Chillin’ with the Greats

L to R: Andy, Michael, Harald, Ngo, Erik

It’s not every day that a luminary shows up at your door step.
But on Tue, we had three of them for GYSS2015 at Science Centre Singapore!
Here’s a quick intro in the lives of these science yodas. 🙂


Prof Michael Levitt.
This greying champ won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013.
(for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems).
Graduated from King’s College and the Weizmann Institute.
Served in the Israel Defence Force. Married a sculptor.

Michael struck me as the most existentialist among the lot.
With a deep conviction of faith in God and man.
His mantra: Do what you’re passionate about!
(Don’t do something for material gain – not even for a Nobel Prize!)

Prof Harald zur Hausen.
This tall, German genius won the Nobel Prize in Medicine (2008).
Doesn’t fancy flash photography as we soon found out after he was mobbed by student fans.
Studied medicine in Bonn, Hamburg and Düsseldorf.

Harald believed in doing something for advancement – ultimately to save lives.
Doesn’t believe in a creator, but respects those that do.
Once he asked a lady after receiving his Nobel Prize: “How does my handshake feel?”
Implying he wasn’t more special than any other individual.

NgoProf Ngô Bảo Châu.
Vietnamese, French-sounding Prof Ngo won the Fields Medal (2010).
(“for his proof of the Fundamental Lemma in the theory of automorphic forms through the introduction of new algebro–geometric methods”)
The father of three girls once aspired to be a soccer player, but ended up dedicating his energy to algebraic geometry, receiving the highest honour a Mathematician can attain.

A Math prodigy, Ngô joined a high school for gifted kids in Mathematics. He won consecutive golds in two International Mathematical Olympiads in 1988 and 1989.
Has a great respect for religion even as a free thinker.
Thought he’d received a prank call when he was notified of winning the Field Medal!
Initially disturbed at the prospect of public engagement, Ngô now greatly enjoys the speaking opportunities that have since opened up.

gyss1All 3 luminaries illumined the students as they shared candidly of their life and life’s work, brilliantly engaging questions like:

  • Does science still need theorists, or is it all about applied science these days.
  • Would you sell your Nobel prize or Field prize medal like James Watson.
  • Increasing numbers of scientists are seeing the irrefutable connection between their study of the Universe and the reality of an Intelligence, that produced this Universe. What’s your opinion on God?
  • What are some of the funniest moments in your science career?
  • How can young aspiring scientists showcase their talents?

Look out for a video or audio recording soon of their responses to some of these questions!
Such a treat as always – the Global Young Scientists Summit 2015. What better way to spend an afternoon. Chilling in the company of greatness.

That's me hanging out with Prof Ngô!
That’s me hanging out with Prof Ngô!

All of which, we have the following to thank:

  • Company of two: Dr Andy Giger and A/Prof Erik Wilhelm (moderators).
  • Crowd of three: Michael Levitt, zur Hausen, Ngo Bao Chao (nobel laureates, field prize winner).
  • Party of four: Dr Lim Khiang Wee, Dr Thong Sock Yue, Clarence Sirisena and Eugene Wambeck (VIPs, Key Organisers).

4 Comments Add yours

  1. danny says:

    Special thanks to Eric for use of the first and last two images used in this post. 😉

  2. Kiat Teng says:

    Nice summary of the session, Danny!

    1. Danny says:

      Thanks Kiat Teng. Look forward to more of such sharings at the Centre : )

  3. Sanjali says:

    I really like the quirky annecdotes! : D

Leave a Reply to Danny Cancel reply