In 2007, a British-born pathologist and UNC professor Dr. Oliver Smites flew to Stockholm. It wasn’t just another science conference. He was off to receive a Nobel Prize in Physiology. The lesson he brought with him wasn’t all about triumph. Failure was one of three most important lessons in his career, he said at the Nobel banquet. Here’s the trick: learn not to fear it.
“Field Morey is a distinguished flight instructor. He taught me to fly 30 years ago, a difficult task because I was over 50 years of age! But he taught me something more important than flying – namely, that it is possible to overcome fear with knowledge!
This same lesson applies to scientists – the fear of failing – which many scientists have when trying something new – can be overcome in the same way – with knowledge.” 2007 Nobel Prize Banquet
At the age of 88, Dr Smithies still flies glider planes - and runs experiments. In fact, he showed us today in his UNC lab. Then he did one more thing that impressed us: he volunteered to tell his #ScienceFail story at our January 16th show!
The Monti, Scientists with Stories and Morehead Planetarium are deeply humbled by this honor. We know you will be too when you hear scientists, young and old, embracing the very human part of science we call failure. If you can’t attend, we’ll post podcasts and videos soon after.
(Oh, hey, did we mention that Dr. Smithies invented gel electrophoresis? Come on. We know you were absolutely enamored by electrophoresis back in Bio 101.)