This is a Guest Article written by Yashika Ghai, a PhD student doing her research in Plasma Physics at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India.
Great personalities have the power to inspire people and that’s what biographies are for!! However, getting to know the experiences, struggles and journeys of their lives from the living legends themselves is something inexplicable. I got an opportunity to meet and interact with over 30 Nobel Laureates in science. The meet constituted lectures, interactive session and informal talks with the Nobel prize winners from different fields of science. Here is what I learnt from these wonderful formal/informal interactions with the pioneers of science :
1. Science is for people : Why do science? Well, this is a question that most of the students who do not like science or a specific branch of science have in their minds. During one of the lectures by Nobel laureate Hiroshi Amano, who was awarded Nobel prize for the life altering discovery of blue LEDs, he confessed that as a student he did not understand why he should study science. It was during one of his university classes in engineering that his professor said that science is for the people, he found his motivation for pursuing science and engineering. No wonder the discovery of blue LEDs have definitely touched the lives of people by becoming an integral part of mobile phones, LED lighting, TV screens and much more…
2. Conviction and dedication: So we all know that it is one’s dedicated efforts that leads to novel discoveries leading to the Nobel prize, but as science and research is important for the mankind, one's interpersonal relationships are significant too. I got this lesson from Nobel Laureate William D. Phillip during one of the interactive sessions with him. He talked about how he used to work all day in his lab, would come back home in the evening to spend time with his family, narrating bedtime stories to his daughter and then after she used to go to sleep, he would get back to his lab again, where he would work till morning. It is undoubtedly the effort made with conviction that leads to life altering discoveries.
3. The Nobel Laureates are humans: As we easily get impressed by the jaw dropping scientific discoveries and the thought processes behind the amazing inventions and findings, it is a fact that Nobel laureates are humans just as we are, except with an extraordinary motivation to do science.
4. Patience and perseverance: Just as Rome was not built in a day, novel scientific discoveries are not made in a short time or during someone’s PhD. research work. It takes a lot of patience and years of hard work of many teams of people to make a scientific discovery. Hence, perseverance and commitment are two key pillars to have long research careers spanning over many decades.
5. Team work: Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita, the winner of 2015 Nobel prize for the discovery of neutrino oscillations worked in the super-kamiokande detector. The detector is built in a mine 1 Km underground, consisting of a cylindrical stainless tank containing 50,000 tons of ultrapure water. Voaaa!! A single person is definitely not able to take care of such big detectors and hence, a team is needed for such grand efforts for the science!! Dr. Kajita even mentioned how one of their main sponsors also used to work with them as a part of the team and some even had to dive inside the super-kamiokande for odd jobs. We must not neglect the importance of collaborations and connections for pursuing such big ventures.
Undoubtedly, these are the most significant lessons that leave someone brimming with motivation for pursuing science for the rest of life and meeting these pioneers of science was certainly the most amazing experience of my life!