Dr Paterson was born and raised in Winchester, Hampshire, attending King's School and Peter Symonds College. He completed his undergraduate Chemistry studies at the University of Exeter, including an industry year at SmithKline Beecham in Harlow, Essex. Following this, he completed his DPhil studies in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, did post-doctoral work at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, and completed his PGCE at Homerton College, University of Cambridge.
After completing his NQT year at Saffron Walden County High School, Dr Paterson taught at Meridian School, Royston, for six years, becoming Head of Science. During this time, he became involved with the work of the Association of Science Education and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Following a year at Hitchin Boys School, he took the opportunity to contribute to chemistry teaching on a national scale by becoming a subject advisor at the OCR exam board. Here he contributed to the OCR model of practical assessment at GCSE and A-level, and collaborated with other organisations such as CLEAPSS. After two years, Dr Paterson returned to the classroom at Aldenham School, Elstree, where he developed his ideas on how to support students in understanding practical chemistry. He has continued in his collaborations with RSoC and with CLEAPSS.