Gene Machine Venki Ramakrishnan in conversation with Roger Highfield
Venki Ramakrishnana, British-American structural biologist of Indian origin, Nobel Laureate, and President of the Royal Society, spoke with author, science journalist, broadcaster and Science Director of the Science Museum, Roger Highfield. Their talk examined the tense relationship between being human and the fundamentals of science as a voyage to discovery. His recent book, Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome lay at the heart of this discussion.
Venki Ramakrishnana accompanied his side of the talks with visual slides that engaged the audience in a student like manner. He asked the audience if they were mind boggled at the end of it, having awakened the palpable sense of the poetry and the quest involved in his journey to discover the fundamental secrets of the Ribosome.
In answer to a question from the audience: “Are my thoughts governed by proteins?”, Ramakrishnana replied that the transfer of the electrical signals that constitute thoughts is actually made possible via proteins, taking us on a roller-coaster ride through his career and discoveries: the dead ends he faced, the blunders, career changes, and his opinion of the egos he’s worked with, the completion, the collaborations and even the times of “feeling like an imposter”.
Ramakrishnana concluded that in order for Science to be a good system and flourish, it must allow and encourage freedom of thought and the expression of it; to be critical and question: “Nullius inverba (Take Nobody’s word for it)”.