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02nd April 2024 Evan Leonhard (2023, MSt English)

Nobel Prize winning geneticist Sir Paul Nurse speaks at Exeter College

On Sunday 3 March, Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize winning geneticist, engaged in conversation with Rector Rick Trainor at Cohen Quad to discuss his work as an eminent scientist and as a key advocate for the public support of research. The talk, a follow-up to a presentation Sir Paul gave to members of the Exeter College community in 2013 on the history and future of biology, dealt with research across the whole range of academic subjects.

Sir Paul is renowned for his work on cell reproduction, the topic that won him the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology. Having received his BSc from the University of Birmingham in 1970 and PhD from the University of East Anglia in 1973 (both in biology), he went on to pursue research and teach at an array of universities across the UK, including a stint as the head of Oxford’s microbiology department from 1988 to 1993. Sir Paul has also served at the helm of a number of universities and important scholarly organisations, most notably as the President of the Royal Society from 2010 to 2015 and his current roles as the Chancellor of the University of Bristol and Director of the Francis Crick Institute. Sir Paul is also the author of two major reviews of UK research.

The conversation surveyed Sir Paul’s illustrious career, beginning with his early undergraduate struggles with the learning curve of scientific research all the way through his more recent work with entities like the UK research councils on questions of research funding. Much of the talk focused on the often difficult to navigate relationship between academia and government and on the need for adequate and secure public support for research.

The conversation concluded with a question and answer session in which Sir Paul responded to audience questions on topics related to the funding challenges facing research today.

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