“Go after your curiosity”: Lecture with Dr. Ada Yonath, Nobel Prize winner

Two weeks ago, we had a lecture with Dr. Ada Yonath. She is an Israeli crystallographer known for her innovative work on the structure of the ribosome. In 2009, she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her research which solved one of the most intriguing topics in biochemistry: the crystal structures of prokaryotic ribosomes. Her team managed to create the first ribosome crystal in 1980. Then she solved, for the first time, the complete spatial structure of both subunits of a bacterial ribosome, which was considered a great advance.

However, the knowledge that she has and the complexity of the problem that she solved are not the only things that surprised me. What really surprised me was her courage, determination, dedication, willpower and passion. Throughout her life and her research, she faced several challenges. But she never gave up.

She told us that when she was a child, her first “scientific experiment” was to measure the height of the balcony. The ceiling was too tall and she unfortunately fell down and broke her arm. During childhood, she also faced poverty. According to The Economic Times, she said once that “Survival is far more complicated, much more demanding (than doing science).”

“You can always try another approach; even change your subject when a scientific strategy or experiment fails. But when you are hungry you are hungry!”

When questioned about how hard it was to be involved in research due to the fact that she is a woman, she said that there is nothing she can do about it.

Ada E. Yonath

Some people doubted that she would be able to achieve her goal and considered her a dreamer or even a liar. “People called me a dreamer”. It really impresses me that she did not lose her faith in her research. She kept going regardless of people were saying about her research. I believe that her intuition and her willpower were so strong that barely nothing would stop her from doing her research.

Now, imagine how the world would be if these brilliant scientists, such as Dr. Ada Yonath, would give up of their goals due to difficulties and criticism. Imagine how many “Adas” exist in the world that stop pursuing their dreams because “science is not something for girls”, “this experiment will never work out”, or “this idea is so silly”.

I think everybody should have the opportunity to achieve his/her dreams. I believe that one should not stop due to criticism and discrimination. As it is written on our fellow friend Maria Jane’s T-shirt,

“A Tiger Doesn’t Lose Sleep Over the Opinion of Sheep.”

The impression that I had of Dr. Ada was that her secret for success was not only about knowledge and dedication. Considering this saying, she became a tiger with a lot of willpower and passion. She did not stop herself over the opinion of a few scientists that did not believe that she would be able to achieve her goal. She did not stop over the opinion of people that think that “science is not something for girls, it’s a man’s thing”.

In the end of the lecture, I asked her what advice she would give to young scientists and students that are willing to change the world. She simply said:

“Go after your curiosity”.

So, if you are reading it until here, be aware of two important things:

  1. Be a tiger when necessary;
  2. “Go after your curiosity”.

References:

http://www.weizmann.ac.il/YonathNobel/

Nadkarni, Vithal C (5 February 2011). “Keeping up the faith”. The Economic Times. Retrieved 14 February 2011.

Written by Rodrigo Ferreira

Edited by Carlos Sevilla and Maria Tirnovanu

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