George Smith, one of the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2018
George Smith, one of the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2018

In his lecture, George P. Smith talked about the method phage display that he developed in 1985. This method utilizes bacteriophages (bacteria that infects virus) to produce new proteins and was the reason why he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year.

One of the other Nobel Laureates in Chemistry this year, Gregory Winter, later used the method to develop a drug that is currently used for arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease. The drug was approved in 2002 and the method has, after that, also produced antibodies that can neutralize poisons, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.

A humble genius with a good heart

Before the lecture, the audience was told that George P. Smith's students have described him as "a humble genius with a good heart". During the lecture it was easy to understand why. The Nobel Laureate joked with the audience and seemed to be comfortable in the role of the teacher.

George Smith talking to PhD students after the lecture.
George Smith talking to PhD students after the lecture.

"I have spent a lot of time sequencing protein. If anyone is thinking about doing that, I advise you not to," he joked.

Teaching is intellectually stimulating and developing, George P. Smith said in response to a question about the importance of teaching as a researcher. He emphasized that it requires a great understanding of a topic to introduce it to people who doesn’t know anything about it. He also added that he thinks it is the duty of older and more experienced people to educate those who are young.

Interest in chemistry began with an interest in animals

As a child, George P. Smith was very interested in animals and often dragged his parents along to the zoo in New York. He could stand for a long time just watching the crocodiles and snakes, even though they barely moved. When he started college he studied biology, but eventually he became more and more interested in chemistry.

“The logical mathematical thinking appealed to me, so I abandoned the snakes. I actually had some snakes at home as an adult, but it remained as a hobby.

Don’t aim on winning grand awards

On the question if he had any advice for young researchers, the Nobel Prize Laureate joked about that when you win the Nobel Prize you are expected to be an expert on everything. But then he became serious.

“Remain excited about what you do. The delight in your work will save you from all the failure you will go through. Take pleasure in the little things.”

“It’s really silly to have as a goal to win a prize, the chance is so little. And winning a prize is not the thing that will give you the most pleasure. You might hold high esteem in the science community that you belong to, that can give you pleasure. And the feeling that you have achieved things in your field of research, that is also something that can give you joy and satisfaction.”

About George P. Smith

George P. Smith, born 1941 in Norwalk, USA. Ph.D. 1970, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA. Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, USA.

Nobel Laureate in Physics visits Stockholm University

Watch the Nobel Lectures 2018 at Stockholm University with the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, Physics and Economic Sciences. 

Delar av den organiserande kommittén
Delar av den organiserande kommittén (vänster till höger) Sara Kosenina, Markel Martinez Carranza (in the back), Eloy Vallina Estrada, Nobel Laureate George Smith, Joan Patrick, Hannah Dawitz, Theresa Kriegler.