As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a scientist.

When most kids had their hearts set on becoming footballers and fighter pilots I wanted a white lab coat and thick nerdy glasses (I didn’t even need to wear glasses though, unfortunately).

Instead I became a marketing consultant. This may have been a mistake.

I loved science and nature from as early as I can remember and spent much of my childhood bug collecting, consuming David Attenborough documentaries and roaming the corridors of the Manchester Museum. From the age of seven I became a committed amateur Herpetologist, and much to the surprise of my parents built a successful amphibian reserve at the bottom of the garden. On a roll, I then convinced my parents of the academic merits of keeping various reptiles in the house. By age ten I knew the Latin names of the main snake families and could identify most dinosaurs with merely a passing glance.

My future was set.

Unfortunately, I’m also an idiot. I became a teenager and developed other interests, and although I never stopped loving science, I became distracted by such fripperies as material possessions and the opposite sex. Such ill-advised interests sent me down the dark road of studying for a business degree and landing a job in marketing.

I’m not ashamed to say that I landed a pretty prestigious job. I moved abroad, worked in an international environment with loads of fascinating people and earned far too much money. There was one key problem though, I hated the job. I spent most of my time working on such vital problems as “should the perfume cap be dark black or just black?” and consumer marketing itself felt dishonest and a bit grubby.

Working in marketing did teach me a couple of important lessons though, that I enjoyed writing, conducting research, and that if you’re going to spend the majority of your waking-hours doing something, then make sure you actually enjoy it. I decided I’d quite like to combine science, research and writing into some kind of career, preferably one that didn’t also involve watching hours and hours of focus groups.

I’ve now quit working full-time in marketing, have been studying part-time for a science degree for a few years (at The Open University) and have begun writing about science in my own amateurish way. I’m hoping these activities will lead me to the kind of job my 7-year old self would have approved of.

There, life story and therapy session over.

I also enjoy exotic food, The Wire, buying way too many books, Black Adder, vegetarians, podcasts, Greece (the country) & Charlie Brooker. Not necessarily in that order.

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21 Responses to “About me”


  1. 1 Abb April 28, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Just though I’d respond as this made me chuckle. When I was a kid I wanted to be a scientist and then instead became a Business Analyst – and I still hate it, but it pays the OU fees and the bills. Now I’m working to be a scientist. I’m a vegetarian who likes David Bowie, Black Adder and Charlie Brooker. I quite like Grease but I’m pretty indifferent about Greece. Same goes for indian food, Pete Doherty and The Wire, but half of your post resonated anyway 😉

  2. 2 Dan G Swindles April 29, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Sounds like we’re in a pretty similar position, what are studying at the OU, and what kind of scientist do you want to become?

    How can you be indifferent to Indian food?!! :-;

    • 3 Abb April 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      The same as you, S366, thats how I stumbled across this blog! Also doing S396 at the mo, then just 60 points to go. I’m just going for an open BSc so I can pick the modules I like and get entry into a more specialist masters. I’d ideally like to go into research (so I can carry on learning forever but hopefully start to earn a living out of it), something in conservation biology. You? I assume astrobiolist would be a good guess!

      Probably because I’m not very good at cooking it so the result is usually indifferent. I’m only really good at cooking Italian.

      • 4 Dan G Swindles April 29, 2011 at 2:28 pm

        I wondered if anyone would ever click on that 🙂

        I’m doing the exact same as I’m also doing S396. I’ve got a bit longer to go though, I think I’ve got another 180 points after these 2 courses, then I’ll hopefully complete the Geosciences degree, as long as I can get it finished in time!

        Conservation biology seems like a very noble, but interesting field to get into, and I’m the same, I’d love to go into research and spend the rest of my life learning, for money. I think I’d like to go into Palaeontology, as I’m fascinated by the emergence and evolution of life, both here and elsewhere in the Universe

        Ah, I’ve rarely cooked Indian food I have to confess, I’ve mostly bought it

  3. 5 Abb April 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Well I was a bit drunk and looking for an excuse to procrastinate somewhat at the time to be fair – so long as you’re logged into the course website it counts as study you know, even if you’re just reading peoples blogs 😉

    Credit transfer is also a reason I’m doing an open degree. I got 190 towards that and would only get 70 towards Natural Sciences.

    Don’t think I’ve noticed you pop up on the S396 forums. The exam is far too close and another TMA and 2 weeks behind on both at the mo after TMA3 consumed about 10 days and then required a week off to recover.

    Conservation biology is more for my own interest than noble I’m afraid. As much as I try to be an optimist, I think we’ve f’d things up too much already, conservation may just be p*ssing in the wind. But you never know.

    I’m sure your astrobiology fans are very bored of this OU conversation by now. Let me know what you think of those lectures.

