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What do Scientist Say?

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Pratik Kumar

Pratik Kumar

Recently, one of our members Pratik Kumar attended Asian Science Camp,
and there he interviewed some Noble Laureates. He writes his experience here.

Always Question, Don’t read books, Don’t do your homework, and do not Aim for Nobel Prize if you wanna get it!



Recently the 5th Asian science camp was conducted at the science city of South Korea;
Daejeon from 7th-13th August which had seven Nobel laureates and many other outstanding
personalities from various fields of science in the panel. The camp consisted of various activities
such as lectures, student activities and posters and one evening of a memorial debate—truly a life
changing experience, the “Panel discussion”. All the seven Nobel laureates on one podium and
same questions were asked to each one of them. These were not mere questions but their journey
to the Nobel Prize. It depicted the pleasure of being a researcher/scientist, the motivation behind
and the future for Asian students. A few questioned posed were of mention. I would like to share
a few of them. 

L-R (The seven Nobel laureates): Zhores Alferov, Makoto Kobayashi, Douglas Osheroff, Masatoshi koshiba , Person conducting the discussion, Yuan Tseh Lee, Aaron Ciechanover and Roger Kornberg.

1) What was the motivation behind becoming a scientist?
MASATOSHI: It is funny that when I completed my undergraduate I didn’t know what to do. At
the graduate school, I was doing an experiment on an elementary particle at mount Fuji and I
thought, Ah!..This is what i will do’ and after that I always believed in that.
OSHEROFF: I studied science since I was very young. Later I went to CALTECH and heard a
lecture from Proff. Richard Feynman. Because of Feynman most of the students there chose to
major in Physics as he was an exceptional person.
LEE: I grew up with USA army jets flying and bombing over my head. I used run behind those
planes to pick up the debris which used to fall and I found out the safest place to start was right
under the jet. Later, I found its scientific reason that it was because of conservation of
momentum (laughs). Later, I read the biography of Marie Curie and was greatly influenced and I
decided to become a chemist.
KORNBERG: I had no choice because my parents were scientists (father Arthur won the
1959 Nobel Prize in Medicine). When I was in high school, I was fascinated by chemical
experiments so I studied chemistry for whole my life.
Oscar Wilde once said, “The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.” But how
do we cultivate that spirit? The seven NLs replied to this question in similar way but used
completely different sets of arguments. I guess that itself is creativity. Creativity is not always
about coming up with a new radical idea but as Stuart Parkin (IBM Research laboratories) said
creativity also includes innovating new ideas based on the existent knowledge

2) Creativity is essential for Scientists. Tell us how we could learn to be creative?

LEE: School has to be the place where students experience success. When they experience
success, they gain self-confidence and it leads to creativity. In most of Asian countries, they rank
students and if one scores 99.9, he is then asked to get the other 0.1. We (Asian countries) need
to overcome this task
CIECHANOVER: What I have to say is ‘don’t believe anything’. Also „don‟t read books’. It
means don‟t just think that they are better and accept it as it is. Don’t end it in that way. Always
ask ‘why’ „what‟. This ‘asking power or power to question‟ will get improved over time and will
help you as a scientist later.
KORNBERG: I accept that your generation is much more competitive than ours. You are forced
to devote your time to remember and study. These will make you lose creativity. All my life, I
have never done my homework. When I used to come home, I did whatever I wanted to do. While other students were doing their homework, I was doing my experiment in my basement. It
was the time that I could have my dream.
KOBAYASHI: There are analysis and Fusion process in scientific thinking. While analysis is
logical and continuous, fusion needs insights and is discontinuous. Scientific analysis can be
achieved by effort but fusion thinking is only possible by inspiration.

3) Asia’s level of fundamental science is lower than Europe’s and The United States. What are the ways to improve it?
ALFEROV: One of my colleagues said ‘All sciences are applied sciences, but it takes different
time to be applied’. Fundamental science is basic for future application and development. This
thing can happen quickly or slowly. Asia can do well. Be confident.
KORNBERG: Most of all, support of the government is very important. There are intelligent
people everywhere but these people can see the light when there is full support from government.
USA has invested so much in fundamental science for last 60yrs and they developed a lot. Asia
is developing specially India and China and we all know that there is a huge potential here.
Korea has also developed a lot.

4) Anything you would want to tell students pursuing science?
LEE: Do not study for the Nobel Prize. Instead think about how you can become a good
scientist. When you have a goal, it might limit your ability. There can only be one top student in
a class not everyone but everyone can be a good student. Therefore be a good person/scientist,
prizes will come automatically.
KORNBERG: Getting the Nobel Prize after solving and finishing a very difficult question is
quiet dazzling. One of the reasons I continued to study science is that fullness feeling. Winning
the Nobel Prize can be a huge achievement, but it is nothing when compared to personal
satisfaction while researching.
KOBAYASHI: I have nothing to say about that people who want to get the Nobel Prize. The
problem is aiming for the Nobel Prize. It should be just the prize, not goal. Find something that
you can enjoy and make it to be your motivation.

I would like to share a little more of my experience during my stay which was not a part of Asian Science Camp.
 It is very important to work as a group rather than working individually. One can learn
many things while working together. Only one person gets a Nobel Prize but it is not
possible to get a Nobel Prize working alone.
 Don‟t underestimate anyone. Most radical thoughts are always considered the most
 Let language not be a bar to select your friends

When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition
of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely,
dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a
doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself.” – Mark Twain

© CC, 2011 Creative Commons Licence.  This article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise only with proper citation to the article. No prior written permission is necessary.


5 thoughts on “What do Scientist Say?

  1. I love it!

    Posted by ek | September 1, 2011, 7:21 PM
  2. It’s not ‘Noble’ Prize, it’s ‘Nobel’ Prize. Pratik Kumar needs to spellcheck before being quoted !

    Posted by Neel Roy | September 4, 2011, 3:50 AM
  3. i liked that moment when all the participant moved front of the Great Nobel Winners , the greatest moment in my life

    Posted by Ahmed | November 21, 2011, 11:32 PM
  4. I just love this .

    Posted by suhas . s | January 1, 2013, 9:00 AM

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