Bengaluru: Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse, president of The Royal Society, London, who was in the city to participate in the Commonwealth Science Conference, gave insights into his world view on science and about his work. Excerpts from an interview,
Do you think there is growing pressure on scientists to move to applied sciences from basic sciences?
This debate between applied and basic sciences has always been there. It can be reworded to -- ‘Can we produce knowledge that will be useful?’ High quality science must be promoted. Engineering and medicine are perhaps fields of science which can be goal-oriented. Others can be a little less so. The work can certainly be centered around the common good, but must also be relevant 25 years later.
Does science improve people’s lives? What are the improvements you have seen over the years in India and UK?
Science improves culture and civilization. Born in 1949, I did not have access to television, refrigerator or computers, of course. Today, longevity of human beings has increased. In the UK, the average life of people lived to was 50, today it is 80. I go to places in India and see that their standard of living has improved. Speed of railways, healthcare, etc., has improved.
What are the applications of your work on cell division and discovery of its key regulatory proteins?
Well, the Nobel committee thought it had its uses! I was not very sure, though.
My work was on cell division and growth and this was applicable to all living beings. If cell division goes wrong, there are possibilities of diseases such as cancer where there is uncontrolled cell division. To understand cancer, one would probably need to understand my work.Drugs against proteins that regulate cell divison are becoming increasingly useful. This is being used in combination with other anti-cancer therapies and seems to be working.
Have you visited Bengaluru before? What do you think of the city?
I have been coming to Bengaluru from 1980. Much has changed and there have been diametric improvements. It deserves the title of science city because of the number of science institutions and the work that they do.