Craig McInnes takes a look at what scientists do with their spare time. First up is Sharon Baillie.
As difficult as this is to believe, it is nevertheless true. Not all scientists are the archetypal over-achieving genius who are hyper-dedicated to being the best, most efficient version of themselves that they can be. Sometimes we just like to go for a pint. However every now and then you meet someone who reminds you that the aforementioned over-achiever actually does exist: Sharon Baillie fits that bill. Not only does Baillie have a prize-winning first class Master’s degree in chemistry but she has a PhD in inorganic chemistry, is training to be the world’s most over-qualified teacher and she’s also a happily married mother of two. Strathclyde University has never been so proud (it’s practically weeping degrees for her in admiration). I had it on good authority that Baillie was, in fact, a normal human being and that she used to spend her free time (what little she had of it) playing guitar. “Great!” I thought “I bet we’re both equally crap at it.” And that let me sleep well at night.
All this changed a couple of months ago when I read Baillie’s new novel. Yes, you heard me, novel. Not some popular science book that most over-achieving scientists write, but a well-crafted piece of fiction. Magenta Opium (the novel) is a mix of dark humour and effortless wit set in the (clearly non-autobiographical) world of a young PhD student’s life and cleverly tells the engaging (if at times mentally scarring) story that focuses on the young scientists life. As remarkable as this book is, presumably like me, you’re left wondering how Baillie had the time to write a novel in the first place. You might sarcastically suggest that she’d have had to sit on a train and type it on her phone while on her way to work or something, and we all know that’s not what happened, right? Wrong. That’s exactly what happened. Unbelievable.
Magenta Opium is sickeningly available at Amazon, go and buy it. If nothing else it’ll mean she has to do book signings and talk to people about it. That ought to keep her from making the rest of us look bad for a while.