About the Author
I am now retired but I am still a visiting Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Lincoln (UK) with a focus on the use of isotopic tracers in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology and drug development. Prior to joining the University of Lincoln I was the Chief Scientific Officer for Xceleron Inc, which specialises in the use of linear accelerators (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) for the measurement of minute quantities of isotope used in clinical research (a list of publications can be found on Goggle Scholar).
I was a Visiting Professor at the Medical University of Vienna (Austria) in 2010 and an Adjunct Professor at Duke University School of Medicine (North Carolina, USA) from 2012 to 2014. I was also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board on the Human Regenerative Map Project at the Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University in Sweden and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Xceleron Inc, Maryland USA. I was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and an Emeritus Member of the American Society for Pharmacology and Therapeutics. I have published one textbook: Lappin and Temple, Radiotracers in Drug Development (2006) CRC Press, Taylor and Francis.
A Journey Into Science
... which was not quite as straightforward it might have seemed
I attended a rather poor London Secondary Modern school that was more about survival than education. I was certainly not particularly scholarly. At best I was average in the class and at worst I was pretty substandard. Then one year I received my school report, which had all the usual "must try harder" comments but with one notable exception. Next to science, there was one word: "excellent". I remember feeling surprised, as I wasn’t aware that I was excellent at anything, let alone a difficult subject like science. But there it was, and I thought, if I am excellent at science, then perhaps I should pay it some closer attention in the future. In subsequent years the general science curriculum branched into physics, chemistry and biology and I opted to study all three of these subjects. Those early seeds of enthusiasm were nourished by my ever-improving grades and so germinated into the passion for all things science that I have today. After I left school, I entered the sciences as a career, obtained a University science education, spent over two decades in research then became a science educator. Today I feel that the sciences have become spliced into my DNA. The reason why I was drawn into the sciences in the first place however, turned out to be a little more complicated than it first appeared.
Some years after I had left school, I returned to attend one of their open days. There, I met my erstwhile science teacher again - Mr Parker - and we spoke of the time that he’d given me an excellent for science on my school report. In what might have been a twang of conscience, he confessed that he'd made an error and had in fact confused me with another pupil with a similar surname. I wasn't gifted at science at all. The truth was that like most subjects I was really quite mediocre. His mistake was one of those odd moments in time that changed my life. The other pupil (Lesley was his name) was in reality the one excellent at science, although I assume he must have received a "must try harder" from Mr Parker as the flip-side of his mistake. Lesley went on to start his own electrical repair business (in the days when electrical appliances could be repaired) and did very well for himself, so I guess there was no harm done.
And so I went into a career in the sciences and often recounted this story to co-workers or students to illustrate that attitude to what one does in life is just as important as aptitude. The notion that all scientists are geniuses, like Einstein with his tangle of white hair, is not even a stereotype, it is just completely wrong. Sure, science has its geniuses but most of us are not innately more intelligent that anyone else, it’s just we have a passion to know, we are driven by curiosity and not afraid to ask the questions. This is the bedrock of becoming a scientist and then the rest is education and training. I am one of those ordinary scientists who got bitten by the bug of curiosity and then did my best to infect others with the same fascinations. I certainly like to think that Mr Parker's comment on my school report has had benevolent ripples completely unforeseen at the time he made his error.
I thank you Mr Parker for being imperfect.