Q. What were some early influences for you?
A. I grew up in the northeast of England, in a small mining village near Newcastle. My dad was a shoemaker who originally made shoes for miners. I grew up in a period when Margaret Thatcher was closing down mines across Britain, so there was very high unemployment in my town.
That had quite a big influence on people living in the area because, as kids at school, you would be thinking, “What can I do to make the best of life?” You realize that education’s important and that you need to spread your wings. So that was a big influence.
I won a scholarship at the age of 11 to go to a British grammar school. The headmistress, a nun, had a chemistry degree from Oxford. She was very pro girls doing science. It was an all-girls school, and there were a lot of scientists in the school. It seemed pretty natural to me to go to university to do math.
Tell me about your mother.
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