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The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize

The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize: Advice for Young Scientists

Peter Doherty
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize
    Book Description:

    In The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize, Doherty recounts his unlikely path to becoming a Nobel Laureate. Beginning with his humble origins in Australia, he tells how he developed an interest in immunology and describes his award-winning, influential work with Rolf Zinkernagel on T-cells and the nature of immune defense. In prose that is at turns amusing and astute, Doherty reveals how his nonconformist upbringing, sense of being an outsider, and search for different perspectives have shaped his life and work.

    Doherty offers a rare, insider's look at the realities of being a research scientist. He lucidly explains his own scientific work and how research projects are selected, funded, and organized; the major problems science is trying to solve; and the rewards and pitfalls of a career in scientific research. For Doherty, science still plays an important role in improving the world, and he argues that scientists need to do a better job of making their work more accessible to the public.

    Throughout the book, Doherty explores the stories of past Nobel winners and considers some of the crucial scientific debates of our time, including the safety of genetically modified foods and the tensions between science and religion. He concludes with some "tips" on how to win a Nobel Prize, including advice on being persistent, generous, and culturally aware, and he stresses the value of evidence. The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Noble Prize is essential reading for anyone interested in a career in science.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51126-1
    Subjects: General Science, Biological Sciences, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Scientific Terms
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Preface to the American Edition
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    We were living in Memphis, Tennessee, when the phone rang at 4.20 one cool October morning. My wife Penny picked it up, thinking there could be a problem with an elderly parent back in Australia. But the voice wasn’t Australian. ‘This is Nils Ringertz’, she heard, ‘from the Nobel Foundation’. Penny handed me the phone. ‘This is for you’, she said.

    Down the line from Sweden, Nils told me that I was to share the 1996 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with my Swiss friend and colleague Rolf Zinkernagel, for a discovery we made more than twenty years previously....

  8. 1 The Swedish Effect
    (pp. 9-25)

    Stockholm in December: darkness falls early like a frozen curtain, the short days are dimmed by snowfall, and even weather-hardened Swedes grimace in the winds that cut across Strommen, the waterway straddled by the city. I grew up in a hot, humid, place where the sun shone pitilessly and I was always getting burnt. As a consequence, I’m energised by cold, bleak, misty weather. Perhaps it’s a heritage that goes back to ancestors who dug in dank Irish peat bogs, herded hill sheep in a Lancashire winter, or lived by a canal in Essex, but cold damp Stockholm in December...

  9. 2 The Science Culture
    (pp. 26-56)

    In the movies, scientists are almost always mad, bad or quaint nerds who rattle on about controlling the world, shrinking the kids or inventing gadgets in the James Bond tradition. The caricatures may just be purely fun, or the result of discomfort or lack of understanding. Or perhaps they exist because scientific knowledge is so highly specialised, and its application has changed the world so profoundly, that people see science and scientists as hard, cold and less than human.

    The basic methodology of modern science is comparatively new in terms of the way human beings have traditionally approached the world....

  10. 3 This Scientific Life
    (pp. 57-93)

    The day a young person starts work in a laboratory as a graduate (postgraduate) student is the day he or she joins their particular international research community. Although they may work in one building on a particular campus in a particular country, scientists operate across boundaries and in an international culture. They travel between states and continents for employment and as participating members of global communities. International journals publish research results and scientists at all levels contribute to publication, as well as travelling to key international meetings and symposia. Young scientists quickly learn that the values of science are universal....

  11. 4 Immunity: A Science Story
    (pp. 94-139)

    A little like the song lines running through Indigenous culture, several distinct themes can be traced in the hundred-year history of the Nobel Prizes for science. A difference is, though, that the end story in science is constantly being rewritten, and what goes before is reinterpreted accordingly. What follows is a brief account of the Nobel lineage in one scientific discipline, my own field of immunology. Understanding this story should give you some insight into how biological science, in particular, developed through the twentieth century. Telling it also allows me to put in perspective the award that I shared with...

  12. 5 Personal Discoveries and New Commitments
    (pp. 140-158)

    Unlike rock stars, Nobel laureates can step out to buy milk and potatoes without being mobbed in the street. Still, they find themselves and their views in considerable demand, and have to decide what really matters. There is never enough time. Several differente constituencies claimed me as a ‘favourite son’ immediately following the announcement of the award, and other worthy groups, particularly the science teachers and communicators, asked for my support. My contact with these more diverse communities has modified my overall priorities and has led to my rethinking a number of issues, a process that continues.

    The practice of...

  13. 6 The Next American Century?
    (pp. 159-188)

    The types of science that are recognised by Nobel Prizes deal with universals that recognise no national or international boundaries. Both the contributions to human knowledge and the resulting technologies are potentially available to all. But the practice of science, its funding and the regard in which it is held differs from one society to another. These differences can influence the careers of individuals and the fate of nations, and can also have profound effects on humanity as a whole, and the survival of our species.

    Collectively, we have made huge progress: the population of the world has burgeoned and...

  14. 7 Through Different Prisms: Science and Religion
    (pp. 189-214)

    Is a faith-based view of the world in irrevocable conflict with science and with developing new knowledge? Does adherence to religious tradition and practice limit the willingness of a nation or an individual to embrace new ideas and ways of looking at the world? Is the tolerance of social diversity that accompanies a dynamic science culture a threat to religion? Can scientific discovery and theory be reconciled with religious belief, or is useful dialogue between these value systems impossible?

    Science is an activity that suits people who question, test ideas and then embrace the intellectual and philosophical consequences of their...

  15. 8 Discovering the Future
    (pp. 215-237)

    The morning after the presentation of our Nobel Prize in 1996, Jonathan Mann from CNN hosted a ‘Nobel Minds’ event. It had been a short night, with few of us being in bed before 3 am. The somewhat spaced-out new laureates sat around in a semicircle and answered questions on challenges for the twenty-first century. The most obvious question was, ‘What’s next?’ I think I talked about solving problems like AIDS and world hunger, but several of the chemistry and physics people turned the conversation to biology. The chemistry laureate Rick Smalley spoke, for instance, about the potential applications of...

  16. 9 How to Win a Nobel Prize
    (pp. 238-254)

    So you want to win a Nobel Prize: to become famous, powerful and maybe even very wealthy? If that’s your ambition I can’t help you. There is no instruction manual or course that can guide you to a Nobel Prize and, numerically speaking, most of us have more chance of winning an Olympic gold medal. There’s also another difference: an Olympic medallist might go on to win a Nobel, but can you imagine Albert Einstein or Bertrand Russell competing in the decathlon? I was brutally reminded of this when I had to present a large cheque to Michael Chang for...

  17. Appendix 1
    (pp. 256-262)
  18. Appendix 2
    (pp. 263-267)
  19. Appendix 3
    (pp. 268-279)
  20. Abbreviations
    (pp. 280-282)
  21. Recommended Reading
    (pp. 283-285)
  22. Index
    (pp. 286-296)