Nathanael Yates played the mad scientist role at school. Despite the uniform code, he could always be found with multicoloured hair, spray-painted lab coat and safety glasses. At least he was following the Occupational Health and Safety guidelines! He claims that one the joys of admitting you are a scientist (even at parties) is that no-one minds how eccentric you act.
Now Nathanael earned his PhD in neuroscience at the University of Western Australia. Like most people who sometimes act the clown, underneath he is thoughtful and serious. It took three emails before I winkled out of him that he had spent part of his PhD time at Oxford University, UK, on a special Commonwealth Scholarship; and that he has won *more than* the occasional award during his time at UWA, demonstrating that he is top of his game in several aspects of his academic career.
By contrast, the sports people that I associate with, usually mention their awards first up, and proudly show you their cabinet full of trophies. In this article, I am doing my bit to celebrate our Tall Poppies in all areas of endeavour, and I hope Nathanael will now allow hold up his head and without embarrassment, according to Matthew 5 verse 16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Nathanael's passion is to research ways to find early intervention for mental diseases. By the age of 15, he decided that science was the best way forward in the complex task of understanding the human brain and its occasional malfunctions.
Even though other careers may have shown more direct benefit in helping him learn to treat mental diseases, Nathanael decided that the potential for large scale and lasting change was greatest if he became a scientist. He realises that choosing science as a career is risky, but (like many other scientists) he sees it more as a calling than a job.
Apart from almost total fascination with science, he loves to help his wonderful wife and soul mate, Clarissa, with her baking business when he needs a break from science and his video games.
He is also interested in mentoring young people, and finds teenagers fascinating because they have so many questions. He knows this because (among other volunteer youth activities) he has had experience teaching in church and at University, and has encouraged underprivileged high school students to consider university courses.
When asked to describe his attitude to his Christan faith, Nathanael replied: “I consider myself a non-denominational Christian. My attitudes to my faith have always been informed by the belief in the need for intellectual rigour in every part of life. The question on whether Christianity is true or not is the most important question in my life, and I continue to explore it every day. So far I’m pretty convinced that it is!”
Finally, he commented that he had no conflicts between his faith and his science, in everyday life. He explained it this way: “To be sure, being Christian can make things complicated, but the truth often is.
Being a scientist means not taking everything at face value, but trying to synthesise what is known about the world and weave that knowledge together. I try to think as deeply about my faith as I do about science.
There is nothing shameful about admitting that you don’t know something, science and faith are both a process of exploration. You can’t know or be an expert in everything. Both faith and science rely on trust, and an assumption that there is a knowable truth in the universe, and hopefully we keep moving closer and closer to the complete truth.”
Nathanael won the Australian Society for Medical Research "Gold" prize for his presentation from his PhD "Schizophrenia phenotypes in an animal model of developmental stress". He has been involved in overseas research stints. He is gaining a serious reputation.
Nathanael is married to Clarissa (also a young writer) and they have two little girls. He takes up an academic position at the University of Queensland in November. His articles in Christian Today can be found at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/nathanael-yates.html
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html