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Key To Success Is Failure, Says Nobel Prize Winner

posted Dec 6, 2013, 9:35 AM by Mpelembe   [ updated Dec 6, 2013, 9:36 AM ]

The winners of this year's Nobel prize in medicine talk about success and failure as they give advice to students and tell how it is to be a Nobel prize winner.

STOCKHOLMSWEDEN (DECEMBER 6, 2013) (REUTERS) -  The Nobel Prize winners in medicine - Americans James Rothman and Randy Schekmanand Germany's Thomas Suedhof - attended a news conference in Stockholm on Friday (December 6) at the start of the so-called Nobel Week in the Swedish capital.

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The three men won the 2013 Nobel medicine prize for their work on how hormones are transported within and outside cells, giving insight into diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's.

Rothman, who works at Yale University, said the early morning phone call back in October when he was told he had won the coveted prize, was a pleasant surprise.

"A very pleasant wake-up call. I think without a doubt the most pleasant wake-up call that I've ever had. It was... I was surprised," he said.

During the news conference Rothman added some salient advice for the students in the audience - be ready to fail.

"Make sure that every day is spent, as I tell the people in my lab and I'm sure my colleagues do, that it's a day you will never have again so please use is as best as you possibly can, knowing that most certainly you won't have a good result because what we scientists do mostly is fail. You see, the key and I'm not joking, you have to have a high tolerance for failure," he said.

One of the most tangible signs of their success was according to Schekman his own free parking space at the University of California where he works.

"The one tangible recognition that I get from my institution is that they give me a specially designated parking space. Free parking for life which is one big financial incentive that I have for this award." he joked.

Schekman also had some serious advice for young aspiring scientists.

"Well, I always encourage my students to be original, to be daring, to not be risk averse which too many people do, but once you've chosen something you are convinced will be important, it's crucial to focus and not to be diverted by other things that may be appealing at the moment," he said.

Many previous winners of the prize have found getting back to research after winning the prize difficult, but Suedhof, who works at Stanford University, said he was looking forward to it.

"It is a privilege to be a scientist. At least I consider it an enormous privilege. I love the work I do and I've actually tried to keep at least a little bit going even in the last two months which was rather difficult so I'm sure I'll go back and I think it will be a pleasure to go back," he said.

The Nobel Committee that awards the prize said the work of the three scientists had great implications for neurological conditions as well as conditions affecting key organs.

Their work centered on the 'vesicle' system by which cells take up nutrients, move substances around and release chemicals like hormones and growth factors.

Their work is basic science and Suedhof said not enough money was spent on basic science since there was such a pressure to come up with practical applications.

"Because of the pressure to gain benefits for society as quickly as possible, we waste a lot of money on experiments and clinical trials before there is an understanding of the underlying biology," he said.

They will receive the award at a royal ceremony on Tuesday (December 10).