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director of the Scientific Alliance, and principal associate at Ascham Associates

Inspiration came gradually. At school, I preferred the practical dimensions of physics and chemistry to the complexities of Latin grammar. At university, chemistry seemed to be a sensible and useful choice of degree. Weekly essays could produce varying levels of inspiration (or not), but one topic stands out in particular.

I attempted, not very successfully, to construct a logical discussion of the second law of thermodynamics, based solely on the concept of increasing entropy. Apart from convincing me that I wasn’t cut out to be an academic, this helped me to realise the power of independent thought, which was certainly an inspiration of sorts.

When it came to getting a job, I found that I wanted to use my scientific training directly in the world of industrial research and development, rather than drifting towards accountancy or marketing. By this stage, you could probably say that the inspiration had crystallised as an intention to keep directly involved in science for good.

Looking back, the main reason for this seems to me to be that science teaches us not to accept everything we are told without question. Rather, science teaches us to take a sceptical view of the world, and to look for and examine evidence. The process of trying to weigh evidence, and draw conclusions as objectively as possible, is a constant source of stimulation.