They did advise me that if I wanted to get tenure, I could not simply continue what I had been doing in Peter’s lab as a postdoc, but had to show independence. He had an indigenously built catamaran called "El da mer", dedicated to his French wife. After my marriage at the age of 23, I was suddenly no longer alone but had a wife and a five-year-old stepdaughter, Tanya Kapka. He worked in the Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden as a Research Assistant during 1955–1958. I managed to map about a third of the proteins during my stay there, as well as contribute to the use of Bayesian methods to obtain the best possible estimates from the data. He did all the cooking and nursed my mother when she was in poor health before she died. What have been the advances in ribosome research since you got the Nobel in 2009?
Science is always dependent on the free flow of ideas that generate in one place and migrate to another.
So instead of having a quiet niche to myself, we were in a flat-out race. This was a particularly difficult time for me, since I had no feel for the problem or even what the basic questions were. So only a few months after my move to Cambridge, with the rest of my lab still in Utah, we had made a major breakthrough. I had written the IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) entrance examination. John McCutcheon also enthusiastically decided to devote full time to it. He also carried out systematic interferometric study of 21 cm absorption towards a large number of galactic and extragalactic sources. We went on to solve the first structure of a histone acetyltransferase, Hat1, in collaboration with Rolf Sternglanz from Stony Brook. The problem I took on was to look at ferroelectric phase transitions in potassium dihydrogen phosphate. Frank Murphy, assisted by Mike Tarry, worked out procedures for how to make ribosomes that were pure enough to crystallize.
It would be remarkable even today for a man to say, ‘I’ll take care of this three-year-old, you go off to the US and get a PhD’. It is a very large event, and, therefore, unmanageable.
We are also going to involve many of the other academies. That is the post-Nobelitis syndrome. He was a Foreign Fellow of both the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Science Academy. Soon afterwards, our work was published in Nature in August, 1999 with much fanfare. This leg of the trip, which was meant to be 7–10 days long, ended after 27 days due to sea conditions, with the Omani Navy finally coming to the rescue of this "sailor-at-heart" scientist on 7 April 2008.
A strict disciplinarian, he nevertheless had a twinkle in his eye as he would expose us to clever ideas and difficult problems. We have to get countries to enact a common set of regulations so that you don’t have people going off to the science equivalent of tax havens to do what they wish. These include the detection of radio waves from the Van Allen like belts surrounding Jupiter and the first determination of the true rotation of the core of Jupiter.
Two postdocs, Leong Ng and Israel Sanchez have boldly decided to tackle the eukaryotic ribosome, and Alexey Amunts is involved in a joint collaboration with John Walker on the mitochondrial ribosome. I often joke that if I had graduate students like me, I’d fire them! My teachers in physics, especially S.K. He finally kick-started me into it by setting up, on my behalf, the first crystallization trials of the globular domain of a linker histone, GH5. He was married to Mrs. Francoise-Dominique Barnard. I need not have worried, because I was overwhelmed by the warmth and affection from both members of the public and my scientific colleagues there. One of the most useful collaborations was work on the nucleosome with Gerry Bunick, Ed Uberbacher and Don and Ada Olins. Steve had constantly been encouraging me to get interested in crystallography, saying that someone with my physics and small-angle scattering background would have no trouble learning it. His career had been truly international, starting in Sweden in 1954 and proceeding via Caltech and CSIRO, Sydney to Bangalore, where he spent the last thirty three years. Moreover, I began collaborations with Mark Donnelly and Rick Wobbe, who both became lifelong family friends along with Mark’s wife Veta Bonnewell. The canteen was especially wonderful for a sabbatical visitor because I quickly got to know lots of scientists. It is one thing for a few crackpots to spout off nonsense — that happens everywhere — and it is another for people in authority to do that, and at a big forum like the Indian Science Congress.
When I was offered the job, I was staggered because they offered me a salary that was $20,000 (or 30%) more than I was making at the time, and felt they must be expecting something of me that I couldn’t possibly deliver. The structure of the 30S subunit led to a number of follow-up studies on antibiotics and ligand binding.
Some of the best students would reject IITs to become a national science scholar — unlike me who did it because I didn’t have a choice.
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