An academic role model

David Colquhoun

David Colquhoun is a minor hero of mine. I discovered an interview with him on his Improbable Science blog. Take a look; I think you will probably enjoy what he has to say.

His blog, as the title suggests, is mainly concerned with taking on the proponents of pseudoscience unsupported by evidence; but there is much more to it (and him) than that. He “made major contributions to our understanding of how ion channels … work”, and his theoretical results underpinned the Nobel Prizewinning work of Neher and Sakmann. He has been a strong proponent of the view that biologists should be numerate.

The interview came about because he was nominated as an academic role model at UCL, and was published in a UCL in-house magazine. I take my hat off to UCL for this. He has been a thorn in management’s side there for some time; he opposed the merger with Imperial, and in the interview he is critical of “academic vandalism” by “unenlightened management”. On one of his other blog posts, he explains that “UCL’s public engagement unit … has blocked me on Twitter”, although he has nearly six times as many followers as they do. [Don’t ask me what that means!]

He and I have at least one shared experience: the 1988 London Marathon.

Here are a couple of quotes.

Work-life balance is much talked about by HR, though they are one of the reasons why it is now almost impossible, In the past it wasn’t a great problem.

There is never a clear division between work and play, especially with algebra. You can continue to struggle with a derivation on a boat, or even get a new angle on it while running. That, of course, is why the transparency review is such total nonsense.

And finally, one which could be a motto for this blog:

If you want a hobby that costs very little, and allows you to say what you want, start a blog.

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About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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