Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend to a talk by Sir Richard J. Roberts. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1993, for his work in discovering and demonstrating the division of RNA into their introns and exons. In his talk, he discussed different aspects of his life – his early days in Derby and Bath, college life at Sheffield University, Nobel-Prize winning work on RNA, and his other ongoing humanitarian efforts.
Sir Roberts’ focused a lot on teaching us valuable life lessons. Opportunities keep knocking on your door all the time. You have to be alert about it and make the call to pursue it. Whether it was a good call, only time will tell. For example, in a soccer game, when you get a pass, how quickly you can take the ball and run with it or make a pass and execute it, can be the difference between winning and losing. Only in the hindsight you can evaluate or your coach can tell you. The best players make and execute their decisions with conviction.
He also said that changing his flight to a day earlier prevented him from being on the plane that crashed into the old World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks. He realized that life has given him a lucky break and he took that opportunity to go and make the most of it. After all, it only takes a second for your life to end. As a result, he now takes part in various humanitarian efforts along with fellow Nobel Prize winners. He cited the successful release of Bulgarian nurses from prison in Libya after being wrongly accused of intentionally causing the HIV outbreak that killed thousands of children. Luck plays a big role in your life, keep your mind open and make the most of it.
I enjoyed asking him a few questions and his answers to the most technical questions were simple enough for general people to understand. This was my second interaction with a nobel laureate (earlier met Prof. Jack Schoostack at the South Shore Science Festival – 2018) and one thing stands out – unlike most scientists, they communicate complex ideas in a very simple language so that regular people can understand it.
It was an honor to attend his lecture and speak with him. Thank you Quincy Public Schools for this opportunity. I hope to be able to speak with people like him in the future.