Professor Simon Kingham, from the University of Canterbury, talks about how he became a scientist. He did not try particularly hard at school or university, but when he studied well, he got very good grades. When a high-achieving graduate friend of his died, he rethought his career and wondered what he could do to make something of his life.
PROFESSOR SIMON KINGHAM
I didn't do a huge amount of science at school, I just about passed chemistry and physics, I didn't really do biology past the age of 14. I did okay in maths, and then I did a Bachelor of Arts in geography in the UK. And I kind of cruised through it a bit, if I was honest. I had this idea that you did as little possible and got through. And then I worked quite hard at my exams and actually did quite well, and got a better grade, quite a good grade, probably better than I thought. And so part of my thinking… I then worked for a couple of years, and part of that time I thought, “I wonder what I could really do if I worked hard?” And then around the same time, I had a quite good friend who was Mr High Achieving, had been to Cambridge University, and I didn't go there, and he was a great athlete, and he had just finished his degree and his world was all set up, and then he died in the Lockerbie air crash. I don't know if you remember the Lockerbie air crash where some terrorist blew up a plane. And it made me think, “Crikey, here's me, two years out of a degree and not done anything”, and so I thought I had better make something of my life, so I decided to enrol, do a PhD to see what I could achieve and kind of got my life back on track a bit.