With the roundtable discussion with a title “Seize Your Great Chance with the World’s Top Academicians!” on 20th October at the NCKU College of Medicine, students and faculty had a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the dream combination of three extraordinary scientists - Dr. Britton Chance, a member of the National Academy of Science of the USA, Dr. Oliver Smithies, one of the 2007 Nobel Laureates in Medicine and Dr. Nobuyo Maeda, the Robert H. Wagner Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When great minds met it was a definitive uplifting symposium experience.
This great event was made possible by the Office of Research and Development and the Institute of Innovative and Advanced Studies at NCKU. The gathering was open to all interested audience. It ran from 9:00 to 10:00 am on October 20th 2008, in the Lecture Hall No. 3 of the College of Medicine.
The moderator of this rendezvous, Professor Ming-Jer Tang, the NCKU Vice President for the Office of Academic Affairs, acclaimed the contributions that these three scientists made to science and education, and encouraged students to take them as model since they are passionate and concentrated to their researches.
Dr. Britton Chance said as an educator, he would be glad to help students, the main body of the university, to solve their problems and to stimulate students on their research.
Dr. Oliver Smithies stressed that learning should be enjoyable and joyful, rather than difficult. He also added that scientists should continuously learn, make hypotheses, and do the experiments in pursue of the truth. And he also believes that the teacher and the student can benefit from each other.
Dr. Nobuyo Maeda pointed that, although it is ideal to be an erudite researcher and scholar, learning by setting a smaller goal can also be acceptable. She also added that being open-minded is the most important in the collaborative researches which require people with different research background working together. With different research backgrounds it can really help people think differently and in broader views.
Dr. Oliver Smithies said in a joke that textbook, what author believed in his resource and data, is not absolutely correct. He encouraged students to look at the original information and raw data if they doubted the result. He also mentioned an example about how diligently he looked for a journal before in order to find the raw data. Therefore, Dr. Britton Chance added that research requires being open-minded and “being doubtful”.
In response to the question about what their motivation are in their continuing researches, Dr. Maeda simply answered it as enthusiasm. “If you can know it on Monday, you don’t have to wait until Tuesday,” she added. Dr. Smithies mentioned his interaction with his wife, Dr. Maeda, as an example of how their enthusiasms are to the research. When Dr. Maeda finished her work and was ready to go home, Smithies would always ask for 15 minutes more. Then very often, another 30 minutes passed by. Dr. Smithies then turned to ask Maeda if they could go home. Dr. Maeda would often ask for 15 minutes more. They repeated this kind of interaction on and on, and day by day. However, Dr. Smithies stressed that all the process of research and learning is joyful to him. Dr. Chance said that students should also cherish the bad result of an experiment because the result is more important than achievement.
Dr. Chance, also an Olympic champion in sailing, emphasized the continuous trial and effort on research, which is quite different from sport contest. If you strive to reach the final line, you know how-well you have done. Dr. Smithies mentioned gliding as an example to illustrate the importance of courage in doing research. Dr. Smithies also pointed it out that teachers have the responsibility to encourage students to make hypotheses bravely. The key point to overcome the fear is “knowledge.”
At the end of rendezvous, Dr. Smithies encourage students to acquire solid and fundamental knowledge in the process of being a scientist. “Without the fundamental knowledge, many problems can not be solved successfully”.
About Dr. Britton Chance, Dr. Oliver Smithies and Dr. Nobuyo Maeda
Dr. Britton Chance was born in 1913. He is the Eldridge Reeves Johnson University Professor Emeritus of Biophysics, Physical Chemistry, and Radiologic Physics at University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). He received his BS in 1935, MS in 1936 and PhD in physical chemistry in 1940, all from UPenn. Because of war, he went to University of Cambridge to study and received another PhD in biology and physiology. His main research interest is the study of the basic theory of photon migration through tissues, the use of picosecond pulsed and high frequency modulation of near infrared (NIR) light in human brain, breast and muscle, to characterize tissue optical properties, and the use of imaging systems to detect breast tumor, hemorrhage deep within tissues; and human brain function in cognitive activity.
Dr. Chance has made important contributions in the identification and functioning of enzyme-substrate compounds, magnetic resonance spectroscopy in humans, the mathematics of the inverse problem, RF electronics, and light transport in highly scattering media, breast cancer diagnostics, and muscle dynamics. He transformed the field of biomedical optics, and developed spectroscopy as a noninvasive analytical tool for clinical diagnosis.
While on the United States Yacht team for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Dr. Chance won a gold medal. The brave, exploratory, passionate, philanthropic, intuitive and diplomatic “sailor” spirit is still and even more augmented in Dr. Chance nowadays.
Dr. Chance has published 4,000 papers and has been cited more than 10,000 times. He is a member the USA National Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of London. He has also received the USA National Medal of Science, the Pennsylvania Award for Excellence in Life Sciences, and the APS Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences.
Dr. Oliver Smithies was born in England in 1925, and received his PhD. Degree from the Oxford University in 1951. From 1953 to 1960, Dr. Smithies worked in the Connaught Medical Research Laboratory, University of Toronto, Canada. He worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1960-1988. Since 1988, Dr. Smithies has been designated an Excellence Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. Smithies’ work has advanced research in cystic fibrosis and could possibly have applications in other human diseases. Along with gel electrophoresis, he developed gene targeting, a method of creating mice with more human-like characteristics for use in research.
In 2002, Dr. Smithies worked along with his wife, Dr. Nobuyo Maeda, in studying high blood pressure using genetically altered mice. As of today, he still works in his lab seven days a week.
In 2007, Dr. Smithies was announced as the co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Dr. Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah and Dr. Martin Evans of Cardiff University “for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells.”