    • 6 Dan G Swindles April 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      Being logged into StudentHome, and surfing science blogs, definitely counts as work

      I’ve been quite quiet on the S396 forums as I’m not enjoying the course as much, I’m keeping my head down and just trying to get it finished. I’m in a similar boat, both TMA03 on S369 and TMA01 on S366 totally wiped me out, I liked the line on TMA01 that it should take around 5 hours to complete, try 25 hours. I’m a bit behind on both too, but I get the impression that a lot of folks are

      I agree on the conservation biology, but at least you’ll be contributing something to the cause, rather than standing by and watching

      I don’t have that many astrobiology fans 😉

      • 7 Abb April 29, 2011 at 9:10 pm

        Ha ha, you never know. Well, assuming you have some, they’ll just have to be bored by, or ignore, this digression into the world of TMAs, conservation biology and palaeontology!
        I’m not finding S396 that enjoyable either to be honest, partly because it seems to be taking too much time and I feel I’m having to rush through it a bit. A proper scientific study and report takes such a lot of effort and, although thats not what they expect, I don’t like doing things by half. I also get sidetracked with literature searches on the report writing assignments and I find myself thinking about ‘real’ research that I’d rather be doing.
        Yep, thats the first TMA I’ve had with a time quoted on it and it was most definitely a lie. But I did find it less effort than most S396 ones, and I’m happy with my result.
        Anyway, I’ve got through to the end of I8 today so if I can get through I19 and crack on with S396 block 4 by the end of the weekend then I’ll almost be back on track. My social life may suffer but at least I’ll be further on my way towards contributing to conserving something 😉
        Which project are you doing? Nothing really palaentology related available but I suppose a field trip to Yixian or the Burgess shale formation would be a bit beyond.

  4. 8 Dan G Swindles April 30, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Tell me about it, I’ve wasted hours on literature research, then only used all that research to write one small paragraph. I’ve seen there aren’t any more project reports in TMA04, but there are in the exam!

    I was thinking about doing the snails project, as its the closest I can get to comparing morphological changes in fossils, how about you?

    • 9 Abb April 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      I haven’t looked at TMA04 yet, or any exam papers, thats how disorganised I am on this course 😦 How can I write a report in an exam, on paper?! I need to write, rewrite then shuffle things around when I do reports – not easy without cut paste undo and redo.

      Snails was my second choice. I’m going for the conservation genetics one. I’d rather do some field work but, because it’s so close to what I want to do in the future, it had to be that one. I’m getting involved in some small mammal genetic research on Holy Island Lindisfarne later in the year so this should be good prep.

      Well time to crack on with more molecular biology – wish I’d done this at a lower level first!

      • 10 Dan G Swindles April 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

        I was thinking about doing conservation genetics too. I’d prefer to do some fieldwork, but it did look like an interesting project, and probably will be less work than some of the other options, so I’m still tempted 🙂

        I’m struggling a bit with the molecular biology, but I actually enjoyed the cladistics, so I guess it serves me right!

        I’ll crack on myself now as well

  5. 11 Abb April 30, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Well I think I’ll have to revisit that section at some point, there’s been a lot of blah-blah-blah moments in the last few days! My brain definitely prefers macroevolution. I thought cladistics was too good to be true, obviously just easing us in gently.

    Conservation genetics project – less work – also a good reason. Give in to temptation 🙂

  6. 12 G August 1, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Hello,
    I really need that picture of galaxy in your blog.
    Is it copy righted?
    Would you please let me know how to get hold of it?
    About Me: I am a business consultant, but I am also starting my service to humanity as a spiritual healing practitioner & teacher. So I need this picture of that galaxy to be printed on my business card.
    Why? I dont know I was drawn to it, may be it reminded me of home!
    Thanks
    G

    • 13 Dan G Swindles August 7, 2011 at 11:44 am

      Hello G

      Sorry I couldn’t get back to you faster, I’ve been away at geology summer school 🙂

      I’m afraid I have no idea whether or not the picture is copyrighted, all the pictures on my blog are usually taken from google searches. You should be able to click on the image in my post though and save it to your hard drive

  7. 14 Kuhan Chandru November 2, 2011 at 6:55 am

    nice, i almost did the mistakes you did!!!. thankfully something happened and made me think right… money is not happiness as it is portrayed… but satisfying the inner child….

  8. 16 Ganesh Vader November 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    yup…almost the same story as mine too, i guess… but u proved its never too late.. wish the best for u… 🙂

  9. 18 Denis Evin February 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Hello!
    I must say that I;m really impressed with your blog and especially about-me part, as I’m trying to commit the same mistake, but my kid is saving the scientist inside me. And although he is only 3y, my whole family has an opportunity to hear your written text (and jokes!) translated in to Russian.
    Thank you for all your time. Subscribed and never going to regret that.

  10. 20 Shahmir Khan January 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Very nice blog, it’s really informative and the way you write really catches my interest. Continue the good work.

  11. 21 Ray March 5, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    You were awesome and brave to quit your job! The blog is really informative. I enjoy your articles. I am a 100% layman of astronomy.

    I am interested in Buddhism. I find that I can understand deeper about the Buddhas’ teaching with the knowledge of astronomy. Let me share a piece with you. Buddhas taught that everything is subject to the rule of the impermanence. He implied that we human being shall not grasp the “self” too much. Every kind of pain is created by the graspings.

    When we look into the Sun, how mighty it is. No human being can outlive the Sun, even the Earth could not (correct me if I am wrong). However, the Sun has its doom day and is a small one when we look into the bigger unit say galaxies. The Sun is perishing in every second. The tiny joy of a human being could not last long. How silly a human being is to grasp a perishing joy other than to enjoy it in every second.

    Thank you so much!


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