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Nobel Laureate: ‘Follow your passion’

Biochemist Edmond H. Fischer visited Aalto University. The energetic 94-year-old shared his experiences of his career as a researcher.

What kinds of things interest you?

I have always been interested in what one doesn’t know. Science has certainly taught us much and told us many truths. However, I like to observe the mysteries of science and problems that are yet to be solved. I read about quantum mechanics, for instance, in scientific journals, even though I don't understand any of it. I look for information on why researchers are asking specific questions, and what they want to find. Now that I am retired I can already enjoy what I read. I don't have to think all the time about how this new thing will affect our research specifically.

What advice do you have for young researchers?

When you look for your own field of specialisation, you should follow your own passion and seek a topic that excites and inspires you. Naturally it is a good idea to select an important field, rather than a trivial one, and preferably one in which competition inside the field is not excessive.

How have science and your own field changed during your career?

One clear change is the dizzying growth in information. When I was a young researcher I was able to follow all of the research in the field. In a monthly publication there were 60 pages to read, and I stayed up to speed. Now there are massive amounts of information available, both in written form and in various seminars. Young researchers need to master their own fields of specialisation and, at the same time, learn about  the broader field.  The difficulty is not listening, but rather remembering what you have learned.

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Edmond H. Fischer is one of the world's leading scientists.  In 1992, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with his colleague Edwin G. Krebs for their discovery of reversible protein phosphorylation as a biological regulatory mechanism. Protein phosphorylation is involved in the regulation of many cellular activities. Aberrant protein phosphorylation is also often a cause for the development of cancers..

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