Seeing the announcement of the 2017 Nobel Prize award in Physiology and Medicine:
The primary reason I celebrated the prize relates to the close relationship with Ralf Stanewsky, colleague, mentor and friend with whom we overlapped at Queen Mary.
(Of course a Nobel prize to Drosophila researchers is another reason.)
The reason my Department at Cinvestav celebrated the prize is because of the late Hugo Aréchiga, who introduced the study of circadian rhythms in Mexico.
Later in the day, I wrote to my former students (most from Queen Mary, but I now count a couple that have been part of the Cinvestav lab as well) as follows:
Dear all,Although it is a busy Monday, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate:1) the PhD thesis of Kostas, on a topic that was recognized with the Nobel Prize this morning2) Anuja’s invitation, who knows very well one of the Nobel Prize winners and invited me to talk at Brandeis University, amongst other things, about Kostas’ work.Of course there have been more serious sad news from around the world over the weekend from many corners of the planet, which diminish the festive mood arising from a prize so close to home (Ralf Stanewsky was Jeff Hall’s student).And of course, we had a sentence (highlights are mine) in our infamous Lancet Letter with John Allen:Our school has a reputation, envied worldwide, for research by individuals now for the chop. Their retrospective crimes, committed between 2008 and 2011, include too few publications as a “significant” author in high-impact journals, below-average external funding, and failure to meet metrics for allocation of PhD studentships. Where the baseline of research income derived from the Higher Education Funding Council for England has disappeared, no-one seems to know. So, we are looking at the end of the road for unique and internationally leading-edge Queen Mary research. Among many outstanding projects we stand to lose are: sociogenomics of mole rats, the only eusocial mammals, and a model, incidentally, for the endocrinology of bullying; genetics of circadian rhythms and iron homoeostasis from experiments on fruit-flies; imaging of neural activity in zebrafish—a paradigm for vertebrate development; and heterogeneous catalytic oxidation and carbon–carbon coupling in inorganic chemical synthesis. The list is long. Alas, there are no boxes to tick for advances in knowledge and understanding—no metrics for science itself.All best wishes,Fanis
I had two replies I would like to share with the world. The first one came from a laboratory in Japan.
Dear Fanis, Thank you for sharing this great news with us. I hope you have a great time at Brandeis University! Actually James Haber is in our lab right now and he’s going to stay for about 1 month. He is really excited about the news too! Best wishes,
James Haber was Anuja’s supervisor at Brandeis University (see their paper on double-stranded DNA-repair) but this message was coming from a student Anuja has not met. A small world. The second one came from a laboratory in the UK.
Hello Fanis, This is great news. I hope you have a good time in the US. I read the press release on the Brandeis website and thought about how different things were at QMUL, particularly in relation to the following statement: "I am grateful to my colleagues at Brandeis and to the unusual environment here that allows researchers to explore without boundaries while also engaging students in the process of discovery. This is a very special — perhaps unique — university.” It is a very quiet Tuesday morning and I've got some time to waste, so, I visited the QMUL website to see if there's any mention of this (wasn't expecting anything). You may not find it funny, but I thought it was funny!! I clicked on the research page and this was what I saw: I'm sure you'd disagree with the "supportive" statement :) "supportive" had a hyperlink!!! I thought I'd click that..this is what I found :)
5 thoughts on “The 2017 Nobel prize in Physiology and Medicine, Queen Mary University of London and Cinvestav”
Speaking about support at Queen Mary, another very close friend and collaborator there tried since 2012 to establish Cryo-EM in the School. For this purpose he gained significant international investment, but was repeatedly blocked by the local management using a number of Kafkaesque bureaucratic pretexts.
Hopefully Queen Mary will now reconsider and invest in this great method to visualize native structures with atomic resolution.
The error mentioned above has now been corrected by the University.
Meanwhile, the humble fruitfly is making headlines around the world:
The New Yorker
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is a kind of rebuke.
The New York Times
Another Nobel Prize for the Fruit Fly
Six Nobel prizes – what’s the fascination with the fruit fly?
But see also
A 2017 Nobel laureate says he left science because he ran out of money and was fed up with academia
Point of View: Five suggestions for substantial NIH reforms