Master Talk | Randy Schekman: A toy microscope leads to my lifelong fascination with microbiology
Randy Wayne Schekman is “a Nobel Prize-winning American cell biologist at the University of California, Berkeley,and former editor-in-chief of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1992. In 2002, Schekman received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research and Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize of Columbia University along with James Rothman for their discovery of cellular membrane trafficking, a process that cells use to organize their activities and communicate with their environment.” — — Wikipedia
If you have seen his article, against the three prestigious journals Nature, Science, and Cell, in The Guardian, you probably still remember his straightforwardness. In his article, he claims that Nature, Science and Cell make them known as 「The Luxuries」, seriously distorting the progress of science development. They used 「inappropriate way to encourage scientists」, which harm the improvement of science research. Sometimes, the high amount of times a journal got cited is just because it is eye-catching.
In the series of Cre8 Summit events held by Synced, we interviewed Professor Randy Schekman. In front of our camera, he kept his straightforwardness as always. Moreover, he talked about his personal story to encourage young people to follow their dreams this time. Below is Synced’s interview video with Professor Randy Schekman.
In the video, he talked about an interesting story — — his science dream was ignited by a small toy microscope. When Randy was 10, he got a toy microscope as a gift. He scooped some silt and algae, put them under the microscope and observed. When he saw various microorganisms swimming in the lenses, he was amazed. Nonetheless, Randy’s father said dismissively that it was just a toy. Randy was not satisfied, and wanted to have a real microscope. But a real microscope needed 100 dollars, which was a huge amount of money to him. Therefore, he started to find part-time jobs, including mowing, babysitting, helping out housework, delivering newspaper… However, his parents kept borrowing money from him. Finally one day, little Randy could not tolerate it anymore so he biked to the local police department, and told the policeman his 「struggle」: 「I want to buy a microscope, but my parents are always stealing my money！」His parents were informed by the police and took him home directly. However, what’s lucky about it, he got his first real Bausch & Lomb microscope in his life that afternoon. Since then, microscope became his best friend.
At the end of the video, Randy encouraged young people who are passionate about science to follow their dreams. He thinks, if you have your science dream, then you should definitely research on it independently, not just finish the tasks that the teacher gave you. He said that, 「Go explore yourself… Go to the libraries, read books, design experiments,examine creativity, do things independently.」
Provided by Synced | Author : Yipu Zheng ; Editor : Jiaxin Su , Rita Chen
About 「Master Talk」
The great roots in invisible silence; the wise goes after dedicated thoughts. Quoted from Stefan Zweig’《Decisive Moments in History》，he pays his tribute to every great moments in human history. Ambition can ignite determined mind, with which ones could overcome the insurmountable roadblocks. In 2016, Synced plans to launch the new insightful topic 「Master Talk」，sharing the collective wisdom among AI, neuroscience, biological field etc. So stay tuned!
If you want to know about Randy, please check out how Randy Schekman answers The Guardian’s questions.
What is the most exciting field of science at the moment?
-Neuroscience. There is so much that we don’t know about the brain.
Do you believe in God?
-No, I don’t. But I respect others who do, in particular if they don’t impose their views. I believe strongly in the separation of church and state.
What book about science should everyone read?
-People who are interested in the life sciences will enjoy The Double Helix by James Watson; The Eighth Day of Creation by Horace Judson (it covers the history of molecular biology), and The Statue Within, the autobiography of Nobel laureate François Jacob (right), which is beautifully written.
Has Cern been worth the money?
-Yes. Just the idea that you can probe the structure of atoms to that degree… Look at all the money we waste on the military, on the prison system.
What words of advice would you give to a teenager who wants a career in science?
-I think having a mentor from an early age is very important.
Do you have a fantasy experiment or study that you have been unable to do for logistical/ethical/ cost reasons?
-No. I like the simple experiments and my ideas tend to be very practical. Our very first experiments involved petri dishes, incubators, toothpicks and simple chemicals.
What scientific advance would make the most difference to your daily life?
-My wife has dementia, so breakthroughs in understanding Parkinson’s disease would change my daily life measurably. With a disease like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, if you had a way of arresting the process — even if you couldn’t prevent it — it would not be a disease at all.
Are you worried about population increase?
-Yes. Having effective birth control is crucial. And our agricultural productivity will not keep up unless people lose their irrational fear of GM foods.
Would you like to go on the first one-way journey to Mars?
-No. I like it here on Earth, and besides, the trip itself would almost inevitably kill you, because of all the exposure to cosmic radiation.
If I called you a geek would you hold it against me?
-No. When I was in high school I got called a nerd. But after I won the Nobel prize they invited me back. I rode up in a limousine and was greeted by a marching band and pompom girls. Kids wanted to take selfies with me. I had replaced Tiger Woods as their most famous graduate… for a day!