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要不要听你爹的话

时间:2013-04-18 13:40:10  来源:  作者:

(2013年4月8日星期一上午10点,北京大学生命科学学院学术报告厅)

(中译版)

 

有时陷入令人不羡慕的时刻,被迫做不很喜欢做的事。比如,我发现诺贝尔奖委员会(特别是化学奖委员会)经常犯错误,不该给的他们奖了、该给的没给。问题是,无论他们犯了什么错误,其他机构,特别是中国的机构,就跟着犯错误。我们北京大学也曾授予不值的得奖者以荣誉学位、或者请来讲学术报告。当我不得不介绍他们的时候,我试图将保留隐藏其中。

 

我今天如释重负,可以真心欢迎我们的演讲者,Bruce Beutler博士。他获得的荣誉乃名至实归。

 

在博士后期间, Bruce 于1985年发现肿瘤坏死因子 (TNF) 及其在炎症中的作用;在他自己的实验室,1998年,他发现内毒素脂多糖(LPS)的受体。两项研究都很突出,后者导致他的诺贝尔奖, 应该的。

 

不过,这些不是我要强调的。昨晚我读了他的自传,很好玩。我一激动就给了我一些朋友的孩子们。如果你们中有不知情的,我辞去院长的职位,就是为了做他们的儿童团长。

 

我们可以从Bruce的生涯看到三点:

 

1) 不用犹豫地从你熟悉的转到你不在行的。Bruce Beutler 从小训练而且成功地做了生物化学家,正如他1985年的成就所证明。但他在1990年代初期,决定转而用遗传学。因为他寻找LPS受体以期解决重要问题的时候,用了多个途径,包括生物化学途径,都不成,只好用遗传学,而且用成了。

 

2) 不要预计社会公平,坚持相信你自己。犹太科学家得了好多的诺贝尔奖,所以Bruce应该不难得到学术界的公平对待?不是这样的。Bruce 认为成功会找到他。不过,虽然他18岁就大学毕业,发表了第一作者的Cell论文,医学院入学的MCAT分数很高,自以为很多医学院要录取他,但却只有芝加哥大学一所录取他,他父母还都是该校的校友。这种拒绝不仅一次。当他在进行一生中最重要的研究时,1998年4月,休斯医学研究所决定要砍掉他的经费,1998年9月,他获得突破,其后得奖的突破,休斯还是拒绝改变决定。 所以,如果听众中觉得哪个委员会对你不公平,别慌,相信你自己。

 

3) 何时应该听亲戚、特别是长辈的? Bruce有智力传统的家庭。他祖父母都是医生,他祖母曾对他说“你也许会得Nobel 奖”, 这种说法反映她老人家的好心,也许是她为什么活102岁的原因。不止一代的美国人以反抗父母为自豪,Bruce却说他尊重父亲,他父亲也是一位有重要发现的医生兼科学家。Bruce听从了他父亲好几个建议。但是,在关键时期,Bruce全身心努力集中研究LPS受体的时候,他安排全实验室都只做一个项目。他父亲劝他:“不要把所有鸡蛋都放一个篮子里”。他没听老爹的,结果失去了研究经费,….不过获得了诺贝尔奖。还好玩的是,当他告诉老爹有了突破以后,老爹还是不以为然。年轻人:很难让爹妈满意。

 

与其我继续用小故事占他学术报告的时间,不如现在将讲台交给Bruce Beutler博士。

 

Bruce,请,谢谢您的到来。

 

 

Listening to Thy Parents?

 

I am sometimes in the unenvious position of having to do things that I do not enjoy. For example, the Nobel committees (especially the chemistry committee) often makes mistakes of awarding those who do not deserve the prize and omitting those who do. The problem is that, whatever mistakes they have made, other institutions, especially those in China, like to follow. Peking University has had our share of inviting nondeserving laureates for honorary degrees or seminars. When I had to introduce them, I have tried to hide some irony in my statements.

 

Therefore, I am very relieved that I can truly welcome our speaker today, Dr. Bruce Beutler, who deserves all the honors he has got.

 

As a postdoc, Bruce discovered the role of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) in inflammation in 1985. And in 1998, in his own lab, he discovered the receptor for the endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Both findings are outstanding, and the latter won him the Nobel prize, deservingly.

 

But that is not what I want to emphasize. I have read up on his autobioigraphy last night and found it entertaining. I have sent it to teenage children of my friends. For those of you do not know, I have resigned from my deanship to become a boy scout leader for these children.

 

There are 3 points we can learn from Bruce’s career.

1) One should not hesitate about switching from what you have been trained in to what you are much less skillful. Bruce Beutler was trained as a biochemist from a young age and was highly successful at biochemistry as his 1985 achievement has indicated , but he switched to genetics in the early 1990s when the important question of finding LPS receptor had eluded him after he tried several approaches, and were left with the only option of using genetics.

2) Do not expect the society to be fair, have confidence in yourself. Many Jewish scientists have won Nobel prizes, so you should expect the academic community to be fair to Jewish students? Hold on. Bruce had always thought that success will come to him. Now, although he graduated from college at the tender age of 18, and had a first-author Cell paper under his belt, with very high scores in MCAT, expecting every medical school to accept him, he was accepted by only one, the University of Chicago, of which his parents were alumni. This was not a rare rejection. When he was doing the best of his science, his research funding was cut off by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in April 1998. His breakthrough came in September, 1998. Hughes did not reinstated his funding even after he told them that he now had a major breakthrough, which would eventually win him the Nobel prize. So if any of the young students in the audience feels that any committee does not judge you fairly, do not panic. Believe in yourself.

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