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researcher at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, and veterinary locum

As a young child, the idea that most appealed to me was being able to find things out for myself through experimentation and observation, rather than simply having to take someone else’s word for it. My first experiment proved that the tooth fairy didn’t really exist, much to my mother’s disappointment.

Perhaps one of the most striking things about learning science at school was the enormous leap of imagination the teachers required of us, transporting us from the everyday world to that of atoms, molecules, proteins and cells. This was a world in many ways more fantastical than works of fiction, yet one that could help explain why the world is the way it is. So understanding the structure of water molecules helps explain why ice floats on water, or why stable water droplets form.

I qualified and worked as a veterinary surgeon, but then decided to become a research scientist, in part because I was interested in the differences between human and animal brains and behaviour. My science career has taken me from neuroscience to developmental psychology, in a bid to understand how small differences in brain anatomy and physiology lead to such a vast gulf between human and animal minds.

I love being in scientific libraries. The idea that the dusty old books surrounding me contain the work of generations of scientists, collectively labouring to produce an ever better understanding of how the world works, fills me with awe and optimism. After all, the story that science tells is not like any other. Unlike the narratives of tradition or religion, it is a story that will be tested, argued over and revised, providing an understanding of the world that is ever closer to reality.