What motivated you to study science?

By Grant Jacobs 12/02/2015 6


Hanseul Nam “wants to study degenerative brain disorders after watching her grandfather “fade away little by little””.

She also tells of her earlier Year 3 science project –

We were meant to do something on ecosystems but we got sidetracked when we found a snail. It became the class pet but he died. We had a class funeral

She has won $30,000 as New Zealand’s top young high school scholar and intends to study biomedicine at Auckland University.

What motivated you to study science? Or to become a scientist.

Share it in the comments below – I’ll add mine there.

It’d be useful—and fun!—to show readers the range of reasons science appealed to us. Besides, I’d love to know why others got into science.

People who have moved since moved out of science are most welcome to contribute. After all, the majority of science graduate end up working outside of science.


Other articles on Code for life:

Neurological shorts

Optogenetics: light on brains

The bosom serpent

Scientific baking. Great for those lab meetings or kids’ parties.

Logos for great scientists

Know the history of your field, be it science or pottery

Haemophilia – towards a cure using genetic engineering


6 Responses to “What motivated you to study science?”

  • I was always interested in and good at science, particularly biology and chemistry. This led to a biochemistry degree and jobs in medical research. I’ve recently shifted into horticultural science which fits nicely with my love of gardening and still combines biology and chemistry. I remember having several chemistry sets throughout childhood, and bugging my Dad to get me a microscope that was up for auction at Turners when he was there looking for tools (which he got). My parents always supported my love for science (and sci-fi!). Science was always what I was going to do.

  • Thanks Dan – you were quick!

    I suspect science started early for a lot of us and it perhaps is bridging that over to the slightly older student us that matters. We’ll see. I’ll write mine in a bit — after lunch!

    (Just so you know, you should be able to comment without waiting for moderation now that your first comment has been approved.)

  • My turn. (Come on, join in – no fun if you just twiddle your thumbs! It can be as short or long as you like.)

    I’m not sure if there was any one thing when I was younger, but there were some key points when I was a little older.

    As a kid I had the chance to roam the storage areas of the Canterbury Museum. I also remember having a microscope, staining samples and staring down the eye piece at them. I don’t think my sample preparation was very good, as most of what I saw was very blotchy!

    A bigger influence would have been wildlife, esp. NZ birds. If I had a science I’d have chosen as a kid it would have been zoology. I read Gerald Durrell’s books along with a raft of others.

    Having lots of books about “stuff” helped!

    At high school I would have said art was more my thing, painting and photography. In my final year I came to thinking that while I liked art I couldn’t see how I’d do a job with it & took science as an undergraduate. (I did a mix of microbiology/genetics and computer science.)

    I worked for a couple of years after my undergraduate degree, one of them as a computer programmer. (A very interesting project involving small device programming directly on hardware, but let’s not get sidetracked!) I went back in for a PhD when I realised that while I liked coding, I spent too much time thinking about what you might do in molecular biology or genetics with good algorithms. (Well, good algorithms for the time.) I somehow got it in my head that I ought to write my own project plan and spent evenings at the university library tracking down the bioinformatics literature – hard work then – no electronic databases for the literature. Long story short I ended up with a PhD position at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge.

    Perhaps one thing to take away is that you can come to it a bit later, and also that you can track away for a while.

    Dan mentioned sci-fi. For what it’s worth, I never really read sci-fi until I was in my thirties! Make of that one what you will…

  • Great question Grant and fun to think about it…

    Very young I had a passion for numbers and facts, not just at school either… on the cricket field or checking how many pages of a book I’d read…

    My Father’s interest in engineering and science.

    Eventually those books included science fiction … Asimov and Heinlein in my teenage years …

    “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord” (Psalm 19:1) – I have always and still do marvel at the magnificence of the stars at night. They spurred me on to want to know more. A telescope as a teenager & meeting a local young man who was doing a PhD in Astronomy.

    Slowly recognising my enjoyment of looking, learning, and solving problems was enjoyed by the Creator who set those problems in the first place.

    2nd year Uni doing Honours I Maths and Honours I Physics + outside interests was a bit of a stretch, so with my finding a couple of Maths subject a bit difficult (obtuse) a study of pure Maths was set aside in favour of Physics.

    Specifically at PhD level I began taking science to medicine thanks to the curiosity of a theoretical physicist (Prof Phil Butler) who had bought a high powered laser along with a plastic surgeon (Mr Peter Walker) and begun to remove birthmarks. Besides, my grandmother thought it a better option than theoretical physics – now applying my science to a third major organ I think she was right.

  • How I became a Chemist (and now teach Sustainability).

    A wonderful question. Thanks.

    As I grew up: the Apollo programme Moon landings: Star Trek, Lost in Space and Thunderbirds; and many, many books. (Does anyone remember the “Tell me Why?’ series of books). Librarians and the Town Library. The little science we did at primary school. Encouraging parents. (They bought books and left me to read).

    At High School: The science and math teachers. (Teachers really do matter. Thank you). Massey and Canterbury Chemistry depts.; especially my supervisor Professor Michael Hartshorn. Currently, conversations with colleagues especially Emeritus Professor Brian Springet who I work with.

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