Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lisa and the DNA Man

Call this a big time "Nerd Alert" if you like, but Monday night I got to meet James Watson! That name might not mean too much outside of biology class but he's one of the men who won the 1962 Nobel Prize for discovering the Double Helix structure of DNA. (If the names Watson & Crick sound familiar, he's THAT Watson). He was giving a lecture on a new book he wrote at the U of C campus so my coworkers and I decided to go see him. The cool part was that we got there early and he was just hanging out so we got to sit and chat with him for a while before the talk. And he signed a copy of his book for me!

He's a pretty funny guy too. The title of the book is Avoid Boring People - he goes on to explain that boring is both an adjective and a verb. When you're young, he told me, don't waste your time with people that aren't doing interesting work and when you're old he says to avoid being a bore by keeping yourself involved with the work young people are doing. Also cool was the fact that he held a Q&A session after his talk. It was weird because every other time I've been to a scientific lecture or conference one of the first few question askers usually says a quick thank you to the speaker (sometimes EVERY person asking a question thanks the speaker) but five or six people asked questions without thanking him so I got in line. I said something like "Dr. Watson, first off I'd just like to thank you for coming. It really is an honor to have you here. You mentioned that you always knew you wanted to go into science I'm curious about when you first decided to become a writer." (He's written eight or nine books now varying from biology texts to biographical work and some other stuff that's more stories from his labs.) Anyways, he went on and on in his answer and all my coworkers told me that I had the best question of the night. I think he was just happy to be thanked and I also figured it was maybe something that he didn't get asked a lot.

He had a lot of cool things to say and aside from one of his responses where he presented his EXTREMELY atheistic views on the importance of science over religion, I really enjoyed his talk. I'm not sure why so many top level researchers can't find a coexistence between faith and reason but the more time I spend in scientific circles the more I realize that following Christ places me in the minority among scientists. As much as that is a frustration, I also see it as something of a "reason why I'm here". As awesome as it is to explore pursuits of the mind, they mean little to me without the whisperings of my heart. :)

Again, this probably much cooler if you're a big nerd (like me) but it really was a great opportunity. Just take my word that James Watson is to Biology what Albert Einstein is to Physics!

1 comment:

Greg said...

Back in the day, wasn't this guy also Sherlock Holmes' sidekick?