I studied physics initially because of thoughts of becoming an astronaut, but soon became interested in quantum mechanics. I remember a conversation with a lecturer during my undergraduate studies at UCT about the impossibility of observing something without inter- acting with it, and therefore disturbing it in some way.
The implication that the observer is then inextricably part of the system under observation has fascinated me ever since. I was intrigued by the realisation that the way a question is posed can influence the answer, from the level of human interaction all the way down to measurements performed on single particles.
I realised the unique contribution that a creative human mind can have in shaping the direction of scientific discovery and decided to continue studying theoretical physics.
After travelling for two years, I really missed physics, even trying to learn Japanese was not a replacement for the kind of challenge that modelling reality mathematically presents. I decided to start researching photosynthesis on a quantum level after a guest speaker gave a seminar in our department.
In the meantime, my research interests have led me via the field of my PhD, quantum biology, to the famous question, "What is Life?". In my opinion, if life can exist on Earth, in an unimaginably large universe, it must also exist or have existed elsewhere. The study of living systems on Earth, and the mystery of the emergence thereof, is always going to be severely limited by a lack of precise knowledge of the conditions under which it emerged, in a possibly singular event.
Billions of years of evolution of life on Earth have culminated in the possibility of us calling another planet home for the very first time. Untold discoveries lie in wait, including the possiblity of finding evidence of life forms different to the ones we know of here on Earth. I applied to go and live on Mars because I would be prepared to sacrifice a lot for this idea, this adventure, this achievement, that would not be my own, but that of all humanity. Even not returning to Earth.