• Question: what got you into your specific subject you're researching?

    Asked by isabella to Tom, Steve, Stephen, Pete, Meeks on 21 Jun 2010 in Categories: . This question was also asked by ciara, giuola.
    • Photo: Tom Hartley

      Tom Hartley answered on 15 Jun 2010:

      Hi Isabella, I think I could have gone in a lot of different directions in science, but looking back I was always interested in people. The first experiment I designed myself was in A-Level Biology. The other students were doing projects on Drosophila (fruit flies) and plants etc., but I got people to do my experiment. Then I did a degree in Life Sciences. It had a lot of Biology in it, which I really enjoyed. I think one of the best bits was when I did a practical involving a simple sort of genetic engineering which seemed really hi-tech and exciting. But I specialized in Psychology, and ended up doing my project on people again. I was starting to get hooked on the idea that we might be able to understand how people’s thoughts, sensations and memory work. I had learned about “neural networks”, an approach using computers to model aspects of brain function, and I applied to UCL where I got the chance to use neural networks in my PhD (I made a model of the processes involved in learning a new word). Since then I’ve studied a wide range of different topics in Psychology and Neuroscience, but in one way or another they are all linked to the way our brains store information about time and space. I like to think about the connections between the different topics I’ve worked on, rather than the gaps between them. There wasn’t really one moment I switched to a specific subject.

    • Photo: Marieke Navin

      Marieke Navin answered on 15 Jun 2010:

      Hi Isabela, thanks for your question. I just loved particle physics so took all the particle physics modules at uni. Through one of the modules I got talking to the lecturer and I told him I was really interested in a type of particle called neutrinos. I didn’t know much about them back then but they sounded cool! He told me to go and speak to another guy so I did, and this guy ended up being my supervisor! He was just about to go to Paris to a collaboration meeting, so he said why don’t you come to Paris and meet some people and see if you like it -so i did!

    • Photo: Stephen Curry

      Stephen Curry answered on 15 Jun 2010:

      I’m into structural biology which means that I like to do experiments to reveal in extraordinary detail what large molecules (such as proteins) look like. We make protein crystals and shoot X-rays at them to reveal the structure in atomic detail – i.e. so that we can see every atom in three-dimensions.

      I got into this when I learned about the work of Max Perutz (and Austrian scientist who worked at Cambridge). He was a pioneer of the methods that we use (called X-ray crystallography) and studied haemoglobin. This is the protein molecule that is stuffed into red blood cells (it’s what makes them red) and carries oxygen around the body. I was amazed to see from the structure what an intricate little machine haemoglobin is and have been fascinated ever since.

    • Photo: Pete Edwards

      Pete Edwards answered on 21 Jun 2010:

      I guess this was down to a whole load of influences. A school teacher, TV programmes and just looking up at the night sky and wondering what was really out there and how big it all was! I realised that physics was the science that tried to answer most of the questions that got my interest and after that I was hooked.