Camilla Pang: ‘You have to acknowledge the hilarity of what it is to be human’

Camilla Pang: ‘You have to acknowledge the hilarity of what it is to be human’

Camilla Pang: ‘You have to acknowledge the hilarity of what it is to be human’ 150 150 icnagency

By: Claire Armitstead |

Camilla Pang: ‘You have to acknowledge the hilarity of what it is to be human’

| Neuroscience | The Guardian

Prize-winning author Camilla Pang talks about her autism and ADHD diagnoses and her desire to challenge myths about neurodiversity

This month Camilla Pang won the Royal Society book prize for her debut, Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships. She has a PhD in bioinformatics from UCL and works as a postdoctoral researcher. Dr Pang was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of eight and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at 26.

Why did you decide to write this book?
I inadvertently wrote the book in my PhD thesis on bioinformatics, and my supervisor, bless her, said this is great, but it doesn’t belong here. One of the things people on the autistic spectrum do is organise our world in a way that makes sense to us using objects and sequences. For me, those sequences involved looking at the fundamentals of matter, and what that meant in terms of science. Even if I was just kicking a pile of leaves, I would do it repetitively in order to find the laws about how things react, and how they can be predicted. So from kicking leaves to Post-it notes to eventually reading about science, I constructed a map to navigate the world. Over time, it became bigger and notebooks piled up, so I ended up with a piece of work that I thought might be useful to someone else. And that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? You want to connect with people.

Scientists who love biochemistry might not see the parallels with economics. But I do, and that is a superpower

Related: Neurodivergent author Camilla Pang’s Explaining Humans wins Royal Society prize

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