Donald Palmer: life as a scientist

Donald Palmer talks about the importance of science to his life, the influence of his parents on his work ethic, and what makes a scientist.


In terms of my future if I hadn’t have discovered science, I actually don’t know what I, you know, would have done or been.  It’s sort of really difficult to say.  Maybe I – you know, I could have been - you know, as with some of my contemporaries who got into trouble, you know, perhaps that would have been the pathway that I’d gone into.  But, you know, as I said, I’m grateful for my parents who provided real solid values, but then also to, as I said, my friend and teachers, who, you know, really encouraged me to explore science.  And also I actually enjoyed science.  It may sound weird but I actually really enjoyed science and all about it.  I think biology and science and chemistry is – they are fascinating subjects. [0:54] I mean, my background has not been a disadvantage in terms of my progression.  I think – because what you have to remember about science, science is an international sort of language in itself, you know.  When you go to conferences you’ll see people of a wide variety of background.  Here at, you know, the Royal Veterinary College, it may sound really weird because we’re in a vet college and the perception of a veterinary college may be one of a particular sort of group of people, but you could be far mistaken.  We’ve got people from a wide varieties of backgrounds as academics as well as students.  So, you know, and there doesn’t seem to be any issues around people with, you know, that wide background.  In terms of an advantage, perhaps the advantage is mostly the influence of my parents in the idea of working hard.  And I guess – I’m sure that’d be the case for any parent who wants their child to be successful.  But I guess because they were, you know, immigrants and they had that kind of mindset, they viewed it was really important to do well in this country and to work hard, and so I get that kind of desire and enthusiasm and determination from them.  But, you know, being a scientist of colour has not actually held me back in any way. [2:22] It seems clear to me that young people have that appetite and that mind to really engage with science.  And I think, if they can get into that, I think their imagination can be used to great effect.  There are still problems in diseases on the planet and it will require imaginative minds.  And I think, if there’s an opportunity to do that – and what I really say with science and what is really interesting about it is that it’s based on your own sort of skills and knowledge and determination, more so, I think, than other areas of industry, where it’s partly a case of who you know and what you know.  Science, I think, as a profession, it’s really about if you’re able to, you know, develop that knowledge and I think it’s really worthwhile exploring.

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