyv on 6 Jun 2019. This question was also asked by lovescienceforever, zaaras56, rania06, cloudy, onexgalaxyxboi26, finlayy, keriporter, julisquamm, MJ_6.
    • Photo: Kate Timms

      Kate Timms answered on 6 Jun 2019:


      Hmmm… It may sound strange, but I don’t actually remember!
      I remember that I always wanted to be a doctor, but when I got to my final year of highschool I had a careers appointment and for the first time I actually got to discuss what I liked doing. I realised that I only wanted to be a doctor because that was the only biology job that I knew about. But when I really thought about it, I realised that medicine for most people doesn’t have an awful lot of science in it day to day – unless you’re a doctor who does research.
      At some point between then and applying for university I must have decided that I wanted to do a science undergraduate degree, but at that point I don’t think I was really looking as far ahead as what my job would be. I just enjoyed science so I wanted to carry on doing it!
      I think it was only in my final year of my undergraduate when I did a research project that I realised that I wanted to be a research scientist.
      So you don’t necessarily have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Just think about what you enjoy studying and try to pursue that.
      I think the thing I loved about science and still do love is that it’s a bit like being a detective. There’s a mystery you have to solve and to do it you have to design the right experiments to find the answers.

    • Photo: Ettie Unwin

      Ettie Unwin answered on 6 Jun 2019:


      I was always curious about the world around me. I wanted to take things apart and build them again and constantly questioning why. At school I really enjoyed maths and physics but like Kate it wasn’t until I started looking online at careers and university courses did I decide what I wanted to do.

      Funny story… I was talking to my Mum about what she thought I should study and she said economics. I wasn’t listening properly and a bit bad at spelling. I thought she said engineering. Part way through my PhD she asked me why I studied engineering and I replied because you suggested it!

      I never thought at that point I’d end up applying my engineering skills to predicting disease behaviour – I just ended up here through following what I was interested in.

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 6 Jun 2019:


      Certainly to start with I knew I wanted to be able to help patients and that I was passionate about understanding the similarities and differences between different animal species (including humans) – this is what biased me towards veterinary medicine and science. When I was on work experience placements for vet school I saw several patients with diseases that affected the nervous system (for example, brain tumours, epilepsy that was poorly responsive to drugs, and grass sickness in horses – a nasty neurodegenerative disorder that affects the ‘fight or flight’ part of the nervous system and makes it impossible for horses to eat or digest food). For most of these patients, we had little to offer other than supportive care and/or euthanasia, and whilst we were able to end suffering, I wanted to understand these diseases better so we could provide a ‘third option’ in the way of treatment. The frustration of training in neurology and neurosurgery and not being able to offer really effective treatments for some patients drove me back into the lab. My PhD was based on using stem cells to grow human brain cells and to understand how cooling could protect them from injury ‘in a dish’ – and some of the molecular pathways that enable this might be very useful for discovering new treatments for many other brain disorders. It was also clear that many of the brain problems I had seen in my patients were very similar to those seen in humans (including members of my own family) and so I felt that if I invested time in basic research I would have a chance to discover new disease mechanisms (and ultimately treatment strategies) that would help both humans and animals. Increasingly, we are recognising that the circadian system (‘our biological clock’) becomes disrupted in many brain disorders, and so understanding how this happens may lead to novel ways of developing or applying treatments. This is where my research is focused now.

      When I was younger I think the thing I enjoyed most about science was that quest for discovery and exploration. I think if you have any sense of curiosity about the world, and like problem solving then there is definitely a place in science for you. There are endless types of science careers; the best advice I can give you is to try lots of different things until you find something that really inspires you. No job is perfect, and there will always be tough days and things to be done that you don’t enjoy so much – that’s life. Never be afraid of trying new/difficult things and failing – this is where the best learning happens!

    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 6 Jun 2019:


      I was really interested in the human body and how all the organs worked so I knew that I wanted to spend my whole life learning about it if I could. I also thought I could cure various diseases and had very lofty ambitions about all the things I would do – I was 5 years old and was very enthusiastic, but a bit deluded! It was only when I got to secondary school and started considering careers that I properly saw what jobs would let me study the human body and disease. Oddly I never really wanted to be a doctor as I liked the thought of being in a lab. Of course there are lots of doctors who do research too, I just didn’t know that at the time! Science appealed to me because I loved, and still do love, knowing how things work.

    • Photo: Shobhana Nagraj

      Shobhana Nagraj answered on 6 Jun 2019:


      Great question! I really enjoyed learning about nature and finding out how things worked and how plants and animals grew – my love of science started from observing nature and watching lots of David Attenborough documentaries! The thing I enjoy most when doing science is discovering new things, and understanding why things work they way they do. I love that’s science can help answer some of my endless curiosity about the world!.

    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 6 Jun 2019:


      @Kate is clearly not totally strange as I’d agree with her that I don’t really know! I just remember always wanting to be a doctor from about the age of 9. Before I went to medical school I hadn’t even really considered being a medical researcher as well, that was something I learnt more about and got more interested in when I was at medical school, and then my career evolved from there. I don’t think you need to know exactly what you want to do when you’re at school, just follow your interests and your future will work itself out!

    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 7 Jun 2019:


      What made me want to do science? I’ve always been fascinated with biology and how the human body works. I don’t think I had a “switch” that made me think “I want to be a scientist!”. I just knew what I wanted to study at University because I was good at biology and mathematics and then found a job that combined them. I’ve been working in the same field ever since!

      What did I enjoy most? Learning new things about the human body, cells and functions!

    • Photo: Thiloka Ratnaike

      Thiloka Ratnaike answered on 9 Jun 2019:


      I would have to say that my wish to become a doctor (which I believe brings in the scientist bit too) came from watching my mum (who was also a doctor) tending to a sick beggar while we were in Sri Lanka. The guy was bleeding from his head after having tripped and fallen on a stone in the road, my mum knew exactly what to do and was very calm too. I remember watching her and wishing I could one day have those skills- to be able to know how to treat someone sick straight away.
      The wanting to KNOW HOW to treat someone influences my love of science- I love to discover what is going on in the disease process that can act as a clue to predicting what is coming next! This is one of the most enjoyable things about science- thinking of the question that excites you and following the trail.

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 10 Jun 2019:


      I wanted to be a scientist after I was brought a home science kit at the age of 7 and I have been completing experiments ever since. I most enjoy working on new methods and also discovering new things!

    • Photo: Shonna Johnston

      Shonna Johnston answered on 11 Jun 2019:


      I liked maths and english but I never found them very exciting.
      Going to the science block and doing practicals was much better fun but was never so interested by writing them up which is probably why I am happy doing my job.

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