Nobel Laureate and Stanford Professor Roger Kornberg, PhD, discusses the importance of language, the benefits of frequent failure and how he developed the art of focusing deeply on a problem in the latest edition of the Nobel Prize Talks podcast series.
The conversation was recorded during last month’s Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative, a global program that brings Nobel Laureates to universities and research centers to inspire and engage young scientists, the scientific community and the public. During the event, Kornberg participated in a panel discussion on how to create an innovative environment and delivered a lecture, entitled “The End of Disease.”
The podcast is available for free on the Nobel Prize website and iTunes. In the interview, Kornberg talks about the stage in his life when he came to terms with the reality that he would not be able to tackle several large scientific problems at once. Although he majored in English Literature, Kornberg had a strong desire to be an expert in a range of fields so he studied mathematics, chemistry, government and other subjects at the graduate level. But when he entered graduate school he decided to take a more focused approach. He said:
It was very apparent to me that I was entering another world. I would have to choose one thing and do it with all the capacity I could bring to bear, and it troubled me. But I recognized the necessity to do that in order to succeed and I did it almost immediately and in a single-minded manner. It didn’t bear fruit immediately. It took some years before I had an original idea of significance. But it finally came and I am convinced it was a result of this complete absorption in the problem.
Kornberg won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription.”
Previously: Nobel laureate: Biomedical research is an economic engine
Photo, of Kornberg on the morning he won the Nobel Prize, by L.A. Cicero