When I chose science as a career back in 1994 I was just a 15 years old kid who wanted to make a huge difference in the world. We all start of by the same baton but the music ends up being a lot different when we aren't shielded by our parents anymore. We learn, most of the time on our own expense; we learn that dreaming and accomplishing demand from you an impressive blow of energy, and most of the times you can give it all and still the world won't even care for who you are. It is quite easy to become overshadowed by the loathing reality of frustration when one is just a teenager. The impact on the world's heartbeat as it happens to us since our early days becomes sort of an understatement. We become, progressively, with the attenuation of our own energy and drive, a paler shade that at times needs reassurance, rebooting, an injection of self-esteem and confidence.
To a personal level and emotionally speaking our family and friends exist exactly for that sense. Professionally, you only have a dual choice that can, at times, work simultaneously - Teachers and Idols.
For people like me, naturally and innately iconoclastic, Idols do not work that well. I then tend to replace them for figures of a more human composition, fibers of a reality that I need seen. To properly integrate the experience, knowledge and wisdom carried by these figures must be shaped into a solid element of human eugenics, with a pinch of suffering that makes them, above all, REAL.
When I chose science as a career back in 1994 and even throughout my way to the years of, say, a BSc in Portugal, I could never find any mentor. By mentor, I mean a person so inspirational that I would be able to immediately point out as a driving force. All the professional positive energy that I was feeding on came from books, different ones. Some I can't even remember their covers properly, but I still have them in a safe place somewhere in my mum's house. It all started at a very early age with a Carl Sagan book "Cosmos" and then "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. After that, the three most relevant ones consisted on the "Sharks still don't get cancer", also a book of interviews with Principal Investigators worldwide, and finally one published by the British Medical Association on cloning and ethics (blue cover, great info, but can't really remember the title). These were the influences I had back then, and without a wallet that could help me feed on my book/science addiction, I had to accept what coincidence and destiny had to offer to me.
During my graduate days I had a few people who actually helped me a lot in terms of motivating myself and in trusting my professional skills: Dr. Martin Luck, Dr. Debbie Sparkes, and Dr. David de Pomerai, were three individuals that really boosted my confidence in a personal level. In addition, they made me want to go out there and look for my niche. And I don't really think they even know that they did that to me!!! But that was an eventful period where as a graduate or masters student you absorb and absorb without much judgement. You tend to just take and eat it in without much criticism because you are no expert. When you get home you're still starving, you want more, you want influential speakers, someone that speaks to you as an individual not to a crowd of people where you might or not be. You want someone that enter your senses and slap you right in the Id/Ego and tells you "This is for you, you can make it, wake up". I had that on a few moments where my life really took a turn. It happened firstly with the final lecture of Randy Pausch with whom I cried my eyeballs out and my scientific and human heart fused in one single indissoluble piece. The second moment of spiritual/scientific rebellion/awakening was produced by the very first book of Dr. Brian Weiss "Many Lives, Many Masters" where I met the work of Carl Jung and salivated on the many contributions this incredible scientist produced, especially on his strength to go where no one else would go.
Nonetheless, I was still craving for more, for THE TALK, the purely scientific one that would make all different variables converge and hit me straight in the cerebral heart. And that was accomplished only recently, very recently with the work of a person that doesn't really need any introducing, I may say. I am positively staggered by the amazing communicative power held by Professor Brian Cox. I have to tell you that I don't know the man, and to be fair I am not the type of guy who would be running after his autograph or just wanting to shake his hand. I am a natural iconoclast, I don't do these kind of tacky things because inside I just don't feel any need for it. But every time I sit down with my wife to watch some tele, it is because of Professor Brian Cox. He has this hallucinated Boris Johnson meets Richard Ashcroft look. I became raptly taken to new dimensions, the ones he talks about and where all sciences meet in a festive orgy of knowledge, of what we are and where we go.
If I could offer anyone the prize for most influential speaker of my times, I would even ditch Sir David Attenborough... The winner would definitely be Professor Brian Cox.