Words From a Nobel Laureate

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the privilege of attending talks given by Duke faculty and administrators. As the sole working BSURF Fellow this year, many of our program talks were cancelled, but I was able to sit in on a variety of talks with the Huang Fellows, Data+ program, and Summer Neuroscience Program.

Of the talks that I attended, I found that Dr. Lefkowitz’s talk was particularly memorable. Dr. Lefkowitz is a Professor of Chemistry and a Professor of Medicine at Duke, and, most notably, he’s also a Nobel laureate. During his talk, he described his journey through science, starting from his childhood all the way until now. As one of the most senior professors at Duke, his experiences were unlike any that I would’ve imagined.  I remember being struck by how Dr. Lefkowitz seemed to have personally experienced the evolution of modern science. Dr. Lefkowitz talked extensively about his network of mentors, which he called his “science family tree”. When looking closely at the diagram he showed us, I was amazed to see names like Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrödinger, who were both mentors of Dr. Lefkowitz’s mentors. In high school, I had revered Bohr and Schrödinger as some of the fathers of modern chemistry, so it was incredible to see how Dr. Lefkowitz had such a close connection to them.

Additionally, when talking about how his own career unfolded, Dr. Lefkowitz repeatedly emphasized how his journey took many unanticipated twists and turns. As someone who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, he was adamant that he wouldn’t go into research in the beginning of his career. When he did finally begin conducting formal research, it was well after he had graduated college, and after that, he faced many hurdles in his research. It was both reassuring and inspiring to hear about how someone as accomplished as him also faced so many challenges throughout their journey.

Overall, I really enjoyed the faculty talks this summer. It was amazing to get insight into how some of the most successful people at Duke reached their destinations, and it definitely gave me confidence to pursue my own goals as well.

Until next time, readers!

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