Professor Gautam Menon talks to host Pavan Srinath about the Nobel Prize, what they mean for scientists, and how they shape science.
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In episode 155 of The Pragati Podcast, Gautam and Pavan discuss the outsized role that the Nobel Prize plays in being an aspirational goal for young scientists, how they create role models, the work and the people who win the awards, and the dynamics at play.
Gautam I Menon (@MenonBioPhysics) is a Professor of Physics and Biology at Ashoka University. Prior to joining Ashoka, he was a Professor with the Theoretical Physics and Computational Biology groups at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, where he was the founding Dean of the Computational Biology group. He works on biophysical problems and the modeling of infectious diseases. He is an initiating member of the Indian Scientists’ Response to COVID-19 (ISRC). Before working on biological problems, he worked in the broad fields of statistical physics and soft condensed matter physics.
Related podcast episodes:
- Pragati Podcast #17 with Sunil Laxman: Who moved my science?
- #145 with Shruti Muralidhar: Science: from Publishing to Communication.
- #89 with Vasudevan Mukunth and Nandita Jayaraj: Science Journalism in India.
- George Wald’s Nobel Banquet Speech. (Wald shared the 1967 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine)
- The Nobel Gap is Growing: The Economist, October 9, 2020
- The Nanoscale views blog by Douglas Natelson, which features annual speculation on potential Nobel winners in Physics.
- Ashutosh Joglekar is a science writer who also writes on Nobel worthy work in Chemistry and Medicine.
- Venki Ramakrishnan: Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome. (Book)
Some of the Nobel laureates and scientists mentioned in this episode:
- CV Raman, Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930.
- Har Gobind Khorana, Nobel Prize for Physics in 1968. The Khorana Program for Scholars, named after him.
- Kenneth G. Wilson, 1982 winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics. His interview with the American Physical Society in 2002. A tribute to Wilson by HR Krishnamurthy of the Indian Institute of Science.
- Emmannulle Charpentier & Jennifer Doudna. 2020 winners of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their work on CRISPR-Cas9.
- Some of the women who deserved to win a Nobel but did not receive one: Astronomer Vera Rubin, Physicist Lise Meitner, Nuclear physicist CS Wu, and astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell.
- GN Ramachandran, who discovered the triple helix structure of Collagen, and devised the Ramachandran Plot. He is widely seen as an Indian scientist working in India, most deserving of a Nobel prize for his work.
- The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics awarded to Peter Higgs and François Englert.
- Kurt Wüthrich, who shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
- Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar, who shared the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the physics of the structure and evolution of stars. He is known to have worked in multiple fields of physics across his career, often changing his area of focus every decade.
- Rudolf Mössbauer won the 1961 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on Mossbauer spectroscopy. He went on to work in different fields after winning the Nobel.
- Pierre-Gilles de Gennes won the 1991 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on liquid crystals. His initial work was on superconductivity, but he switched to liquid crystals to avoid competing with larger, better-funded labs working on the former.
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