I am currently in Singapore, attending the Global Young Scientists Summit (GYSS@one-north), a meeting of nearly 300 scientists aged 35 and under from around the world. At the summit’s opening ceremony — held at National University of Singapore’s University Cultural Center — Douglas D. Osheroff, professor emeritus of physics at Stanford (and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1996) gave the keynote address on “How Advances in Science are Made.” Cool, I thought. This could be something I’ll understand. I was mostly wrong. Professor Osheroff began discussing his work in condensed-matter physics. There were slides demonstrating nuclear magnetic resonance frequency spectra. I tried to keep up for a brief while before my brain became muddled.
But then Professor Osheroff’s talk took a turn. He started mixing in explanations of his research and projects with personal photos and anecdotes. He showed us a picture of his wife of nearly 43 years (biochemist Phyllis Liu-Osheroff, Ph.D.) on their honeymoon and explained how important it is to choose a good mate.
Lastly, he had a little advice for the young researchers in the audience: “Back off from what you are doing occasionally, to gain a better perspective on the task at hand,” he told them. And an important function of gatherings like GYSS? To “encourage scientists to interact with each other — this is how advances in science are made.”
Now that sure makes sense to me.