It is, regrettably, rare in this business to find oneself engaged in a discussion about super-conducting quantum interference devices.

Fortunately, Luke Caldwell is on hand to translate this futuristic endeavour into the language of the common man. "I know that sounds made up . . . you'll be even more dubious if I tell you that the widely-used acronym is SQuIDs."

With only a humble C grade in GCSE physics, this correspondent feels in no position to counter his description. Yet it has been the Scot who has spent much of the past two years offering himself up for scientific scrutiny since decamping these shores to break new ground.

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With a prized degree from Oxford University secured at the age of 20, Caldwell's options seemed limitless. His boundaries as a talented middle-distance prospect, however, felt unexplored. "I was burning the candle at both ends, training hard and then staying up late into the night to study," he says. "I never got the rest and it affected the benefit from training."

The simple solution seemed to be to immerse himself in athletics and discover if there was untapped potential but he found himself tempted by a more intriguing alternative. Caldwell had seen others obtain scholarship offers from American colleges, being granted the option to continue their research while taking advantage of grandiose sporting facilities and arduous competitions.

The Scot duly picked up a thick directory of possible destinations and dispatched speculative emails to colleges in each of them. The approach was less fruitful than he had expected. "I often got no reply. A lot more said no thanks," he admits.

Joe Franklin, the track and field coach at the University of New Mexico, was among the exceptions, however. "I'm still not sure why he replied," says Caldwell with a smile. "I think he thought if I had been doing physics at Oxford, I might still have room for improvement, that there might be some potential there.

"I got on with Joe very well and I was keen to see the reaction of my body at altitude. I looked into the physics side of it as well. New Mexico had good facilities for that, even if running was my priority. I still wanted to further my education, but it was a good fit."

Good enough that he has progressed to the point that this afternoon, in the German city of Braunschweig, Caldwell will make his senior debut for Great Britain and Northern Ireland over 5000 metres at the European Team Championships.

The successor to the European Cup, the event is just the standard of competition he requires with the Commonwealth Games looming large. "After the NCAA season, you're hungry for something different," he adds. "So it's brilliant to go home and run in the GB vest and then for Scotland."

The summons came as something of a surprise, though. Caldwell felt that he was out of sight and so might well be out of mind. However, the annual two-day event, by necessity and design, will involve a British team - including his compatriots Lennie Waite and Eilidh Child - mixing youth and experience, since many have excused themselves from consideration given that the UK Championships are next weekend.

Cunningly, Caldwell negotiated an opt-out from Birmingham. Should he pull off a quick time today, it will serve as his gambit for selection for August's European Championships. "That's nice of them and they've done that for a few people," he says. "It adds pressure but the aim is always to perform as well as I can."

At Glasgow 2014, above all. At Hampden, he will twice encounter Mo Farah with the 10,000 metres the secondary pursuit of both athletes. It will be the first time Caldwell has faced the Olympic and world champion and the Scot is relishing the opportunity to test himself.

"That's what you want. That's why I get out of bed in the morning. I hope it spurs me on - I've never experienced anything like that."