• Question: When did you decide to become a scientist and why?

    Asked by angelxxx to Alan, Caspar, Diana, Murray, Sarah on 21 Mar 2011 in Categories: . This question was also asked by robbiec36, deng, minime, chelseaanicole, poppyflash, beasty14, ilzf, bobbysna, lgammon07, dabigsnail, morgan1bronagh, science123, robertthefriendlydragon2, 09datetia, supremedarklord.
    • Photo: Alan Winfield

      Alan Winfield answered on 17 Mar 2011:


      Hi Angel

      In fact I’m an engineer first and foremost – I first became interested in electronics as a boy and started making gadgets when I was maybe 14 or 15. And I’m still making gadgets 40 years later – but now they’re mostly robot gadgets.

      But your question was about becoming a scientist and, yes I do now think I myself as a scientist. It’s really only in the last 20 years that I became deeply interested in science – mostly in fact from working with other (proper) scientists. You see robotics isn’t something that’s only done by engineers any more. In our robot lab in Bristol we have all kinds of scientists working on robots. Bio-chemists – working on robots that eat food for example. Also neuroscientists working on robots that model (very small) parts of brains. And in my area of swarm robotics I work with ant biologists to try and understand how ant colonies do all the amazing stuff they do, so we can try and use the same principles in robots.

      So the reason I’m now – I think – a scientist is because robotics needs the contribution of a very wide range of subjects, not just engineering. And working with all kinds of scientists has, I think, made me a scientist.

    • Photo: Sarah Thomas

      Sarah Thomas answered on 21 Mar 2011:


      Well I really liked science in school, I didn’t like subjects like maths and english where you are sitting behind a desk writing stuff all the time. So when I had to chose what subjects to do for Highers (A Levels), I picked Chemistry and Biology that’s what I liked, I picked Religious Studies because I found it interesting and I like debating, and I picked English and Maths because you need them for a lot of different studies and jobs.

      I decided I wanted to go to uni although nobody in my family had been before me. I got quite good grades at school and I felt like it was time to move away from home. I decided to study Chemistry and Biology because it’s what I enjoyed doing at school and I knew that uni would be hard work, and it’s always easier to study something that you are really interested in. I thought that being a scientist would be my ideal job because experiments and practical work are my favourite things and I knew that being a scientist would involve working in a lab every day! And I was right! I think it’s really important just to go with your heart when you are making important choices like what subjects to take and what to do with your future.

    • Photo: Caspar Addyman

      Caspar Addyman answered on 21 Mar 2011:


      I used to work in banking and finance but i was getting bored with it so I went back to university at night school (at birkbeck in london) to study psychology. I started out just doing it for my own interest. But i started to find the mind and the brain so much more interesting than my day job that I quit banking and studied full time for my phd.

      Back when i was a school I quite liked the idea of being a scientist or a mathematician but it all seemed far too difficult. At that time, I had no idea that there even was such a thing as developmental psychology (aka baby science) so i would never have thought I’d be doing something like this for a living.

      But having been in one boring job I now that 1. you should always try to find somethign you really care about 2. if you are starting to dislike what you are doing then find a way to change. It seems obvious to me now but I didn’t realise it at the time.

      why did you chose this area of work?

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