My lightning bolt moment

I have been neglecting this blog lately as lot has been going on. Sorry! I have been working on a blog about crying in the lab, but I had a sudden urge to write this post during my mid-afternoon Earl Grey tea break… Is there a person that you would call your chemistry idol? Or perhaps someone that inspired and propelled you to break boundaries in your subject area?

I remember the moment where I felt like chemistry was really for me and that I really could change the world. It sounds corny but it is true. It all started during the early years of my PhD. I was begrudgingly dragged away from the lab to attend a three day series of lectures by Dan Nocera from MIT. I had no idea what to expect (I hadn’t googled him before the lectures) but I didn’t expect to come out of those lectures feeling as inspired and up for the challenge as I did.

For those who don’t know, Dan Nocera‘s group pioneers studies of the basic mechanisms of energy conversion in biology and chemistry. He has, for example, accomplished a solar fuels process that captures many of the elements of photosynthesis outside of the leaf. He has hundreds of publications which are all on his website. As well as his really interesting and important work, it was his attitude and presentation style that grabbed me. He was very passionate about what he does but he was also relaxed and open to questions. He showed of all of us in the audience that we, as scientists, need to be working on the future energy problem, sooner rather than later.

Although Dan Nocera isn’t my idol as such, I can put my desire to remain in research down to those short three days. He showed me that we can try to answer the ‘big’ questions by working our guts out in the lab and that, one day, humans could potentially be smarter than plants!

So who or what was your inspiration to go in to research? I am really interested to find out.


One thought on “My lightning bolt moment

  1. My chemistry idol: Henry Taube. Of current chemists who inspire me, I look to Nate Lewis. His work is different than my field, but his talks are inspirational (and to me he is much more sincere than Nocera, who reminds me more of a used-car salesman).

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