Graduate Program

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Cai Wanpei, PhD student from Dr Alan Kumar’s group, recently attended a lecture by Nobel Laureate Professor Olivier Smithies at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. Professor Smithies, together with Mario Capecchi and Sir Martin Evans, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2007 for their discovery on introducing specific gene modifications into mice with the use of embryonic stem cells.

This lecture “Where do ideas come from?” chronicled Professor Smithies’ research experience for the past 60 years and the processes leading up to his discoveries. Professor Smithies emphasized his point of documentation as a part of doing good science by sharing his original notebook from the 1950s containing the first prototype of protein gel electrophoresis equipment made from potato starch. Wanpei was excited at witnessing the historical piece firsthand and understood the importance of proper pen and paper documentation despite advancement in digital data.

In his lecture, Professor Smithies paid special tribute to his Ph.D supervisor, Alexander Ogston who has mentored 2 Nobel Laureates in his lifetime including himself. He urged every audience to impart their knowledge whenever they can.

“We may not be the one who gets the Nobel Prize, but someone we teach may become one, who knows? Smithies had a good teacher.” – Professor Smithies

Wanpei was inspired by this quote from Professor Smithies to share her knowledge eagerly.

A recording of his lecture can be accessed here.