IN amongst the Mills and Boons, surrounded by well-read westerns and tales of true crime, the tiny village library in Blackridge, West Lothian, used to have a disproportionately high number of science and technology books.

"My mother was the librarian, so I was always asking her to get them in from other, bigger branches," grins Dr Stephen Breslin, Glasgow Science Centre's new chief executive.

"It looked a bit strange, in such a small library, all those science books. But I loved reading them. I've always been a bit of a geek."

Dr Breslin's CV is packed with exciting, boys-own-adventure-story stuff like submarines (he was an engineering consultant to the Royal Navy at Faslane) and Typhoon fighter aircraft (he has a PhD in aircraft flight control systems) and huge, legacy-building, policy-setting projects, like education think tank Futurelab.

But it is his current role, his new appointment at the helm of the troubled tourist attraction on the banks of the Clyde, that he reckons is his "dream job".

"I consider myself very fortunate to have the jobs I've had," he explains. "I've always been fascinated by how things work. But here was a chance to bring together the two passions of my career – science and education."

Dr Breslin, 44, studied mechanical engineering at Strathclyde University, then completed a Masters in IT and control systems at Sheffield. While working as a senior engineer in aerospace systems at Strathclyde's Industrial Control Centre, he completed his PhD in electrical engineering.

As chief executive officer of The Kelvin Institute, a joint venture between the university, Glasgow University and Scottish Enterprise, his remit was to take technology that originated from Scottish universities and develop it into marketable products and services for sale or licence.

"That really fed my passion for science and technology – and then I went to Futurelab, an educational research organisation," he explains. "That was a bit of a departure for me, it was a strange direction to take, because it didn't involve science at all. But I was intrigued by it.

"I went down to the office, and met some very creative, motivational people passionate about improving the quality of teaching and supporting teachers who wanted to improve the quality of what they offer children."

Dr Breslin adds: "I realised very quickly what an important job teachers are doing and how dedicated they are to their pupils. It really opened my eyes. Good teachers are on a mission, dedicated to improving the life chances of the children they teach."

Dr Breslin's enthusiasm for his new role, for science, for teaching children, is obvious. Earnestly, deliberately, he emphasises and reiterates the points he feels are important to get across – about teaching, the Science Centre's role in the formal education system, its place in Glasgow and in Scotland, and his vision for the future.

The venue has not been without its troubles since it opened just over a decade ago, having faced funding cuts, job losses and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the landmark, 127m-high Glasgow Tower which remains closed for "extended maintenance".

For Dr Breslin, the next few years may be just as challenging but he has ambitious plans.

"The Science Centre, as a destination, is fabulous – an incredible set of buildings," he explains. "We're very fortunate to have it here in Glasgow. I want to make it as exciting and as engaging a place as I can.

"And not just for children – I want to extend its appeal to other age groups – to get adults in, to re-ignite their passion for science."

He pauses. "It's almost not so important that they remember what they saw and what they learned, but how it made them feel," he adds. "But we also have a serious role to play in formal education.

"Teaching science, particularly in primary schools, is a challenge. It requires a considerable breadth and depth of knowledge. We have specialist materials, learning programmes, an extensive outreach programme, the best people – all ways we can support teachers.

"A passion for science, a passion for education – that is what Glasgow Science Centre is all about. It's about cultivating creativity and passion in children – I love to see energy and enthusiasm in children, and I want to encourage them to develop new skills they will be able to use throughout their lives."

Dr Breslin's own daughters, Eilidh, nine, and four-year-old Niamh, are both big Science Centre fans.

"I used to bring them here all the time when they were wee," he smiles. "Eilidh is at the stage now she is asking lots of questions. She loves to learn and that is what you hope for in your children, isn't it? When I see that love of learning in kids, that curiosity, I want to feed it. It's like a furnace which needs to be stoked to keep burning.

"All children are naturally curious, they are born to learn. They switch off when something is either not challenging enough for them, or it's too much."

Dr Breslin's eldest daughter started school around the time he joined Futurelab, making him much more aware, he says, of how children learn and the challenges teachers face in helping them to do so.

"Suddenly, I was experiencing education for the first time as a parent, and in a professional capacity, I was immersed in it," he explains.

It fascinates him, he says, that the advances in science and technology we have witnessed in the last 20 years will be nothing compared to what we will see in the next 20.

"It is important we are all aware of science, technology and engineering, as they are part of all our lives," he says. "But at the same time, they will challenge us. Technology has eroded jobs, for example. We all have to try harder, be more creative – to create our own futures."

So, where did the fascination for science, the desire to devour those books in the small village library, come from? Dr Breslin is unsure. He has an older brother and a younger sister, neither of whom share his passion (the former is a priest, the latter a council worker) and he was disappointed in much of his own education.

"My dad was a teacher, and even though he died when I was nine, I remember he was a great teacher," he says. "He was dedicated and loved his kids, and wanted to do the very best for them.

"Did a teacher inspire me? I don't think so."

He ponders: "I've always had a fire in my belly, I was super-keen to learn at school. But I just couldn't get enough of it and I couldn't find somebody to help me. I was doing it all myself."

Growing up in Harthill, two miles from the library where his mother worked, meant he lived right on the border of Lanarkshire and West Lothian.

"My friends had jaikets, I had a jacket," he grins. "I went to Lanarkshire schools, but my friends went to West Lothian ones."

He considers the west of Scotland his home and is delighted to be back in Glasgow after four years living in London.

His office looks on to the Clyde and he loves watching the river in the early mornings after he has cycled to work from his home in East Dunbartonshire.

Cycling is another passion – "I like to do crazy things, like cycle down the Alps" – but he has little time to spend on it at the moment.

"I love being back in Glasgow, I love the river – watching the Waverley bob up and down on the water, it's great," he says, with a smile.

"I loved the energy of London, but it is good to be home. And being here, in Glasgow, seems like suddenly, it's all coming together."

He leans back in his chair and relaxes. "I'm in a good place. Finally, it makes sense."

Dr Stephen breslin Chief executive, Glasgow Science Centre