Why did you get
It's been more in and out really, because I've always
seen science as just one way of looking at a question
and for me the question comes first. I started to dip
in and out of different areas of science as part of
trying to find out personal answers. As soon as I'd
satisfied my curiosity in one area I got interested
in another and moved on.
So, throughout my 20's, I really did nothing
except study. I've ended up with qualifications in nuclear
engineering, medical physics, psychoacoustics, psychology
and education, but by the time I reached 30 I had still
never received a pay cheque and was totally broke!
What's been the
highlight of your working career so far?
The highlights are always when I cross boundaries. Just
today I've given a talk to a group of neurologists who
were interested in my brain imaging research on creativity
and it was fantastic to make links between some neuropsychiatry
The fact that one can produce work that
is of interest in medical as well as educational terms
I find very exciting. Of course, paper publications
and grant awards make you feel great when they happen,
but it is really these more everyday human interactions
that are best.
Why do you work in the
area that you do?
We are learning so much about the brain now, it
just seems crazy that we are not using more of
this knowledge to improve education. Also, I think
all the big questions (what is it to be human,
what is consciousness, what is experience etc)
seem to come back to the brain - so it's great
to be able to work in that area.
Are you a scientist 24/7?
.I guess the faculty to reason scientifically
is usually there. But this question summons up
an image of a scientist preferring to cut up their
pizza with a protractor, while calculating a statistical
figure for the probability of rain. (Of course
there are some scientists like that, I'm just
remembering Dalton who spent so much time pointlessly
But I'd say that the idea of a scientist
as someone always entirely analytical and abstracted
from the wonder and pain of reality around them is quite
out of date.
(A lot of scientists now grapple with
questions and experiences that were once the sole domain
of artists and poets, the work of other scientists often
provides them with a special compassion for the human
suffering around them, and there are many situations
when scientists have to use their intuition and other
"non-scientific" mental faculties to make
decisions where uncertainty prevails. All of this seems
to fly in the face of the usual stereotype of a scientist
as a cognitively cold and reductive being!)
What's your favourite
trivial pursuit category?
Never had the time to play it - but it probably wouldn't
What was the title
of your last published paper?
"Ideational productivity, focus of attention and
What scientist do
you admire from the past?
It would have to be Leonardo da Vinci - someone who
resisted being categorized as a scientist or an artist,
someone who did it all!
What would you like
to be remembered for?
I'm happy not to be remembered for anything. I think
it is inevitable that neuroscience will end up influencing
education in a big way. For that to be a positive thing,
there is going to have to be a lot of communication.
Before expiring, I like to feel that I may helped to
brake down some of the current barriers to that communication,
and been one of those who helped others feel ok about
(I hope I'm not remembered as the guy
who blew up his mates!)