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Dean Gareth Davis

University Student
Johannesburg, South Africa

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 12 November 1980.  I grew up in Jo'burg as they call it here, and traveled throughout my 23 years to all parts of South Africa.  There are cities just like New York in South Africa.  Cities like Jo'burg, Durban and the beautiful Cape Town – only very much smaller than the Big Apple.  My country is the most beautiful place in the world – warm weather throughout the year!  I grew up playing loads of sports like soccer, cricket, rugby and hockey.  I loved reading as a kid and spent most of my school holidays in the library!  I still love to read today and still play soccer, go to gym and take trips to the coast to scuba dive and surf.

What were your favorite subjects as a young student?

As a young student, my favourite subjects were definitely biology and geography.  The human body intrigued me and I wanted to know more about the body in which I lived.  Living in Johannesburg, we get a lot of thunderstorms in summer.  They're a bit bigger than the ones that roll across the midlands of the US, but we don't get any tornados here though.  In the morning, the sky can be clear but you can actually smell the rain from at least 300 kms away!  The air is moist and unstable and in the distance you can faintly here the thunder and you get this tingle over your body.  Guess that explains my interest in geography and the sub-topic of meteorology.

What were your least favorite or most difficult subjects?

I really didn't enjoy maths and science.  I guess it was because the people who did well at it, kinda made me feel stupid and this put me off.  High school, however, saw a whole new interest in science, chemistry and maths – my maturity levels were on the rise, and my confidence soon followed.

When did you first develop an interest in science (specifically physiology and human space exploration)?

Hmm, I remember reading encyclopedias that showed Armstrong's first steps on the moon.  This blew me away!  I needed to know more about how the Apollo team got there and challenges that faced them – I was six at the time.  When I was eight, my schoolteacher asked the class if anyone could spell the word "physiology".  I thought about it for a minute, and then put my hand up.  I got the spelling right, but didn't know what the word meant. Again, the trusty encyclopedia provided the answer I was looking for.

What was university life like the first year after high school?

Varsity was probably the best years of my life!!  I will send my children to varsity regardless if they drop out or not.  The reason being, is that the greatest lessons you learn about life, never gets taught in the lecture halls.  You meet the friends who will stand by you for life.  But best of all was the partying and sheer enjoyment of living and breathing the air that inspired you everyday.  A balance between partying and studying was challenging but never impossible – I wanted my degree and to learn about life from my new friends.  The people at varsity are so much more mature.  No longer are you judged by the clothes you wear, the car you drive or the background in which you grew up in.  The biggest adjustment to make was the fact that if you weren't independent once arriving at varsity, you had to become steadfast pretty soon – lecturers and professors don't wait for anyone!

How old are you now and in what year of university are you now?

I'm 23 at the moment and have finished my BA Honours degree in Sports Science.  I'm planning to start a BSc in Applied Human Physiology next year.  My Honours degree took me four years to complete on a full time basis.  My true passion however lies in the next degree.  I would like to have a PhD in Applied Human Physiology by the time I'm 30.

What is a degree in Sport Science?

Sport Science is the study of every possible aspect of the field of sports – from physiology to the business side of things.  My three favourite movies are October Sky, Good Will Hunting and Jerry Maguire.  I guess the latter had an impact on my choice of studying.  I realized half way through the final year that a career in Sport Science is very rare and not recognized in South Africa.  This disheartened me, as I felt that I wasted time studying a degree that interested me, but wasn't my true passion like physiology.  I became angry with the professors, as I felt that I was just a number in the list of post-graduates.  I decided to do a thesis on something ground breaking which would earn me some respect in the eyes of my lecturers.  Being a non-conformist, I found this inspiring and not being one to back down, I proceeded to hand in a thesis which earned me a distinction and publication nomination.

What do you dream of becoming in the future?

I've dreamt, still dream and will always dream of working in a large space programme.  As an astronaut or physiologist, I would love to either go into space or help the chosen men and women fly there in complete safety and to determine new ground breaking research in human space exploration.

What type of research would you like to do?

I don't know if the experts are/have done research in these field yet (still need to confirm what ground breaking topics are lying in wait), but I would like to research the following:
• The development of fertilization in space.
• Potential endocrine (hormonal) changes in space.
• The repair and growth of bone cells, stem cells and the clotting of blood in space.
• Energy expenditure (calories burned) in space and the required caloric intake due to muscle deterioration during long bouts of space travel.

How do you think traveling in space could help your research?

You can have the most advanced laboratory in the world, and it still wouldn't be able to come near what the real feeling of space travel and living can be like.  Being up there in the black, silent void of space, I could conduct tests on astronauts, prepare slides and other experiments in the actual environment of space.

What languages do you speak?

South Africa has 11 official languages!  I speak English, Zulu, Afrikaans, Portuguese and a bit of Xhosa.  Still trying to learn many other international languages, but it takes time!

What do you see yourself doing in 5, 10 and 25 years time?

Well, realistically speaking, in five years time I would like to be in my Masters of Applied Physiology whilst earning a salary of some sort.  In ten years, I would have liked to been happily married, earned my PhD, working at Human Factors and doing some incredible research.  After 25 years, I would like to have been a respected individual in the field of human physiology in space exploration, written two books and enjoy more of the good life!  We'll have to see, at the moment I'm taking each day as it comes.

What advice do you have for children reading this interview?

Love every minute you have on this earth – both the good times and the bad.  Give your education everything you have and always respect your parents and people whom you look up to.  Try not following society's expectations and materialism because this narrows the mind.  Finally, if the every person in the world says that you're wrong and you believe in your heart that you are right, then prove everyone wrong and create a path for those to follow.

Do you have a favorite quote?

"Try not to be a man of success, but more a man of value." ~ Albert Einstein


- 15 September 2004


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Last Updated:
18 September 2004

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