One philosophy question which still amuses Dan Bates from his university days is 'If I can eat an imaginary pork pie, what bearing does this have on questions relating to the existence of God?'.
Now a senior manager in BP, Dan's day to day problems are far more concrete, as a specialist in gas, but the solutions can be no less intricate, for which he believes he owes Lancaster University a great deal.
"The education was so broad," he says, as he ponders the three years he spent studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). "One of the things I learned is that I really like having a breadth of different disciplines and outlooks."
Brought up near Cambridge, he arrived straight from school, keen to get away from home but at the same time diffident about the process. Lancaster was one of only two universities to offer PPE and he was convinced he had made the right choice and felt welcome from the start.
"Because it was small and we were resident on campus it was easy to make friends," says Dan. "Also the collegiate system gave you a real sense of identity and of welcome."
The key was being part of Cartmel, which provided the focus and the launchpad for his university career. This was where his social life took place – he played football for the college and was also elected social secretary for the JCR. It was also where he met his wife Sarah (née Marshall) on her first day at Lancaster studying Theatre Studies and Religious Studies.
Academically Dan found himself thriving on the up-to-date approach and lively tutors, including Professor of Philosophy of Religion Colin Lyas who he remembers for the pork pie question. Subjects that stick in his mind are politics in the media and international relations, plus regional and business economics.
His ambition had always been to go into business, and was given what he describes as 'excellent advice' by the university careers office in his third year, which persuaded him to go through the Milk Round to gain a small accountancy firm in central London, where he qualified as a chartered accountant.
His move to BP came about through his desire to gain big company experience. Through a recruitment agency he joined in a finance manager role at a point just after the company had gone through a major reorganisation to make it one of the largest companies in the world.
Armed with the confidence he gained at Lancaster, and a versatile set of skills, he admits he is ambitious and constantly looking to the next career move. This has taken him into the chemical side, into solar energy and now into gas within BP, where he is involved in strategy and planning as a member of the leadership team. It also requires him to undertake a limited amount of travel to Madrid and Milan.
Apart from his enjoyment of the business side of his work at BP, Dan is also involved in working with the local communities in which BP operates and has helped to establish a project with Business in the Community called Arc, which aims to create 1000 jobs in East London as part of the Olympic legacy through the support of social enterprises.
Part of this requires high-level business skills, but Dan has also found himself doing some grassroots mentoring, helping a local social enterprise to launch a business making chutneys from the market fruit and vegetables left over at the end of the day. He says: "It is really good to give something back."
He feels that his time at Lancaster has equipped him well for the life he has chosen. "The multi-disciplinary degree really helped me to gain a good skill set, which has enabled me to be a person who makes things happen," he says. "It also gave me my wife and family."